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Chinese investors line up to take advantage of cheap Greek real estate

Chinese investors are lining up to take advantage of cheap real estate in Greece where prices hit bottom during the economic crisis. For Chinese buying property in Greece is of high interest due to the Golden Visa program that grants them a 5-year residence permit for them and their family.

Foreign buyers are lining up to invest in real estate in Greece, a market that crashed during the country’s economic crisis and has yet to fully recover. Prices dropped by around 45 percent though real estate agents say in some areas of Athens the real drop reached close to 60 percent. Prices hit rock-bottom with some apartments in the center of Athens selling for as low as 10,000-15,000 euros.

But it’s not only the cheap prices that make Greek real estate appealing to foreign investors (much cheaper than other European countries like Portugal, Spain, Italy and Germany).

Greece’s residence-for-investment program, introduced in 2013 and one of the cheapest in Europe, has been luring thousands of foreign buyers who, when they buy real estate property worth at least 250,000 euros (292,625 US dollars), get a five-year residence permit that also allows them and their families to freely travel in most of Europe.

Chinese buyers are the top nationality applying for the so-called “Golden Visa Program.” According to data from Enterprise Greece, by the end of 2017 Greece had granted 2,305 “golden visas.” Chinese investors make up almost half of all investors having been granted 1,011 visas, followed by those from Russia (395 visas) and Turkey (222 visas).

The remaining visas were granted mostly to nationals of Middle Eastern nations. Seventy percent of investors bought properties in Athens and the surrounding Attica region, where demand for short-term rentals from online platforms has been rapidly gaining ground and is fueled by Greece’s booming tourism industry. It is an investment that gives foreign buyers immediate and strong returns on their Greek properties.

Chinese interest in Greek property began rising in 2016 when buyers from the world’s second-largest economy felt that the worst for Greece’s economy was over. According to Enterprise Greece, in 2017 there was a 33-percent increase in “golden visas” compared to those issued a year before. And the trend continues to go upwards.

So more Chinese buyers are rushing in. Peter Chang, who has been living in Greece for almost five decades and is the owner of a travel agency in Athens, says in fluent Greek that he gets up to 100 inquiries a month from prospective Chinese property buyers, up from about 60 last year, though in the end, less than 10 percent of them end up applying for the visa residency program.

He works directly with Greek real estate agents and helps Chinese buyers navigate the process. He arranges everything for them, from their stay and car rental to their dinners and charges a fee for the service, which he returns to the buyers if they end up buying the property and instead charges them a commission. It’s not just the language barrier that he says turns some Chinese to him for help in their quest to buy property in Greece. “I am Chinese,” Peter Chang says.

“Chinese people, we are bound together, we have the same culture. When they come here, we take them out to dinner, we keep them company, and we give them a gift.”

Though he believes the residence visa is the primary reason why his compatriots invest in Greek property he also agrees the cheap prices are a major draw. “For the Chinese, in Beijing, in Shanghai with 250,000 they cannot even buy a parking spot. It’s very expensive.” full story in CGTN

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