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Real estate investment in Athens: a complete guide

Real estate investment in Athens: a complete guide

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Anastasiia Zapevalova
15 February 2023
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The real estate market in Greece is booming. In 2022, the inflow of foreign capital increased by 60.2% compared to 2021, reaching a record €1.277 billion. People from all over the world buy real estate in Greece not only to move, but also as an investment, as well as to obtain a "Golden Visa", which allows its holders to obtain a residence permit and in the future to apply for Greek citizenship.

Best neighborhoods for buying real estate

Ilana Van Huyssteen-Meyer, a Migronis expert on Golden Visa programs, says that the majority of those wishing to obtain a Greek residence permit invest in real estate in Athens. The large tourist flow and the status of the capital makes Athens an excellent option for earning money in the market for both short-term and long-term rentals.

In May 2023, the minimum investment in some Athens neighborhoods will increase to €500,000. The new rules will affect areas most popular with tourists, including central Athens and some surrounding municipalities. However, according to Alexander Varnavas, managing partner of Varnavas Law Firm 1978, it is already difficult to find properties cheaper than €400,000-500,000 in the areas in question.

Experts don’t recommend buying investment property in the particularly older blocks in the historical center of Athens around the Acropolis. Although the rental prices in this area are high, the buildings are often old and unreliable. They will need frequent repairs for various reasons, such as plumbing maintenance and anything you can imagine. Also, you may not see capital growth as the property here is very hard to sell.

So what are the best neighborhoods in Athens to invest in?

Center

Pagrati is one of the most stylish and trendy neighborhoods in the center of Athens, close to most of the city's attractions. Pagrati is listed as one of the 50 coolest neighborhoods in the world by Times Out magazine. Here you can find a variety of bars, fine restaurants, eateries and ethnic stores, says Chris Lepeniotis, real estate expert at D&A Invest.

Real estate in the area has recently become more expensive. This is especially noticeable for properties suitable for short-term rentals. But it is still possible to find good properties here in the price range of the current minimum requirements for the Golden Visa, around €300,000-400,000. From this point of view, investing in Pagrati makes a lot of sense.

However, Lepeniotis points out that it is difficult to find new properties or high-end properties in Pagrati, as most of the buildings in the area were built in the 1960s-1980s.

Petralona is the area around the hill next to the Acropolis, and it is rapidly gaining popularity. Real estate here isn't very attractive externally because Petralona, like much of Athens, was built between the '60s and '70s, but in terms of investment, that's not a problem. "It's a great option if you want to invest in middle-class housing," says Chris Lepeniotis.

In Petralona, it is possible to find a good apartment with two bedrooms and two bathrooms for €250,000-300,000. Petralona is a good option for someone who wants to invest the minimum amount in order to qualify for the Golden Visa (but remember, you need to hurry up as in May, the new minimum of €500,000 will apply to this area). Once you secure your investment, you can rent it out to tourists for a short-term basis or to local families and students for the long term as there are two universities nearby Petralona.

Petralona is a good option for someone who wants to invest the minimum amount in order to qualify for the Golden Visa
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Gazi is a small neighbourhood near the historical center of Athens. Its name Gazi means gas, as there used to be a huge factory that provided gas to Athens. The city of Athens developed a neighbourhood in Gazi right before the Olympics in Athens in 2004. But according to Chris Lepeniotis, a real estate expert at D&A Invest, it was "kind of a failed experiment" because "Gazi never developed into an actual neighbourhood with supermarkets, pharmacies, and other facilities." But nowadays, Gazi is a municipal area with vibrant nightlife and cultural events. Over time, Gazi developed into Athen’s go-to place for parties and clubbing. And for decades, the central Gazi square has been the Mecca of the club scene for Greece’s capital.

Gazi is a prime example of exploiting the tourist’s ignorance of Athens, Lepeniotis adds. Properties in this area generate a decent income because when tourists look on Airbnb for a place to stay, they only see how close the locations in Gazi are to the center. Lepeniotis says that Gazi is a safe area and might be a good fit for those who love to party and can appreciate the area’s urban aesthetics and vibes. But according to Lepeniotis, it is not an ideal residential area for a family.

