Real estate and investment in Greece Q1 2024: focus on the situation in and around Attica

real estate investment in Greece: 2024-focus of the situation in attica

Objective data has been released for the year 2023 highlighting the nature of real estate investment in Greece and the identity of investors. The reality of the figures shows how difficult it is for the Greek real estate market to cope with the consequences of the Golden Visa measures, particularly in the Attica region.

Investor profile

Despite the restrictions imposed by the Chinese government on Chinese nationals’ ability to move capital out of China, China is back as a leading investor through Hong Kong. Chinese investors have concentrated on investing in the “second-best zones” in Attica, where the price of a Golden Visa has not yet exceeded 250,000 euros. The network of Chinese investors, which includes all the necessary domestic contacts for buying, renovating, renting, and reselling, has naturally turned to Piraeus, where certain areas are still available for low-cost investment. The nature of investment has also shifted towards the purchase of buildings, as has been the case since the crisis in the Greek real estate market between 2009 and 2015, for short-term rental or resale. As far as Airbnb and other vacation rental operators are concerned, the attraction lies in the cost per night, but also in the need to avoid exposing oneself to the tensions associated with local neighborhoods, which do not welcome the degradation caused by mass tourism and the behavior of travelers in holiday areas.

Americans, followed by the British, then Arab countries such as Turkey, account for the largest share of private or personal investments, mainly in luxury real estate, the only niche that is not experiencing the crisis. This is followed by investments from European nationals looking for a second home, due to the low cost of real estate in Greece compared to other member countries.

No specific comments are left for the Lebanese and Israelis, whom we’ll mention below.

Investment distortion

The domestic housing crisis in Attica has led to an asymmetry between supply and demand on the common market. Since the introduction of the 500,000-euro Golden Visa in tension areas (see previous article : The grey zone of real estate market in Greece), two phenomena have converged:

  1. The region is facing a housing shortage after several years of low-cost Golden Visas. Added to this is the lack of rental availability brought about by Airbnb investment products. All this has led to a rise in rents which, unsurprisingly, has in turn led to an increase in the price per sq.m., making long-term rental property scarce, or else generating exorbitant costs for local residents in view of the low incomes of the Greek working population. The failure of the government’s restrictions, whose lack of control leaves an opportunity for property owners in the capital to extend seasonal rentals to more than 60 days a year on the black market.  Inflation and the high cost of living are obviously tempting landlords to rake in more profits by renting by the night at around 100 euros/night, compared with 9 to 12 euros per m² for long-term rentals.
  2. The relocation of interest from Athens to Piraeus to access housing via the Golden Visa, where certain areas are still excluded from the 500,000-euro purchase price. Piraeus is therefore experiencing a boom due to the influx of foreign capital, which will lead to the same market erosion phenomena in the short and medium term as in Athens.

The impact on the Greek real estate market

Despite these blockages, the real estate bidding war persists, with the result that real estate transactions in the capital are currently experiencing a noticeable slowdown (some would say a halt) in Q1 2024.  Sales prices are rising or stagnating, without considering the slowdown in the capital’s real estate market. This slowdown is reinforced by owners’ determination to continue selling their properties at prices that are set beyond objective reality. Lately, whose who understand the logic of the market has started to finance a change in the use of their property, from professional use (offices) to residential use (housing).

The wear and tear of the market can therefore be considered to have reached its peak, hence the government’s programs to find a solution to opening up the real estate market in Athens in particular, by releasing unoccupied homes back onto the market through private investment from abroad.

Some experts are predicting a return to normal, with transaction volumes relaying the successes of 2021 and 2022 into 2024. Time will tell whether they are right, or whether it is pessimistic to believe that foreign investment of all kinds and from all sources will have to move away from the major cities to offer better investment opportunities for the development of smaller towns in Greece. If the government takes this bet, the change will have to be accompanied by a political commitment to decentralize the attractiveness of investments through structural efforts such as the development of transport, health and access to quality care, tourism and the hotel industry (and therefore employment) in areas with high potential but currently stricken or devitalized.

White-collar smugglers and traps

Since the recent conflict in Israel, it should be added that, in addition to the above-mentioned phenomena linked to the domestic market, the interest of our middle-class Jewish neighbors has frozen their investments since October 7, 2023. In addition, the large influx of Lebanese has gradually tapered off since H1 2023. As was the case for the Lebanese during the economic crisis, or again with the war in Ukraine, we are seeing the emergence of a network of white-collar smugglers intent on making the most profit from the geopolitical situation and exploiting the incredulity of potential investors in a hurry. They are already structured, with networks in both Greece and Israel, and operate in a vacuum. We would like to draw the attention of this target group of Israeli clients to the need to multiply their local contacts and find trusted intermediaries, while redoubling their transparency to avoid the traps encountered in recent years, particularly with Lebanese clients whose residence permits were never processed administratively, or who were misled into setting up fictitious businesses that resulted in them leaving Greece. We remind you that, in case of doubt, the first step is to contact the relevant embassies, which are the depositories of all information to the local authorities through their nationals.

 

Emilie LE BON
Jurist in International Law & Economics
Theodorou Law Office & Associates
All reproduction prohibited

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