The coronavirus pandemic has affected nearly all sectors of the Greek economy in one way or another. While some businesses appear to be doing slightly better than others, real estate is the last industry one would expect to see thriving in these uncertain times. And yet, in a surprising turn of events, demand for Greek properties has been positively booming in the past few months.
Real Estate Demand Is on the Rise
One of UK's largest property marketplace, recently announced that Greece was among the five most-searched countries in June 2020. The other top destinations were — quite predictably — France, Spain, Italy, and Portugal. Across the board, those five countries saw a 340% increase in overseas demand for real estate compared to mid-June.
The Greek Case
All of Europe's Mediterranean countries have reported unusually high interest from property hunters, but Greece is truly having a comeback. Granted, the country's tourism has definitely seen better days. However, its real-estate industry seems to have found an unlikely but effective ally in COVID-19. Foreign property buyers have been making online inquiries like mad, and industry experts say they have not seen such activity in more than ten years.
The Brits Are Coming
According to property dealers, demand from the UK alone increased by over 200% after the British government relaxed travel restrictions for international arrivals earlier this month. Greece also expects an upsurge in UK arrivals, it has lifted the ban on British tourists starting from July 15.
However, it is not just COVID-19 and the long lockdown that seem to have inspired the Brits to start buying properties in Greece. Brexit still looms large on the horizon, and British nationals are rushing to get a home on the continent by the end of the year to become eligible for EU residency. It's 2020 or never.
Despite the flood of inquiries, however, most prospective buyers are yet to set foot in Greece to seal the deal. The situation is changing by the hour, and most Brits are still wary of traveling — let alone settling — abroad.
The Germans Are Already Here
It is not just the Brits that are eying Greece either: the Germans are already on the ground. With some 4 million holidaymakers each year, Germans account for the largest pool of overseas visitors in Greece. More importantly, they bring over €2.5 billion in the local economy.
In 2020, however, Germans are doing more than vacationing; they are buying properties like never before. While there are no official figures yet, according to industry experts, German real-estate investments have increased by 50% in recent months. Their locales of choice seem to be the Peloponnese and the islands of Amorgos, Corfu, Crete, and Karpathos.
In addition to Brits and Germans, Greek property dealers have registered a spike in interested buyers from Austria, France, and Switzerland — with viewings scheduled for well into the summer.
What's on the Menu?
Pretty much anything. Tens of thousands of properties ranging from abandoned ruins and two-bedroom apartments to massive beachfront villas. The price range is wide to match, starting from around €10,000 and going all the way into the multi millions.
It's not just residential real estate either; there are listings for bars, cafes, hotels, and even entire resorts ripe for development. And with as much as 65% of the country's hotels facing bankruptcy, the selection of commercial properties for sale will probably continue to grow. Unfortunately, even properties in tourist hotspots such as Corfu, Crete, and Rhodes are likely to be affected.
Why All the Fuss?
What is the reason behind the unprecedented surge in overseas real-estate buyers? While Greece's whitewashed houses and blue seas may have something to do with it, its biggest selling point is its successful handling of the pandemic.
With 4,007 confirmed cases and 194 deaths as of July 21, the country has been spared the brunt of COVID-19. Unsurprisingly, people seem to feel much safer in Greece than in other traditional holiday destinations such as Italy and Spain.
What's in It for Greece?
In a nutshell — a lot. The Greek economy relies heavily on tourism, but COVID-19 has all but paralyzed that sector. As a result, the national economy is projected to contract by 9.0% in 2020. That is almost as much as in 2011, the country's worst recession year.
What's more, COVID-19 has set the stage for a worldwide recession that will be worse than the 2008 financial crisis.
While there have not been that many real estate deals yet, many small businesses may be forced to close shop and sell their properties by the end of the summer.
In this climate, a thriving real estate sector and a steady flow of foreing capital could be the lifeline Greece needs to stay afloat and emerge on the other side of the pandemic relatively unscathed.
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