South

The further south of Athens you move, the closer to the sea you get and the more expensive the properties are. There is also lots of new development, including luxury ones, which you won’t find in the city’s center.

According to Lepeniotis, the development of luxury apartments started in Athens just a few years ago. So demand now drastically exceeds supply. That’s why there is no such thing as an average price. You will find that the price per square metre varies significantly in this area. Some buildings are older, and some are much newer and built specifically for foreign investors who expect a much higher quality of development, finishes, and services than what was traditionally available in Athens. Property in these projects can cost up to €10,000 per square metre.

Palaio Faliro is a posh and expensive neighbourhood right by the sea and Flisvos Marina, with many restaurants and coffee shops. Palaio Faliro is the closest southern area to the center, and it’s one of the locations where property sells quickly, says Lepeniotis. The price for property in a new development with a view of the sea starts at €7,000 per square metre.

Here are some examples of luxury properties in the area. A two-floor penthouse in a new development in Palaio Faliro with 345 sq metres can sell for about €2,5 million. And an apartment with three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and exceptional views can cost around €925,000, which you can rent out for €2,200 a month with no furniture. And if it’s a 2-bedroom apartment, you can earn €1,300 per month.

All the seaside properties in Athens continue to increase in price, and the options for new developments are quite limited
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But Lepeniotis warns that this type of luxury property is not the best option for renting it out for the short term as it will only generate income in the summertime. And as for the long-term, he says, there is a limited market as most people prefer buying and getting a mortgage on such a property than renting it.

Despite this, investing in Palaio Faliro is still worth it. All the seaside properties in Athens continue to increase in price, and the options for new developments are quite limited: "It’s a good option for a long-term investment or if you want to live here. And it’s a prime location."

Alimos is a southern area next to Palaio Faliro, which offers some new developments with prices starting at €7,000 per square metre. On the other side, it borders Ellinikon, an area that used to be an old airport but is now the most ambitious urban development project in modern Athens. In Ellinikon, there will have a large park, homes, hotels, shops, a marina, and 31 miles of walking and biking paths, and it is due to open in 2026.

Savvas Mina, the overseas director of the construction company Zafido, predicts that the opening of Ellinikon will upscale the price of properties in the whole neighbourhood of Alimos to a starting price of €8,000 per square metre.

Glyfada is a suburb south of Athens located along the coast of Athens, next to Ellinikon. Glyfada is an up-and-coming area that is very popular with expats. According to Lepeniotis, Glyfada is predominantly a green, quiet, and safe family neighbourhood. There is no metro as it is a wealthy location, and everybody there drives a car. It takes approximately 25 minutes to drive to the centre of the city.

In Glyfada, you can choose between new developments and older buildings constructed in the 1990s and 2000s, as there are enough available offers in both categories. This area falls under a new minimum investment of €500,000 that will go into effect in May 2023. For this amount, you can buy an 80 square metre apartment in Glyfada with two bedrooms and one bath in a 2010s building, with private storage space and parking space.

"All my clients looking for the properties near the beach start by asking about Glyfada because that’s what everybody knows, but the reality is they end up investing elsewhere", says Christo Lepeniotis.

Read also: What you need to know to get a Greek Golden Visa and make money with Airbnb

How to invest

Chris Lepeniotis points out that there are no general listings of properties on sale in Greece. There are private listing sites, but the prices are not accurate. Since the real estate market in Greece is unregulated, anyone can sell real estate in any way they want. This means that you can get offers to buy an apartment from cab drivers and even from sellers in souvenir shops. However, Lepeniotis recommends hiring a professional to find a suitable property.

