By Moustafa Daly
In the making since September 2022, Greece’s parliament has announced it is moving forward with a government-proposed amendment to double the investment threshold for the Greek golden visa program from $250,000 to $500,000, however only in certain areas of the country. The new threshold is set to come into effect on May 1, 2023.
The areas where the new decision takes place are northern and southern Attica, the metropolitan area that includes Athens, as well the islands of Mykonos, Santorini, and the city of Thessaloniki. It remains possible, however, to combine properties in those areas, as long as each is worth at least $250,000.
The proposal was made by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to help keep value of real estate property in popular areas like Athens affordable for Greek citizens.
Industry professionals voiced support for the Greek move
“I believe that the change in the transaction limit for the granting of the golden visa from 250,000 euros for several properties to 500,000 euros for one property is a positive development for the domestic real estate market, as the previous legislative framework created a prohibitive condition for the average Greek who wished to acquire a first home,” says Dimitris Foutsis of Foutsis & Partners Law Firm. “Due to the massive influx of investors with relatively small purchasing power, the sale prices of real estate have skyrocketed, not corresponding to the country's per capita income and the existing cost of living.”
Similarly, Penny Konitsioti of Penny Konitsioti Legal Services Boutique views the move as necessary and long overdue. “Until today, 85% of the (golden visa) investors were concentrated in the Southern Suburbs of S. Attica and in the center of Athens, as the program from above never worked at a national level which should also be its main operating objective,” Konitsioti says.
She stresses the importance of the decision to raise the investment threshold.
"The immediate activation and implementation given to diversify the amount of investment in real estate in areas of the territory, taking into account factors such as development targeting, tourism development and geographical location, is important and especially after the reduced attendance of investors in the midst of a pandemic."
Alexander Varnavas, managing partner at Varnavas Law Firm, agrees.
“The areas where the minimum investment has been doubled are the country's most expensive and touristic areas, where the prices had been affected by the high demand of the previous years,” he said.
“Nevertheless, it was not easy [for investors] to find a property of a reasonable size for less than $400-500k in those areas, so increasing the minimum investment was only a realistic adaption to the market trends.”
Will the Greece golden visa remain competitive?
Greece’s golden visa program is one of Europe’s most popular, attracting 788 million euros in the first half of 2022, nearly a 70% increase from the same period in 2021. The news, Varnavas expects, will not dissuade investors from pursuing the Greek golden visa, nor drastically affect the popularity of the program.
“The program has been changed for the first time in a few areas, remaining the same for the 99% of the country,” explains Varnavas.
“That means that [investors] can still benefit from the affordability of the Greek program, which remains the most competitive golden visa program in the EU, not only in terms of the lowest threshold but also in terms of transaction costs,” he adds.
Foutsis not only expects the program to remain competitive, but also anticipates it to push forward decentralization efforts as investments get directed to typically less attractive areas.
“Incoming investors will be forced to invest in areas that have not previously attracted investment interest - with the exception of the Municipality of Piraeus - and as a result, the market will open up further and more investments will be made in the province, where not only is there no saturation, but the development and subsequent decentralization that is expected to follow is a long-standing national objective,” adds Foutsis.
“Nevertheless, the doubling of amount of Golden Visa investment may cause disappointment to many foreign investors, who may seek other choices and potentials of same benefits and lower investing amount,” Konitsioti says.
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