Greece’s Golden Visa program has fetched some 2 billion euros into the country’s property market since the launch in 2014 of the scheme for the concession of five-year residence permits to non-European Union investors who spend at least 250,000 on local realty.
According to the latest official data from the Citizens’ Protection Ministry, by the end of 2019, a total of 6,304 residence permits had been issued in those five-and-a-half years. Although the threshold is at a quarter of a million euros, lawyers and estate agents confirm that the vast majority of buyers spend an average of 300,000-350,000 euros each.
Last year saw a 22 percent increase in new permits issued, which numbered 2,239, against 1,833 in 2018. Chinese buyers confirmed their dominance in 2019 as their share grew further than in previous years: Since mid-2014, when the program started, 70 percent of permits, or 4,371, have been issued to Chinese nationals. A year ago that rate had stood at around 60 percent, and sector experts believe this figure will grow again this year as an estimated 75-80 percent of transactions related to Golden Visas are conducted by Chinese investors.
Real estate professionals say the number of permits would have been even higher last year had it not been for the significant delays seen in a series of agencies in Attica, at least in the first half of 2019, regarding the processing of applications. The problems were contained somewhat, but did not disappear in the fall, before the situation reverted to normal in the last couple of months.
With the country on a growth trajectory now, it is clear that 2020 will be another year of expansion for the program, as expectations of a future rise in prices have attracted more investors. Market experts say these new investors bear different characteristics to the first generation of Golden Visa buyers, who targeted cheaper properties; the new buyers are eyeing investments with a growth character, as there are buildings that are being reconstructed to be sold to candidate buyers wishing to get a residence permit. That trend was seen in previous years too, but only for low-standard properties; now there are several new investments in more expensive areas such as the southern suburbs of Attica and the Cycladic islands.