Frans and Jordaan Viljoen moved to Greece three years ago and invested in a small villa in a popular tourist destination. Thanks to all the benefits of the Greek Golden Visa, they can now travel freely around Europe while renting out their property and making money from it.
Porto Heli is a dream destination for many travelers that come to Greece. Located on the eastern side of the Peloponnese, this area offers lovely beaches, secluded coves, and quaint restaurants with local fish and other fresh produce. It is also home to a modern marina for yacht lovers and many spectacular sea views. Frans and Jordaan (and their two dogs!) enjoy this lifestyle and the fantastic views from their new home.
Before moving to Greece, a couple had spent a few years in Thailand, but being determined travelers, they wanted free access to the Schengen zone. So they opted for a Golden Visa via the Greece permanent residency program, which remains one of Europe’s most cost-effective investment residence permits and does not require them to reside in the country. Other good reasons why Frans and Jordaan chose Greece were the "nice hot climate" and the legal recognition of same-sex unions in the country.
They bought a three-bedroom house not far from the sea and the main town area. "Initially, we weren’t going to move here, we just wanted to do Airbnb for the first few years, but then COVID happened," Jordaan says. Now they are thrilled to live here, in the picturesque countryside of Porto Heli. And if they like, they can always go on a 2.5-hour-long drive to Athens once a month to do some "city things, like going to fancy restaurants." But even so, they typically enjoy cooking in their kitchen with fresh produce from local farmers. They also love to explore the coast on a boat, which they now temporarily rent but plan to get in the future. As they put it: "For now, we rent a boat occasionally, but we know that when in Greece, you have to get a boat. It’s just a part of the lifestyle, so we’ll have one day."
The tourist season is very long in Porto Heli. It starts in April and runs till the end of September. During this season, it is typical for the couple to rent out their villa, pack a campervan called a "Bella," and take off with their two dogs to explore other countries in Europe. In peak season, the house can go for 300 euros per night and around 250 euros for the rest of the season, albeit sometimes a discount may apply for more extended stays. "Yes, by Airbnb-ing your own house, you open it to strangers. But that’s just the way it is. We are not overly protective about that", Jordaan says.
This summer, the couple listed another property for renting — a glamping site located just a kilometer from their house, which is within walking distance from the beaches, but in a secluded area where the guests can enjoy their stay with maximum privacy. As Frans explained: The glamping site has two upper-end exclusive en-suit camper pitches, each with a terrace and private bathroom. They called the place Klein Karoo Rest Camp. "Klein Karoo is a beautiful part of South Africa, our favorite part. We had a house there and used to spend our weekends there. We miss that part of the world, so we brought it here", Jordaan says.
The couple plans to expand the glamping site in the future. In addition, the couple is also looking at investing in a villa and another site. They bought a house three years ago for 275,000 euros, and now it can go on the market for at least 325,000 as Porto Heli is becoming increasingly popular among tourists. For Frans and Jordaan, it was a pretty good investment considering that they only had to do minor renovations. But Frans says that the money is not the main upside of the whole deal. "There’s more than that. It’s a lifestyle. That’s what we love".
5 Things to know before investing in Airbnb real estate
Frans and Jordaan started a real estate rental business in the 2000s when they noticed a growing demand for short-stay properties in Cape Town. At some point, their company managed over 100 self-catering apartments simultaneously. They also invested in properties in Thailand and now remotely run their real estate company in SA.
With more than 20 years of experience in the field, Frans and Jordaan share their top recommendations for first-time investors in Airbnb real estate:
- Pick the proper location. It’s the first and the main thing. Don’t underestimate the importance of the location within the location. Look at up-and-coming areas where big companies invest and new hotels open. If you have to choose between two similar properties, choose the one with the better sea view or any features that can make it more unique and desirable. Even if you have to invest a little bit more, it will eventually pay off.
- Follow the market for rates. Don’t put the price you want without considering the market. For example, don’t set the rate at €400 per night when there are plenty of similar options in the area at €300. Your house will have little occupancy even during the high season. Do your research and follow the market rates, which will provide you with more occupancy and revenue.
- Get yourself a good managing company. Renting out might seem easy, but it’s a lot of work if you look at the whole operation, from the marketing side and management to the reservations. If you want your guests to be pleased, working with professionals is better.
- Remember, although Airbnb is great, it is not the only source to rent out properties. Promote your offer on different platforms. Among the biggest — are Booking.com, Vrbo, Homestay, and others. It is always better to be on one of them (keep in mind that you’ll have to pay around 15 percent to them for every booking).
- Bring some uniqueness to your property. People think they only need to buy a property and spend a minimal amount on things such as kitchen utensils, a bed, and some chairs. But all these typically and cheaply furnished apartments look the same. Spend a little bit more money, and make it unique. And also splurge on professional photos because people make decisions based on those images. After 20 years, we found that the buzzword for Airbnb is "unique," as Jordaan says. "People want something different, a getaway from their reality. So we give them that".
One more useful tip from Migronis – use the apps
Different applications and online tools can help you choose where to buy a property and for what price to rent it out. Here are those that we can recommend:
- AirDNA shows Airbnb rental prices in different neighborhoods worldwide. It also has a tool to calculate the potential earnings of your prospective property.
