Greece: Message to International Property Buyers

In our turbulent times, there are many reasons why someone would be interested in obtaining Permanent Residence in a country other than his own. That is why Golden Visa Programs, which grant serious property buyers permanent residence or even citizenship, are gaining traction. Whatever the motive, having the option to choose a second home in a country where the climate is good, travel is easy, the lifestyle is comfortable, and the family is safe will certainly make the destination more attractive. The crucial point from a property buyer’s perspective is whether or not the property acquisition required to qualify for such a program is sound, affordable, and profitable.

Greece’s Golden Visa Program

While not unique in Europe, when compared with others, the Golden Visa Program that Greece developed to help recover from the country’s economic slump has noteworthy advantages. These range from being more affordable, to being valid for life, from offering visa-free travel across the Schengen area to the short processing time.

In essence, the program is based on granting the privileges of a Permanent Residence (PR) permit to property buyers who purchase real estate in Greece – whether or not they decide to reside in the country. The minimum property acquisition is €250.000, which can be invested in one or two residential or commercial properties, or both. Such an acquisition will qualify the property buyer, the spouse, their children and the property buyer’s and spouse’s parents for a PR permit, subject to approval. The assessment period is 30-60 days, with almost 100% approval rates. Since the program was launched in 2013, Greek PR permits were issued to 2.305 property buyers by 2017, with their popularity growing significantly from one year to the next.

Growing confidence

This increasing demand is likely to be linked to the Greek economy itself. While property buyers may have been reluctant to purchase in 2013, today, as Greece recovers gradually from its economic woes, property buyer confidence is starting to pick up at the same rate – if not more. Figures published by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) reveal that the country’s GDP grew every quarter in 2017. In parallel, the European Commission foresees an annual GDP growth of 2.5% in both 2018 and 2019. These results signal the end of Greece’s recession, and are practically a call to property buyers to move in, while property prices are still low, but destined to rise.

The Bank of Greece also shared positive news, announcing that the value of foreign investment in real estate recorded in January 2018 was double the amount recorded in January 2017. Key property acquisitions included two new international hotel chains opening their doors in Greece: Wyndham’s Dolce Attica Riviera Hotel, and the Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel in Vouliagmeni, the upmarket southern suburb of Athens. When big names such as these make a new appearance, property buyers around the world take note. But how is the Greek real estate market performing as a whole? Can it be trusted? Will it really satisfy property buyer’s profit expectations?

Athens, a capital in demand

Different sources will agree that acquiring real estate in Greece – at this stage – is one of the most profitable types of property acquisitions. According to the Global Financial Stability Report, in April 2018, Athens ranked as the 13th among the world’s 42 largest cities in terms of rising housing prices. The IMF, on the other hand, calculated that the prices in Athens increased by almost 10% per year between 2013 and 2017, while prices in the rest of the country were still dropping. Clearly, this revival has drawn attention and has triggered an increase of 18% in real estate transactions in 2017, with the trend continuing in 2018.

To compare actual prices with other cities, in Athens the price per square meter for an apartment in the city center starts from €1.500, and from €2.500 outside the center. Roughly, that is half the price in Portugal, and one third of the price in Spain or Germany, one quarter of the price in Austria, and one seventh of the price in France.

This demand is driving primarily by tourism, as Greece is experiencing a veritable boom. According to the Bank of Greece, 30 million tourists visited Greece in 2017 and 33 million in 2018 – compared with 15 million in 2009. As a sector, tourism delivers 18.2% of the country’s GDP. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council’s projections, international arrivals to Greece will hit 42,8 by 2028. Given that the majority of visitors spend at least a part of their holidays in Athens to explore its historic wealth, this city is sure to remain at the top of the list of desirable destinations in Greece. In fact, in terms of growth in the number of arrivals, Athens came second only to Heraklion, on the Greek island of Crete. 

Hot spots for property buyers

Like elsewhere, real estate in Greece is all about location. Even within Athens, some areas are more popular than others. So especially for property buyers who aim to gain from holiday rental of their Athens property, it pays to find out which locations are most desirable and therefore likely to fetch higher rental rates.

Visitors interested in exploring the capital’s historical treasures will pay a premium for quality accommodation in the city center. Two easily accessible southern suburbs, Vouliagmeni and Glyfada offer the lively cosmopolitan beaches and glamorous marina atmosphere that both residents and visitors enjoy during their summer break. Piraeus, on the other hand, is the capital’s natural port, serving ferries mainly to the numerous popular islands.

Property buyers who prefer an island destination will have hundreds to choose from – but not all are equal from a property buyer’s perspective. While there is a market even for the remote, secluded and almost private islands, in terms of holidaymakers’ influx, three names stand out. Crete, the largest and most populated island is located in the southern Aegean and is known to receive regular enthusiasts year after year. Also, in the Aegean, one of the most popular Cyclades islands is Santorini, the epitome of romance, known for its scarlet sunsets. Within the same group of islands, you will find Paros, a favourite among the younger travellers, whether couples or families with young children.

The message from Greece is clear: Buying property in Greece makes sense, now more than ever, and – with the right research and guidance – the sooner the better.

< View All Articles

Yiannos Trisokkas

Yiannos Trisokkas is the Director of Casamont Cyprus Ltd overseeing operations in Cyprus and Greece. He has also been the Managing Partner of Henley & Partners Cyprus Ltd since 2013, with Greece’s Golden Visa Program within his ambit. He serves as the Chairman of the Real Estate Committee and Member of the Management Board of Henley & Partners.