EuropeIntel & Data

Greece Plans to Raise Golden Visa Minimum Investments Following “Exploding Interest”, Says Finance Minister

Speaking at a conference a few days ago, Greek Minister for National Economy and Finance, Kostis Hatzidakis, admitted the government planned to raise the minimum investment requirements for property in Greece.

The statement comes just months after Greece raised the minimum property investment from EUR 250,000 to EUR 500,000 in 36 municipalities and follows a trend of sharply rising prices on the periphery of Athens’, where the old EUR 250,000 minimum still applies, such as Aegalo, Peristeri, Ilion, and particularly in the ritzy port city of Piraeus.

According to Ekathimerini, the Minister said about the country’s booming golden visa program that “measures to limit it will be applied, and minimum investments will increase to drive more substantial investments. But there will be an exemption for listed properties [ed.: buildings deemed of particular cultural or historic interest], for which a lower minimum threshold will apply in order to direct funds to a property class that is particularly in need of them.”

Ekathemirini indicates properties currently subject to the EUR 250,000 minimum will see the requirement raised significantly. At the same time, MonoNews Greece reports to have information indicating the minimum investment will rise to as much as EUR 1 million in some areas. Listed properties are likely to be subject to lower investment minimums to channel more investment toward historic properties needing renovation, similar to the policy Portugal’s golden visa applied for many years.

Greek golden visa expert Alexander Varnavas of the eponymous firm emphasizes that it’s important not to read too much into claims of doubled real estate investment minimums: “They said they will raise the minimum threshold in more areas but did not specify by what amounts.”

In terms of what minimum investment levels to expect, Varnavas says there are “various scenarios on the table, but the most likely one is that the minimum threshold will be increased to EUR 500,000 all over Greece.”

The only exception to this rule, he says, would be the listed buildings, which means “we may see some remaining options at EUR 250,000, even in areas previously included in the EUR 500,000 scheme, like the center of Athens.”

In echoes of what happened last year in Portugal, pressure on the government to “do something” about rising property prices by restricting golden visas has mounted in Greece in recent months. Last month, one of the country’s main opposition parties (left-wing PASOK) called for the program’s abolition, blaming the program for soaring property prices.

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Whether Golden Visas are to blame for the property boom or not, there can be no doubt that the program had a bumper year in 2023, becoming the world's most applied-to-residence by investment scheme. Application volume in 2023 nearly doubled compared to the preceding year (from 4,362 applications to 8,351).

Curiously, in the five months that have passed since the minimum real estate investment requirements doubled in high-pressure municipalities, application volume has not abated. Since July 31st, monthly application volume has averaged 693, practically unchanged from the average of 721 monthly applications recorded in the 5 months leading up to the price hike.

Such persistently elevated application volumes indicate demand is influenced by factors exogenous to price alone; possibly by worse terms and long wait times in Portugal. But Greece, too, is now haunted by the specter of multi-year backlogs, thanks to the sharp surge in demand. After briefly receding in November, the backlog reached another all-time high in December, just shy of 28,000 pending applications.

And while Greece's decentralized immigration authorities have certainly ramped up its processing capacity, it continues to lag the rise in application volume each month. As a consequence, there is no sign of the backlog diminishing significantly in the near future - unless, of course, the government raises prices again.

The entrenched backlog remains overwhelmingly concentrated in the capital region of Attica, home to some half of the Greek population.

Chinese nationals remain, by far, the program's largest participant group and also its fastest-growing one in absolute terms. Among the currently valid golden visas, six in ten belong to Chinese investors. Turks occupy a distant second place with 1,070 valid permits, followed by Russians at 724 (a number that keeps falling since new golden visas are not available to this nationality), Lebanese at 716, Iranians at 514, and Egyptians at 446.

In December, Greece approved 57 initial golden visas for Chinese nationals, 12 for British, 11 each for Turkey, Lebanon, and Iran, as well as 6 for Americans.

If you like data-driven articles like this one, you'll love the IMI Data Center, the world's largest collection of investment migration statistics, with more than 350 graphs and charts on dozens of IM programs and markets.

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