Expert property advice from Engel & Völkers.
Chris Liem is owner and principal of real estate broker Engel & Völkers Hong Kong, a leading service company specialising in luxury, high- end property sales and leasing. With a 35 year long history and offices in 530 locations worldwide, Engel & Völkers leverages its international network to provide a directory of global listings for local Hong Kong and Chinese clients.
Which markets are you currently targeting?
Right now, we are looking at Greece, Spain, and in particular, Portugal.
Portugal suffered during the financial crisis, but has recently instituted economic policies that are very attractive to investors. Offering European permanent visas for small investment amounts, Portugal has already attracted a large number of investors while property prices are still low and negotiable. As with the best opportunities, the time to capitalise on them is limited. Externally, the rest of the market will soon realise Portugal’s recovery is already in place; internally, the Portuguese government can change visa and investment rules, just as Hong Kong did three years ago, removing real estate from the Capital Investment Entrant Scheme.
I am currently shuttling back and forth to Portugal with my clients. The advice I am giving them is to position their investments before the market runs away or the policy changes.
What are the details and benefits of the immigration policy?
In Portugal, the minimum investment is 500,000 Euros, or about HK$5m, in residential or commercial property. This secures a European visa (also known as Portuguese residency permit). The visa holder may apply for family reunification, granting family members residency and, later, citizenship. The policy requires a short minimum stay period of seven days per year – the length of a brief vacation!
What does a visa mean for buyers?
The European visa offers access to education, working opportunities in the European Union, and positioning for further wealth enhancement. In addition, it allows open access; visa-free travel throughout the 26 countries of the European Union. This can be particularly attractive to executives who may wish to work in the EU.
Which areas do you recommend in Portugal?
The areas we recommend are on the Silver Coast and in the capital, Lisbon. Their features, such as location, popularity and reputation will provide the best and most secure investments.
On the Silver Coast, we are working with two award- winning developers, Joia Das Dunas and Praia Del Rey, which are just an hour outside of Lisbon. We have personally vetted these two projects as the best for our clients – they’re both well-established, highly reputable hotel resorts with villas for sale, and they guarantee strong yields.
What makes them attractive investments? What are the rental yields?
From an investment perspective, Joia Das Dunas villas are extremely attractive at a guaranteed 5% yield net-tax for a period of 10 years.These luxury villas are managed and rented out by the hotel, which attracts sophisticated and luxury-minded clients.
Praia Del Rey is the only beach-facing resort along the pristine Silver Coast, and brings in the likes of Christian Ronaldo to train with the Portuguese national football team. It sits along an unspoiled 3km coast of sandy white beaches, has golfing amenities, and is anchored by the Marriott Hotel. They have developed many stages over their history of 15 years and are now offering the final few stages in Asia. The yields stand at 3% for three years.
Finally, Engel & Volkers’ downtown Lisbon project is managed by award-winning developer Lisbon 5 Stars. The portfolio consists of serviced apartments in the centre of town and come with a guaranteed yield of 6% for two plus two additional years. Half of the units have already been purchased by local Portuguese due to the high-demand location, yield and strength of construction and design.
What kind of investors are interested?
We have received inquiries from smart and far-sighted investors.They tend to be flexible with their investments and show expressed interest in security and in providing long-term opportunities for themselves and their children.
Why is this of unique appeal to Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese investors?
This is the first time that Western Europe is willingly opening itself for European visas, providing access to the whole of the European Union. It’s a very rare opportunity for Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese, who are looking for valuable, appreciating investments in hard assets. Priced out of the popular markets such as Hong Kong and the UK, this is an opportunity for them to secure their family’s future and to make a meaningful investment in this quickly recovering economy.