How to invest in Tbilisi real estate… and who shouldn’t bother

Written by Andrew Henderson

Last updated January 31, 2017

Dateline: Tbilisi, Georgia

The title of this article was originally “why I’m not investing in Tbilisi real estate”. Since that date, I have done a deep dive into the real estate scene in Georgia’s capital city and purchased one dozen properties.

Back in 2014, however, my opinion on investing in Georgia had yet to be formed. One temperate December day, I spent the morning driving around Tbilisi with one of the most colorful real estate agents I’ve met to date.

While we frequently discuss the idea that capital is fungible and goes where it is treated best, capital can’t go where it doesn’t know.

And at this international real estate expo, my agent told me that practically no one had even heard much about Georgia, let alone be able to find the Eurasian country on a map.

In a sense, that is a good thing. Just the other day, I shared my Georgia is one of the most capitalist countries on earth. The place is a really efficient place with a developing yet quaint European feel.

I love this place. The fact that Georgia is such a small country is part of why I love it. After all, small countries often treat wealth much better than giant ones that have millions of allegedly wealthy citizens to steal from and pay their cronies to start wars.

Georgia can’t do that, which is why it slashed the number of taxes from 21 to just six. The government figured doing so might get it on the map.

While Georgia is headed in the right direction and scores well on all of the “free market country” charts, it is still so small that most of the world isn’t paying much attention.

That’s great if you’re starting a small business. You can set up a Georgia company in a matter of minutes and open a highly functional bank account in a snap. Until I got to Tbilisi, I had never seen a business be able to get a ready-to-use business Mastercard so quickly and so easily.

But while all of this “small talk” may be good for offshore structures or as a banking haven, it’s decidedly bad for real estate. The market buoying news that Donald Trump had planned to invest here doesn’t sway me, either.

Because the Tbilisi real estate market appears to be rather dominated by interest from none other than… Georgians.

Tbilisi, the capital city, has fewer than 1.5 million residents, a mere third of the country’s population. Other than the seaside city of Batumi, the rest of the country is largely agricultural. And not even the most productive agricultural land at that.

In fact, the country of Georgia is less than half the size of the US state of Georgia. It’s small.

That small size doesn’t cause me to have too many geopolitical concerns regarding Russia. The Russian economy is in such tatters these days, with rampant inflation, negative growth, and a falling knife of a currency to be much of a threat.

Besides, a recent CNN headline that suggested Russia was angling to take over the similarly small nation of Moldova ended up being a weak article describing how Moldova’s elections have it aligning more with the European Union and its Romanian heritage than Russia.

Nothing about a real threat of an invasion. I’d say the same goes for Georgia right now.

However, the reason I find Tbilisi real estate to be a weak investment now is that the domestic demand just doesn’t impress me. Half of the Georgian population lives in rural areas earning $100 or $200 a month.

Unlike Istanbul which serves as a more neutral Muslim safe haven for Arabs in the Middle East, Georgia is not a safe haven for Russians due to political tensions (that title goes to Montenegro).

While Georgia undeniably has its act together better than anyone else in the region, Tbilisi real estate doesn’t excite me. The same fix-and-flip I can buy in Southeast Asia for $50,000 doesn’t exist here.

The renovation projects in Tbilisi consist of old buildings with plumbing and electrical work you might as well light on fire.

On top of that, the same cheap older buildings sometimes come with communal kitchen facilities. Not exactly what someone buying a rehabbed property would want.

In terms of new builds, most developers in Georgia turn properties over as a shell. No floors, no cabinets, no appliances. Nothing. I can’t see enough value add in installing a floor.

Where I do see great opportunity in Georgia is in entrepreneurship. Like so many other countries we talk about here, Georgia lacks a lot of the modern services Americans and Europeans are used to.

Young Georgians have a fanatical interest in the west and are thrilled their country now has even a fleeting association with the European Union. (The real estate agent told me my criticism of the EU’s Monitoring Mission in Georgia’s war zones was “cynical”).

But Georgia has no Amazon, no Lazada… it doesn’t even have much of a uniform way to sell real estate. When a few real estate agents formed the country’s first informal association of professionals a few years back, most of the old hat brokers refused to join.

They love the freedom that comes with a total lack of regulation. And so would I. Except for the fact that the 10% of truly forward-thinking Georgians who have the money to invest in property don’t have that many options to find their dream house or investment.

