Tired of your shoebox in Tin Shui Wai? Here is a chance to upgrade to a plush home in Athens.
Under a new initiative by the Greek government to attract foreign capital and kick-start the beleaguered economy, starting from January next year a property investment of just €250,000 (HK$2.4 million) in the European country will come with residence visas for the applicant, children (aged 25 or below), parents and even in-laws.
According to Greek property listings, HK$2.4 million can buy more than 900 square feet of apartment space in Athens, compared with a 400 sq ft cage somewhere in the New Territories.
To sweeten the deal, Greece has more than 300 days a year of glorious sunshine, bucolic landscapes, and world-class coffee for €1& a cup, down from €4.50 before its economy collapsed.
Athens even has three decent Chinese restaurants, says Stephanos Issaias, the chief executive of Enterprise Greece, a government bureau tasked with promoting the country.
Called the three-generation visa, the programme is the latest sales tool from a Mediterranean government desperate for overseas capital and talent to support a struggling economy. Under the current emigration law, parents are excluded.
In Greece’s case, 29 per cent of its gross domestic product has been wiped out over 27 quarters of economic shrinkage that has driven national unemployment levels up to 28 per cent.
In Hong Kong as part of a China-wide tour to meet immigration agents and investors, Issaias said Greece had cut back on bureaucracy, imposed budget discipline, introduced electronic tax filings and begun to dismantle protectionist regulations. “Greece has moved from red tape to red carpet,” he said.
Chinese corporate investors have already snapped up sections of Piraeus harbour and are now eyeing the country’s airports, railways and energy sector amid plans for a cash-raising privatisation programme.
“We are a developed country with developing-country returns,” said Issaias.
Hopeful for the future, he pointed to EU data that forecasts 0.6 per cent growth for Greece this year, 2.9 per cent next year and 3.7 per cent for 2016.
Chinese nationals were the second-largest group after the Russians to take up residency visas under laws that extend to living rights to the property buyer,spouse and children. In the past four months, Greece has welcomed 456 immigration investors, 119 from China.
Greece, Spain, Portugal, Malta and Cyprus are all heavily marketing similar schemes to wealthy Asians with money to splash and one eye on the attractions of a European bolt-hole.
In Greece’s case, the visa is purely for residential purposes. Spend a minimum 180 days a year for seven years in the country, attend a local school for six years and pass a citizenship test in Greek, and you become a full European Union citizen.
Property prices and rents in Greece have dropped 40 per cent since their peak and labour costs are down 23 per cent amid a continent-wide downturn.