- AllTheRooms provides valuable business insights and analytics in the vacation rental industry, such as market intelligence and property scores.
- DPGO is an AI-driven tool designed specifically for Airbnb property owners. This tool utilizes machine learning, yield management, and deep learning to get your property’s best possible rental price.
Where to invest in property?
Ilana van Huyssteen-Meyer, a Migronis expert on Golden Visa programs, says most Golden Visa holders invest in real estate in the Athens region for short-term and long-term lettings opportunities. According to her, it is the most reliable option to receive continuous income flow from the property as there is high tourist trade all year round. There are also a lot of potential tenants for more high-end properties in the local expat community.
The rental market in Athens will be more accessible for new owners to operate in compared to smaller towns and rural areas. Frans and Jordaan, however, made it work in the countryside as they already had ample experience in short-term lettings, which they had done in a few countries. Also, they live in the property and only rent it out for a few months a year. For the rental property market newcomers, applying Frans and Jordaan’s rental tips in Athens will make more sense, which is the to-go option to do business in English and find professional help from experienced experts.
Here are top-3 Athens districts for buying an investment property, according to investment expert Revekka Klavdianou:
- Glyfada is a suburb in South Athens located along the Athens coast. It is a posh area that is very popular with foreigners. Also, it is a district with a lot of new developments, which makes it a more promising market compared to other areas of the city, as the construction in Athens almost entirely stopped during the crisis of 2008 and never fully recovered. To get the best rental prices, you may want to look at the part of Glyfada which is closer to the sea (known as Kato Glyfada) and along the main avenue that leads directly to the city center.
- Pangrati is a hip neighborhood in Central Athens. This area is close to Kolonaki, where tourists often prefer to live. Pangrati is also a good district for Airbnb property and still has options to choose from, unlike Kolonaki, where it is almost impossible to find a property for sale. Rental yields here will be around 3-4%, and the capital gain in the future is promising.
- Zografou is the neighborhood around the Athens University. It is the most popular district for student rentals, so the best investment option here will be a one-bedroom apartment. You will probably get more yield with older buildings, but you will make more money on capital growth with the new ones. Think about what is more important to you.
The city’s southern parts up to Kallithea are an excellent choice for investment. The nearby Piraeus, where the port is located, is a very fast-growing municipality. However, the rental prices are lower, so this area is not the best fit if you are considering investing. On the other hand, Psychiko and Kifisia, which were previously very popular with investors, now have very high property prices, with more than €500,000 for a two-bedroom apartment in a new building. Also, the yield here is about the same as in nearby areas with significantly lower prices.
A useful tip that may save you a lot of money: Don’t buy investment property in the historical center of Athens. Although the rental prices are very high, especially during the most popular tourist months, the buildings are old and unreliable. They will need frequent repairs for various reasons, such as plumbing maintenance and anything you can imagine. Also, you will likely lose capital gain as the property here is very hard to sell.
Potential investors need to hurry – as the Greek Golden Visa doubles the cost
In October 2022, the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, announced the country’s plans to increase the minimum investment required to €500,000. The Parliament approved these changes on December 21. The new rules will only apply to some areas of the country and are coming into force on May 1, 2023.
The recent changes affect municipalities where investors have been taking up properties and consequently driving Greeks out of their neighborhoods due to rising rents. These municipalities include the Athens and Thessaloniki regions and the Mykonos and Santorini islands. You can find the complete list of the affected municipalities here.
Investors who purchase real estate in the areas listed above 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 have the option to replace the initial property with another one and still apply under the €250,000 threshold, provided they conclude the transaction before the end of the transition period.
Under the new rules, you must purchase a single property to qualify for a Golden Visa. In cases of joint property ownership, the minimum value of the ownership share must be €500,000 and must again affect a single property.
Even with the announced changes, Athens remains the most prominent Greek region for investors. Many investors working with Migronis are already spending more than the €250,000 minimum to invest in more upscale parts of Athens or the islands. 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.
The Golden Visa allows you not only to get a residence permit but also to obtain Greek citizenship later. To apply for the visa, however, you must have a clean criminal record, available capital, and proof of how you earned this capital. Here you can find more details on how to get a Greek Golden Visa.
If Greece doesn’t seem to be your cup of tea
Maybe you like Greece for its climate, nature, proximity to the sea, and its popularity with tourists, but you are not sure if buying an investment property there is the best option for you. In this case, you may want to consider purchasing property in Portugal. In addition to the mild climate, splendid views, and the ocean, this country has low crime rates and a high level of security.
Portugal is continuously changing its Golden Visa program, but there is still an opportunity to get a residence permit by buying real estate there. The minimum investment starts from €500,000 in high-density areas and €350,000 when investing in a rehabilitation project. You can also buy a residential property in low-density regions of Portugal at €280,000, which includes beautiful touristic locations like Evora, Grandola, and parts of the Algarve.
In 2022, Portugal had an average gross rental yield of 5.20%, which rises to 7% for long-term rentals in some locations. In 2022, Portugal had an average gross rental yield of 5.20%, which rises to 7% for long-term rentals in some locations. This rental yield in Athens is only possible in potentially problematic areas. In general, the rental yield in Portugal may offset the higher minimum purchase price for investors who wish to take advantage of the Golden Visa program.