While I will readily admit that Tbilisi is so small and business is conducted through word of mouth – heck, my lawyer there has dined with the President – I do believe there is room for some improvement in delivering goods and services online.

And that is where an on-the-ground entrepreneur could shine. Just making the ad hoc taxi system more efficient, or making it easier for arriving passengers to get a taxi, would be a super simple business someone could get into.

Georgia is a rapidly developing country that has made great strides in the basics they knew would be needed to compete in the global economy. Internet speeds are rather fast, the banking sector is well funded and developed, and infrastructure is surprisingly good.

It is the small business space that will be one to watch. And I believe that the top tier of Georgians are concerned that their fellow citizens aren’t entrepreneurial or innovative enough to step up and turn the country into a truly developed place.

This is one of those countries where you could show up with your suitcase, poke around town for a few weeks, and set up a business with a good chance of success. You don’t need a lot of business intuition or even much of an aptitude for competition.

You just need to understand how the culture works, like the fact that women tend to live with their families into their thirties. Or that small, one-bedroom apartments are totally undesirable here.

If you’ve been looking for a place to start a business but aren’t as keen on the beaches of Cambodia or up-and-coming Colombia, Georgia has a European feel with the connections to the growing CIS and Eurasian region and might be a great place to become an entrepreneur.

Andrew Henderson
Last updated: Dec 29, 2019 at 12:49AM

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28 Comments

  1. discover Georgia

    Andrew , excuse me but you are wrong

    Reply
  2. Daanish Khan

    need to buy a restobar( resturant/bar) space in Tbilisi Georgia, please send me private e mail. i will forward you my enquiry

    Reply
    • discover Georgia

      how can i send the private mail i see no option for that, if you see why dont you send

      Reply
    • discover Georgia

      I posted 2 post but they dont show, you have to find the way to post your mail a d

      Reply
  3. Salaar

    Hi, if invest some amount or buy some apartment for my self . then it is possible after buying property i will get PR of Georgia. or there is some range of investment … please Guide me

    Reply
  4. discover Georgia

    hello, I am selling my apartment, 4 rooms in Tbilisi, price 42 000 euro, contact me lexanna9 at yahoo

    Reply
  5. Sachin Gupta

    Hi Andrew, bang on analysis!! I would like to know more about your idea on starting up a business in Georgia!

    Reply
  6. Batumi BlackSea

    Investing in Tblisi or Batumi for that matter aren’t bad choices with the rate of development these days, ROI would make it worthwhile. The only problem with real estate in both cities are the agencies. This holds true especially in Batumi where you find some of the worst real estate agencies possibly in the world. Very unprofessional and not at all helpful. If you’re looking for a property there it’s best to contact our expat community or a friend you may know living in the area to search the best options.
    Hopefully one day this would change as it’s not a very good first impression for investors looking to put money in the country.
    PS. The major developers are great to work with as they’re quite helpful. However AVOID the private agencies doing multiple sales and rentals.

    Reply
  7. Rocky Kapoor

    Can i start a Indian Fusion restaurant in Tbilsi and would it be profitable ?

    Reply
  8. Julian

    …just to be clear Andrew, you have changed your opinion about real estate investment in Tbilisi since the original article and bought 12 properties, did I understand your article correctly?

    ”The title of this article was originally “why I’m not investing in Tbilisi real estate”. Since that date, I have done a deep dive into the real estate scene in Georgia’s capital city and purchased one dozen properties.”

    Also if this is the case, do you still recommend staying away from the beautiful older buildings?

    Reply
  9. Abbas

    Hi ! i wonder if foreigners who are not yet permanent residents (and are on one year residence visa) can invest on buying apartments for rent in Tbilisi or Batumi .
    I’ll appreciate if you reply to my email.

    Reply
  10. janemary castelfranc-allen

    I agree about the real estate agencies – we tried to sell our apartment for over a year with an agency and they made no contact with us or promoted the place. It is a large old first floor apartment with additional downstairs space PLUS a small separate apartment, all on a bus route on the edge of Tbilisi (cleaner air) in a safe district. It was happily used by an NGO for almost a decade who no longer require it but noone seems to think ‘outside the square’ or of converting old building space for alternative business uses. We have now taken it out of the hands of an agency and trying to make a private sale (not easy when we no longer work there) but the only interest since then has been curiosity from neighbours and one person trying to rip us off. Please can you kindly advise on the most efficient way to sell.

