ATHENS (Reuters) – Three times a week, hundreds of Chinese investors arrive at Athens airport to be greeted by Greek real estate agents who drive them straight into the city to view apartments for sale.
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The visitors are drawn to Greece by rock-bottom property prices and one of Europe’s most generous “golden visa” schemes, offering a renewable five-year resident’s permit in return for a 250,000 euro ($285,000) investment in real estate.
That’s enough to buy a three-bedroom apartment in the capital with a view to the Acropolis hill.
It is also enough to bring the first glimmers of recovery to the market since the Greek economy started to collapse after the debt crisis in 2009, although prices are still down by about 40 percent from their peak.
One Athens resident, who gave his name only as Vassilis, had almost given up finding a buyer for his home last year when a minivan pulled up outside his maisonette and a Chinese family of four got out. A day later, he got an offer.
“They didn’t see the house again. We went and got a down-payment, and everything was set in motion,” he said.
Vassilis had bought the home in the up-and-coming suburb of Gerakas for 320,000 euros ($367,000) in 2007 and decided to sell in order to buy his two adult children their own apartments. He sold it to the Chinese family for 220,000 euros.
Real estate prices rose 0.8 percent in the second quarter year-on-year after a 0.1 percent rise in the first – the first pick-up since 2008, according to Bank of Greece data.
Lian Wenmin, 29, potential buyer from China looks out from the balcony of an apartment in central Athens, Greece, May 25, 2018. Reuters/Costas Baltas
Foreign direct investment in property jumped 91 percent to 287 million euros last year from 2016, the bank’s data showed.