Turks Flock to Lesbos for Easier EU Access

Turks Flock to Lesbos for Easier EU Access

Rentals Booming on This Affordable Greek Island

Turks Flock to Lesbos for Easier EU Access

The Greek island of Lesbos is experiencing a mini-tourism boom, driven by a surge in visitors from neighboring Turkey. Since April, Turks can now obtain a special 7-day express visa to enter the European Union and visit these Greek islands, making it the easiest access point to the Schengen area for Turkish travelers.

Getting a visa to visit the EU has traditionally been a bureaucratic and challenging process for Turkish citizens, with high rejection rates due to political factors. The new visa program has already tripled tourism from Turkey to Lesbos, as Turks seize the opportunity to explore Europe more easily.

The appeal goes beyond just easier access, however. Prices in Turkey have shot up in recent years, making the Greek islands a more affordable vacation destination in comparison. Turkish social media is filled with influencers and regular people expressing their surprise at how much better value Greece has become relative to staying in Turkey.

Real Estate Prices Set to Rise

This surge in tourism is already having a noticeable impact on the real estate market in Lesbos. Last year, properties on the island could be purchased and renovated at very affordable prices, as I discovered during a visit with my local real estate agent, Angelina.

Those days, however, are quickly coming to an end. Prices have started to rise modestly, and are poised to accelerate further for a few key reasons:

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  1. Greek banks are starting to lend again, providing more financing options for investors.
  2. The high rental yields being generated by Airbnb and other short-term rentals are attracting more investors to the market.
  3. Turks are specifically prohibited from buying property on these islands for security reasons, so they will be limited to the role of Airbnb tenants rather than fellow speculators.

Changes to the Greek Golden Visa Program

The Greek government has also announced changes to the Golden Visa program that will impact real estate investments on Lesbos. Properties on the island no longer qualify as easily as before for the program:

  • Investors must now purchase a historical house or ruin for at least €250,000 and get it renovated.
  • Airbnb rentals are no longer allowed for Golden Visa applicants, though pure investors can still rent out their properties.
  • This means the long-term rental market becomes more attractive for Golden Visa buyers, as they must accept that they are purchasing a lifestyle property rather than an investment.

For those still interested in a more "classical" Greek Golden Visa without the renovation requirements, I recommend reaching out to my team, who can introduce you to the right providers.

Opportunities for Three Types of Investors

The Lesbos real estate market presents opportunities for three main types of investors:

  1. Pure Investors: Those seeking yield and capital appreciation from their investments.
  2. Golden Visa Applicants: Individuals looking for a lifestyle property that also qualifies for the Greek residency program.
  3. Hybrid Investors: Those who want to use the property themselves part of the year and rent it out the rest of the time.

Risks and Considerations

While the Lesbos real estate market is an intriguing opportunity, it is not without its risks. The biggest challenge is the lack of liquidity in the market - buying is relatively easy, but selling can be much harder.

Additionally, the boom is dependent on relatively stable Greek-Turkish relations, which have been volatile over the past decades. A major economic recession that reduces European and American tourism would also impact the market, though the surge in Turkish visitors could help offset this to some degree.

Non-EU buyers also face an extra 7+ month waiting period before being able to complete a purchase on the islands, again for security reasons.

Tapping into the Opportunity

Lesbos is strategically located just 1 hour by ferry from the nearest Turkish port and 2.5 hours from Izmir, Turkey's third-largest city. This proximity to a large Turkish population makes the island an attractive investment destination.

If you are interested in exploring the Lesbos real estate market further, I recommend connecting with my local real estate agent, Angelina. She can assist with sourcing properties, handling renovations, and managing the rental process - a valuable service given the complexities involved.

To a world of opportunities,

The Wandering Investor

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