    Reply
    • Sona

      I am interested in buying property in Tbilisi.
      Can you send me more details and pictures

      Reply
    • Nicole

      Hello, I am interested in purchasing property in Tbilisi, would you be able to provide more information if I provide my email address?
      Many thanks, Nicole

      Reply
    • Arnab

      Hi Could you please let me know how much would be the price.
      Could you pl send your contact details. Also share the details.

      Best Regards
      Arnab

      Reply
  11. Qaseem

    I am interested in buying property inTblisi. Need your valuable advise on options

    kind regards,
    Qaseem

    Reply
  12. Hassan Nikpour

    Dear Andrew, you have prudently provided useful information.

    Reply
  13. Marco

    Interested in buying property in thinking. Will I be given a PR?

    Reply
  14. Noone

    Hello,
    I have heard that Georgia has once again banned foreigners from owning land (any land outside of city-limits, all farmland, etc.)… any input from anyone actually there?

    Reply
  15. Amirali Momenzadeh

    Hello Sir Andrew Hederson

    I appreciate a more simplified English writing in this era which some geeks are gonna become millionaires using financial markets. They will need your articles so much but they have poor English proficiency, as you can see some people cannot fully understand your sentences and they try to correct themselves via comments.

    Warmest Regards

    Reply
  16. David Smith

    I would love to buy a rural older home in this beautiful country. I am retired an American yes I know strike one. I have a 110lb german Rottweiler who I will not give up she gives mean Rottweilers a bad name. of course she may lick you to death I also have A russian fiance and her beautiful daughter. That wish to be with me. They both love God as I do firm belief. We love animals and would prefer any place outside the cities with few neighbors and a forest or woods as our view. I am retired and receive 1,300 a month from SSI we have passports . I would like to make payments or move there and with the understanding I wioll have to have a place prefer the home to livve right away as I am not rich. Had throat cancer so my money is monthly check to monthly check but The bank could arrange the money taken out of my check as soon as the ink dries. every month. If I can find a bank over there where I xan send my checks if SSI will send my checks there. I have a lot to find out Any advice and help you can E-Mail me I would be very grateful for I have read in many accounts the country is very beautiful and the people are very kind as long as you treat them with respect Thank you for all your time and Help God bless us all David smith

    Reply
  17. James Wang

    andrew, what is your 50 k real estate flipping play in south east Asia ? Have you explained that in any article?

    Reply
  18. Anne Griffin

    I am responding almost two years after you wrote this article. I agree that there are many opportunities for entrepreneurs in Georgia and it is a pretty easy place to set up a business. As for real estate, I beg to differ. Prices per square meter since 2017 have continued to rise in Tbilisi and the main ski and sea resorts. Georgia has been continuing to invest in restoration of the historical part of Tbilisi and infrastructure throughout the country. They have been trying to fight corruption and have definitely made dealing with bureaucracy (paper work) easier than I have seen in any other country. At the moment, there are no property taxes and tax on rental income is only 5%. If I do the math, I cannot see how investing in a good property in Tbilisi or a winter or summer resort can be a bad investment. The tourism industry is taking off there. Russians do feel safe, visit and invest. Europeans are now finding out what Georgia has to offer and foreign airlines are opening routes to the country for cultural tourism, wine tours, and outdoor adventures. There is a huge influx of both tourists and investors from the Arab world as well. Travel sites and news networks like CNN and the BBC are regularly mentioning Georgia as a tourist destination for various reasons. Even Georgia’s alpine resorts of Bakuriani and Gudauri will host the 2023 Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championship. Maybe Georgia isn’t for everybody and there may be better places to invest in residential real estate. I personally feel it is a safe, profitable place for a small investor in residential real estate.

    Reply
    • Keith

      Do you currently live in Tbilisi? I’m thinking about moving from the USA to opening a Chiropractic clinic there. Any thoughts on this? Much appreciated

      Reply
  19. Ali Argun

    Hi,
    There are not enough residential house complex in Batumi. Recently an investor start to build a very nice project, only 300 meter to the boulevard in Batumi.

    The project is Batumi Villas. They have only 19 houses to sell with terrace, garden, CCTV, security and swimming cool. I guess it is very good investment option.

    Reply
      • Paul

        Is batumi still good to buy in or not thinking of buying an apartment for rental or just wasteing my money

        Reply

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