Americans move to Europe: Portugal still remains the best place for expats despite restrictions


House prices, political divisions, high cost of living, the rise of remote work, crime rates in some US cities, a strong dollar now on par with the euro for the first time in more than 20 years – these are some of the reasons that experts call to explain the wave of Americans moving to Europe, or planning to do so in the near future.

Some have other more personal reasons, such as a love for the European way of life, the food, the wine, a job or following relatives who have already moved to the old continent.

In a recent article titled “Americans Who Can’t Afford Homes Are Moving To Europe Instead,” Bloomberg writes that the traditional trends of retirees and the wealthy as the top American real estate buyers in Europe have changed: “Relatively cheap housing – especially in smaller towns and villages – and the rise of remote working have made the continent attractive to a wider range of people, including those who are younger and are priced out of the housing market at home.”

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High demand from Americans for houses in Europe

International real estate companies release data every day showing that US buyers are showing a growing interest, particularly in Portugal, Greece, Italy and Spain, which offer special deals on gold visas, digital nomad visas, green visas and cheaper housing.

In recent years, Portugal has topped the list of recommended places for expats and retirees to enjoy a good life and the golden visa program is one of the most popular in the world. According to government data, the number of Americans living in Portugal increased by 45% in 2021 from the previous year.

In Spain, also a popular destination and with the largest US population in Europe, the number of US-born residents increased by 13% between 2019 and 2021 and demand continues to rise.

Sotheby’s International Realty has said requests from Americans looking to move to Greece increased 40% this year from April to June compared to a year earlier. Same, Paris. In the rest of France, Greece, Spain and Italy, the demand for housing in the US has been highest in recent years.

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Golden visas and cheap housing

Median real estate costs in the US are $428,700, according to Nasdaq, “although prices vary wildly from city to city and state to state.” While the average price in Hawaii is over $1 million, in West Virginia that figure drops to less than $150,000.

Average real estate costs in Portugal – “currently a popular destination for Americans” – are about $365,000 as of the third quarter of last year. “Properties in some parts of the country are under $125,000.”

According to Bloomberg, “The average price of a home in Atlanta reached $404,575 on June 30, up 19% from the previous year, while an 800-square-foot home in the Palermo region of Sicily cost an average of $86,560, according to Bloomberg. the real estate platforms Zillow and Idealista.”

As widely reported, in Italy “if you’re willing to live in a remote village and do some serious renovations, there are towns where the local authorities sell fixer-uppers for as little as $1,” explains Nasdaq. “It’s not as nice a deal as it sounds because you have to commit to the renovation costs and legal fees.”

The much-discussed $1 house-a-deals aren’t alone. There are so many semi-abandoned small towns in Europe, with local officials looking for creative ways to revitalize their populations and economies – and with many empty tiny houses, villas and even palaces to offer – that the number of international real-state agencies and house hunters working in the $1 real estate market has multiplied.

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Portugal at the top

Although Portugal has introduced restrictions in response to pressure from the EU, it is still the main destination for individuals and families wishing to reside within the European Union.

A ‘golden visa’ — a residence permit that gives eligible foreign citizens and their families the full right to live, work and study in Portugal — can be obtained with an investment of €350,000. In Spain, the investment is higher at €500,000.

The golden visa also allows free movement in the 27 EU countries,

So far this year, Portugal has raised €397.7 million through its golden visa program, reports. That is an increase of 34 percent compared to the same period last year.

The country offers “eight types of eligible investments in the Portuguese Golden Visa program, including the ‘green visa’ which allows foreigners to obtain a Portuguese residence permit if they invest a minimum of €500,000 in organic farming, ecotourism, renewable energy and other environmental projects,” reports the publication.

Since 2012, when the program was launched, it has brought nearly €6.5 billion to Portugal, with a total allocation of 11,060 gold visas.

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Restrictions or not…

Such lavish results have not been obtained without controversy and government regulations have been updated.

EU officials have urged Member State governments implementing such special visa plans to end them, citing the fact that “Golden Visa schemes are a gateway to Europe for corrupt people and money laundering. ”

Portugal has put limits and conditions on the program from the beginning of this year. Cities like Lisbon and Porto, highly popular with gold-visa investors, as well as the most developed coastal areas, are now out of reach in an effort to push foreign investors into low-residency regions.

Still, as the above numbers show, the Portuguese visa-for-investment program continues to grow, especially among US investors. “The US has overtaken China as the main source of applicants for Portugal’s Golden Visa,” explains the Portugal News.

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“With around 5% rental income per year and capital growth of up to 4% per year, residential properties in the interior of Portugal are still an attractive proposition,” reports World Finance.

Greece, another favorite among expats and digital nomads, has announced that it will make changes to its visa-for-investment program, the most significant change being a doubling of the minimum required investment amount to €500,000.

According to local media, the measure was taken, among other things, to make more affordable housing available for Greek citizens.

The changes are expected to take place in early 2023.