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Greece’s Golden Visa Enticing Chinese Investors by the Dozens

© Maria Theofanopoulou

Athens, Greece. Photo © Maria Theofanopoulou

Greece’s golden visa scheme has become a key attraction for Chinese investors, who are flocking to Athens to purchase property, “seeking a bargain and a taste of the good life”, Reuters reports.

The Greek investor visa  – granting five-year residence permits renewable for third country nationals who purchase, individually or through a legal entity, property in Greece valued at a minimum of 250,000 euros, or who have taken out a minimum 10-year lease in hotel accommodation or tourism facilities – has been picking up pace in the last few years, enticing Russia, Turkey and China nationals to buy property while contributing to the revival the country’s sluggish real estate market. At the same time, the Greek investor visa also offers free access to the EU.

According to a Chinese real estate website, interest in Greece doubled in the first quarter of 2018, and tripled in the second.

“We are getting many more phone calls,” Lefteris Potamianos, head of Athens Real Estate Association representing some 3,000 brokers, told Reuters.

“The overwhelming majority is foreigners… Certainly, the Chinese are by far ahead of the game.”

According to property brokers Tranio, a total of 1,011 Chinese investors (2,525, including family members) were issued golden visas over the 2013-2017 period. Chinese applicants spend an average of 550,000-600,000 euros – double the minimum requirement – on newly built residential real estate located near beaches, shops, public transport stops and international schools.

Although property prices are down by about 40 percent from their peak before the debt crisis broke out in Greece, prices rose 0.8 percent in the second quarter year-on-year after a 0.1 percent rise in the first. Real estate professionals are expecting prices will rise by an average 5-7 percent annually in the greater Athens area by 2019.

Athens, Greece

At the same time, according to central bank figures, foreign direct investment in property soared by 91 percent to 287 million euros in 2017 compared to a year before. While taxes from property sales increased by a yearly 41 percent in the seven months to July to 204.7 million euros, according public revenue authority AADE data.

Through its investor visa program, Greece may be bringing in much needed cash, but on the downside many Greeks are finding it harder to find homes to rent in view of changing property practices.

“The buy-to-rent mentality is pushing up rents and sometimes leading to threats of eviction unless renters agree to pay the higher prices,” Angelos Skiadas, head of Greece’s tenants association PASYPE, told Reuters.

According to RE/MAX International, rents have gone up by 8.4 percent in the 12 months to September against 2017.

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