In 2015 the number of Greek real estate market transactions increased for the first time after the crisis. Foreign investors account for 20% of buyers.
According to data collected between 2005 and 2015 by the Greek Statistical Service (Elstat), the number of Greek real estate transactions increased for the first time in 2015, growing by 25% compared to the year before.
According to the founder of MODUS & AMPLIO, Takis Papaspyrou, buyers from Germany, Italy, Russia, France, America, China, Turkey and Arab countries account for about 20% of all real estate transactions in the country.
Investors from Europe
According to Statista, property in Greece is several times cheaper than most countries in the European Union (EU). It is 1.5 times cheaper than in Portugal, Germany and Spain, three times cheaper than in Italy, four times cheaper than in Austria and France and seven times cheaper than in the United Kingdom.
Western Europeans see the Athens property market as an investment opportunity. According to the Bank of Greece, in Q3 2017 property prices were 42% lower compared to pre-crisis levels, and many analysts expect a significant increase in the cost per square meter over the next three to five years. There are two reasons for this optimism:
1. Tourism is booming in Greece: the number of international tourist arrivals grew between from 14.9 million in 2009 to 24.8 million in 2016. According to the World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC) there will be 25 million international tourist arrivals in 2017 and 47 million in 2027.
2. The country’s economy is recovering. The International Monetary Fund expects GDP growth to be 1.8% in 2017 and 2.6% in 2018. The unemployment rate in Greece fell from 27.8% in 2013 to 20.6% in 2017. The Greek government expects an increase in foreign direct investment to €4 billion in 2017, which is 42% more than in 2016.
According to Mr. Papaspyrou, foreign buyers used to focus on resort real estate (in 2015 about half of all transactions involving so-called Greek summer cottages were transactions involving foreign buyers). Now, they are looking at the Athens real estate market. Cheap property is the main driver for 80% of the Europeans who buy real estate in Greece. Foreigners can now consider property they could not afford to purchase before the crisis, including apartments in the ancient city of Athens and property along the coast.
Investors from China
According to the Bain & Company and China Merchants Bank, 32% of affluent Chinese are looking to invest abroad as part of their plans to emigrate. In 2013, the Greek government launched a Golden Visa program whereby any investor who purchases property from €250,000 is eligible for a residence permit. It is issued to applicants and their family members – spouse, children and parents – and may be renewed every five years. From the launch of the program until October 2017, more than 2,000 Chinese investors and their families have been issued residence permits.
Advantages of the Greek Golden Visa program are:
- It has the lowest fees, including registration fees, payable for obtaining a EU residence permit.
- An investor may purchase several real estate assets or participate in purchase of a more expensive asset, provided that the investor’s investments exceed the program’s minimum threshold.
- Real estate in Greece generates high rental yields: 5–7% after taxes and management company expenses.
In 2017, finance company Arton Capital named the Greek passport as one of the most influential in the world, ranking it 7th alongside Australia. Holders of Greek passports can travel visa-free to 156 countries.
Investors from Russia
According to the Central Bank of Russia, in Q1–Q3 2017, payments from Russia for overseas property transactions grew by 25% compared to the same period in 2016, from $621M to $775M. The number of Russian investors in Greece has also been growing.
A significant portion of buyers from Russia targets the luxury property sector. According to analysts, this is because prices for luxury properties in Greece have fallen by about 50% since 2009 and because Russians tend to invest in foreign assets due to the economic instability in their home country.
One of the most popular locations among Russian buyers is the Athens Riviera, which refers to the southern suburbs of Athens – Faliro, Glyfada, Voula, Vouliagmeni and Varkiza – located 30-40 minutes by car from the city centre.
Russian investors are also keen to get residence permits – to date, 894 Russians have been issued Greek residence permits under the Golden Visa program.
Investors from the United States
Greece has been receiving more attention from US authorities, largely due strains in US-Turkey relations and the need for a new strategic partner in the region.
“I am convinced that 2018 could be a turning point for the Greek economy, but that depends on creating the right investment conditions”, US ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt, said to the Greek Reporter news portal.
The optimism of American investors is tied to the rapid development of tourism in Greece. According to WTTC, tourism contributed to 18.6% of Greek GDP in 2016, a figure that is projected to grow to 22.4% by 2026.
The growing number of tourists is stimulating the demand for services. “Obviously things are happening in the hotel sector. I had a good conversation with Marriot when I was in New York, which is expanding its footprint here. Wyndham hotels also are expanding their presence in Greece”, Mr. Pyatt said.
American investors are currently eyeing Greek real estate, energy and tourism. “Pimco, Lonestar, KKR are all looking to buy commercial properties in Greece”, Hayman Capital Management chief investment officer Kyle Bass said, CNBC reported.
Another reason Greek property is more popular now is the reduction of property transfer tax from 10% to 3%. Under new rules, 24% VAT applies to assets in buildings with construction permits issued after 1 January 2006, while property built before 2016 is only subject to a property transfer tax of 3.09% of the asset value.
Investors from Turkey
Turkish nationals look for Greek real estate driven by instability in their home country. According to Deutsche Welle, there has been a tenfold increase in traffic to Turkish language versions of Greek real estate websites following the Turkish referendum held on 16 April 2017 that gave sweeping powers to the president.
Since the launch of the Golden Visa program, 396 Turks have received Greek residence permits. Moving to Greece is a serious consideration for many of them. According to Ekathermini, Turks are one of the most dynamic groups of the Greek property buyers today along with the British, Germans, French and Italians. Most Turks who buy Greek real estate have higher education, a medium or high income, and come from Western Turkey, the Aegean coast and Istanbul.
According to Daily Sabah, Turkish buyers are usually interested in luxury and resort real estate, shops, hotels, land and even parking lots. Many investors buy properties in prestigious Athens neighbourhoods such as Kolonaki, Psikhiko, Glyfada, Voula and Vouliagmeni.
Writer: Marina Chaykina at Tranio.com
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