Unprecedented and highly volatile global conditions triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic are driving high-net-worth individuals to reassess the concept of secure investment value and how best to safeguard their families and their wealth against future shocks.
According to the latest Knigth Frank report, the investment portfolio of an ultra-high-net-worth individual comprises of 27% real estate investment, which is also the largest portion of the portfolio. Over the last decade, foreign real estate investors have abandoned further development plans in Kenya, and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic investors are exiting altogether — causing local investors to look to European investment migration programs for security.
Henley & Partners head of South, Amanda Smit, says the virus is devastating countries in rapid succession, from struggling developing nations to global giants, no nation is being spared.
“Foresight is critical for investment planning and against a background of significant projected instability, investors with foresight are already engaging in their post-pandemic planning and re-assessing their wealth portfolios by opting to diversify via real estate–linked investment migration programs,” she says.
Leading international citizenship-and-residence-by-investment advisory firm Henley & Partners says before the World Health Organization announced the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, applications for Portugal’s popular Golden Residence Permit Program were on the rise. The first quarter of 2020 saw a 25% increase in interest in the program, with actual applications up by almost 50% compared to the same period in 2019. According to the latest Portuguese government data, 95% of Golden Residence Permit Program applicants have invested their funds in real estate as opposed to capital transfers or business, injecting approximately EUR 5b into the country’s economy over the past eight years.
Smit says acquiring alternative residence or citizenship enables wealthy individuals to diversify their portfolios via a resilient investment solution, while at the same time contributing significantly to the economic wellbeing of the countries that offer programs.
“Investment migration is a win−win solution for global investors and sovereign states alike. High-net-worth individuals favor European real estate−linked programs as they offer a unique hybrid investment opportunity that includes multiple yields from real estate, with all its traditional upside, as well as an alternative residence and/or citizenship with the option to relocate if they need too.”
In the recently published Henley Passport Index Q2 Update, FutureMap founder Dr. Parag Khanna predicts that the pandemic will prompt many to reconsider their global mobility options. “The combined effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on public health, the global economy, and social behavior may augur deeper shifts in our human geography — and our distribution around the world. As the curtain lifts, people will seek to move from poorly governed and ill-prepared places to more proactive countries with greater resilience and better medical care.”
Real estate has traditionally been seen as an investment with staying power that demonstrates decades-long returns. Real estate–linked investment migration has the additional advantage of enhancing one’s options for relocation or retirement, or both. The potential gains from investment migration–linked real estate over the lifetime of the investment are trifold: the core value of the asset, rental yields, and global access as an ultimate hedge against market and political volatility.
Year-on-year applications for Cyprus’ real estate−linked investment migration program reveal an even sharper trajectory than Portugal’s, increasing by 250% in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, generating substantial inflows of wealth and, more significantly, job creation across the socio-economic scale for the country.
Once the COVID-19 crisis has been curbed and travel restrictions lifted, global mobility and international access will continue to be essential hedges against asset-value volatility and wider market challenges.
“Real estate−linked investment migration is a long-term proposition that over and above the obvious benefit of providing a home in an alternative location of your choice, secures access to new markets, top educational institutions, more secure healthcare systems, and a suite of investment and personal opportunities for both present and future generations.”
Smit concludes that real estate−linked investment migration programs, especially in Europe, are a reliable back-up plan for turbulent times, providing investors with unparalleled safety, security, stability, and opportunity, including access to major money markets.
“At this time, when markets are being dealt heavy blows, it is vital to remain calm and make strategic long-term decisions. As a tried-and-tested hedge against volatility, securing alternative residence or citizenship through property purchase is one of the safest, smartest, most sustainable investments you can make right now.”
Real estate-linked investment migration options include:
This is a growing international hub for real estate investment. The minimum real estate investment requirement for the Portugal Golden Residence Permit Program is EUR 350, 000, and the permit enables one to apply for full citizenship after five years. All real estate sectors have witnessed a significant growth through foreign investment across all markets, ranging from large institutional investors to high-net-worth individuals, including Golden Residence Permit applicants. According to Managing Partner of Henley & Partners Portugal, Luis Infante, “Portugal will continue to be a hot spot for real estate investment.”
In terms of citizenship-by-investment, Cyprus offers one of the most sought-after programs in the EU, with an option to commit at least EUR 2 million to the purchase or construction of real estate. Along with most other EU member states, Cyprus also offers permanent residence-by-investment at a lower price point. The most affordable qualifying investment for the Cyprus Permanent Residence Program is the purchase of real estate with a total market value of at least EUR 300,000 plus VAT.
Turkey and Greece see a significant uplift
In the period leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, the real estate markets in other parts of Europe were also attracting considerable foreign interest, with much attention concentrated on nations offering residence – and citizenship -backed property options. Last year, for instance, almost 46,000 foreign nationals invested in real estate in Turkey following a decision to reduce the minimum investment threshold of its citizenship-by-investment program from $1m to $250, 000 late in 2018.
Early 2020 saw the trend for foreign real estate investment in the region continue, with almost 4,000 overseas buyers purchasing houses in Turkey in January alone. To date, approximately 5,000 investors have acquired Turkish citizenship via investment, making it one of the most popular programs in the world despite the relatively modest power of the Turkish passport, which gives its holders visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 111 destinations, according to the latest Henley Passport Index rankings. In Greece, where residence-by-investment is available through the purchase of property priced at EUR 250,000 and upwards, demand has been equally significant.