According to Savvas Mina, the overseas director of the construction company Zafido, most of the investors buy properties off-plan. This way, they get a better price. By the time the construction is finished, he says, the property’s appreciation has already increased. Zafido currently has over 35 constructions and around 20 finished buildings in Athens. Most of them — even the ones that are off-plan — are already sold out. According to Mina, most investors bought properties as investments, specifically for Golden Visas. The company also manages 800 apartments throughout the city, which Zafido rents out on behalf of its clients, all of which are currently rented out. So it is safe to say that the demand for real estate in the Greek capital is high.

Buying off-plan can offer the investor a better value
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What prices can you expect when buying an apartment before the project is realized? A one-bedroom Zafido apartment in Glyfada under construction will cost between €300,000 and €350,000 euros. In Alimos, the price for the same property will be higher, around €400,000 euros. And a one-bedroom penthouse with a roof terrace in the same neighborhood will cost €650,000.

According to Savvas Mina, the best value you can get for a €250,000 investment is an off-plan closer to the ocean. However, many real estate agents selling completed second-hand properties will disagree with him. From the Migronis clients’ experience, it is still possible to find refurbishments and second-hand properties in a nice area for this price.

To apply for a Golden Visa, an investor must pay the total price for the property, but when buying an off-plan, the investor pays the whole amount to a lawyer, not the construction company. The lawyer then proceeds to make the stage payments to the construction company on behalf of the client.

Taxes

A Golden Visa investment does not affect an investor’s international tax position. However, Golden Visa investors have local tax obligations, for instance, property taxes which are 0.1-0.2% of the property’s value. For a property of €250,000, taxes may be around €250 per year, says Alexander Varnavas, the Managing Partner of Varnavas Law Firm 1978.

Transfer taxes of 3% on the initial purchase of the property also apply. VAT applies only to new properties, but the state has suspended it until 2024.

There is also a tax on the profit generated from the property. If the owners rent out the property, they would have to pay income tax on the rental income, which is 15% for the first €12,000 and 35% after that. Varnavas says that for a basic apartment of €250,000, income taxes should not exceed €12,000 to €15,000 a year. Spouses can buy property jointly, and they can split the taxes, which can be helpful for higher-value properties. For example, owners splitting the burden of taxes can benefit from an apartment making 2,000 a month.

Yield

In Greece, you can rent out a property without furniture or appliances for the long term. In such a scenario, Chris Lepeniotis says investors can get a 3% yield. But the more you add, the higher it gets, he states. Adding appliances such as a stove or fridge, air conditioning, or additional parking space can make the yield go up as high as 4%. And if you invest in a costly location, you can even get 5%.

Changes in the terms and conditions of the Golden Visa

In 2022, the Greek Parliament approved the country’s plans to increase the minimum investment required to €500,000. The new rules will only apply to some areas of the country and are coming into force on May 1st, 2023. The changes will affect only certain municipalities. You can find the complete list here.

Investors who purchase real estate in affected municipalities and have already paid 10% of the property value as a deposit by April 31st, 2023, will be able to conclude their contracts until December 31st, 2023, and apply under the scheme that requires the €250,000 investment.

Investors who have already paid their deposit will be able to replace the original property with another and still apply with an investment of €250,000 or more, provided they complete the transaction before the end of the transition period.

According to the new rules, in order to obtain a "Golden Visa" it is necessary to purchase one property. In case of joint ownership of property, the minimum value of the ownership share of the Golden Visa applicant must be €500,000 and also relate to one property.

However, if you are not yet ready to invest a minimum of €500,000 in a property purchase, remember that Greece still offers the lowest-cost real estate investment route to a European permanent residency permit for the next few months. Considering the time needed to find a reliable investment property opportunity and prepare the documents for the Golden Visa program, potential investors should make up their minds as soon as possible to seize this opportunity.

"Golden Visa" allows you not only to obtain a residence permit but also to later qualify for Greek citizenship, provided you live in the country. To participate, the investor must have a clean criminal record, available capital and proof of how it was earned.

Read also: All changes in residence permit and citizenship for investment programs in 2023 | Digest

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