The future of the region’s real estate market

Mia Zečević, CEO of Novaston, at the 16th International Conference on Real Estate Development


The 16th International Real Estate Development Conference took place on October 5 and 6, 2021, in Zagreb. Experts and major players in the regional and EU real estate markets shared their experiences and thoughts on the industry’s state of affairs during the coronavirus pandemic, trends in project financing, and the overall performance in the commercial real estate sector and its residential, office, retail, and industrial subsectors.

Novaston CEO Mia Zečević joined the panel on current events, projects, and forecasts in the retail sector titled NEW SHOPPING IN THE NEW NORMAL. The panel was moderated by Spiller Farmer Ltd’s Managing Director Patrick Franolić, and alongside Mia, the panel featured Tower Europe’s CEO Ivan Božac, Supernova’s Board Memeber Paul Merdzo, and Poseidon Group’s Transaction & Portfolio Management Director Ivana Rajković Špes.

Beyond examining how the pandemic has affected traditional shopping, new retail chain concepts, and shaping new consumer habits, the most salient issue pertained to the future of the retail sector.

“The retail sector — much like everything else — is changing and adapting to the new normal. Our experience shows that the best performers were retail parks, which — as outdoor shopping malls — have been better positioned to implement the prescribed health protocols. In addition, the inherent tie-ins between the real estate industry’s sectors have prompted increasing consideration of interesting solutions that combine retail parks placed below office space or residential units for rent. In conclusion, the retail sector market is not saturated, and many projects are being implemented and announced both throughout Serbia and the region,” said Mia Zečević.

The conference also tackled trends in housing and office development, as well as tourism and industrial zones.

“When it comes to office space leasing in Serbia, it experienced some faltering during the first peak of the coronavirus from March through May, and then again from June through August in 2020. These periods also saw slowdowns in construction and project completion in light of restrictions on movement, declining production of construction raw materials and finished goods, and logistical issues that still persist even a year and a half since the onset of the pandemic. Another problem area has been the final approval of financing projects that were in their final pre-construction phase. Let’s not forget that until the pandemic broke out, this sector had been growing very strong in Serbia, with vacancy rates falling below 5% and rental prices at record highs. With the onset of the coronavirus, companies that were able to switched to remote work or a hybrid model that involves working in part from home and spending minimal time at the office, as well as renting flexible office space to diversify employees across locations they visit as needed. This temporarily emptied hundreds of thousands of office square footage, leaving their owners uncertain for a long time regarding lease agreement extensions and renting free space in office buildings. Even with the global remote working experiment, the flexibility of property owners and slight price drops were only momentary at the beginning of the pandemic. The future concept of offices will take into account effectiveness, as well as the fact that models like the hybrid one are more acceptable for employers and employees in certain arenas,” said Mia Zečević, CEO of Novaston.

During her talk, Zečević highlighted that Novaston’s strategic goal was to grow and be equally successful in various segments of the industry and that for this reason it implemented modern technology and solutions, managed by teams of experts with local and international experience who approach every client as unique.

“Starting this year, we turn our attention to the corporate and logistics sectors, and we are placing a special focus on one big project in Croatia. It concerns the hotel industry — we are currently involved in setting up asset and property management and organization, which is a great challenge for us,” said Mia Zečević, CEO of Novaston.