Wooing Chinese property buyers to South Europe

Southern Europe’s cash-strapped governments are courting wealthy Chinese homebuyers, seeking to bolster their battered real estate markets by offering visas to those who purchase prime properties.

Cyprus, Greece and Portugal are providing resident permits to foreign buyers, while Spain is about to adopt a similar measure.

The chance to purchase a home at depressed prices in Southern Europe and gain what’s known as a golden visa is mostly being sold to Chinese investors, according to brokers.

Greece and Cyprus offer fast-track permit processes for purchases of at least 250,000 euros and 300,000 euros, respectively.

Portugal’s program has a minimum price of 500,000 euros.

Europe’s sovereign debt crisis has also meant a depreciation of the euro, making real estate more affordable to Chinese buyers.

The currency fell about 17 percent against China’s yuan from the beginning of 2010 through the end of July. Cyprus is already “booming with Chinese investors,” said Nikolas Michalias, a property valuer at G&P Lazarou in Cyprus who spends half the year in China promoting golden visas tied to real estate investments.

“Every day there are more than 20 Chinese nationals landing in Cyprus to search for property.”

The island nation this year followed Greece, Ireland and Portugal in requesting emergency aid from the EU and the IMF.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (photo) visited China in May and announced that non-Europeans who invest in the property market could gain the right to live in Greece.

A Chinese man became the first foreigner to benefit from the program earlier this month, Kathimerini reported.