Greece has progressively established itself as an attractive destination for foreign real estate buyers over the past few years, with this specific type of investment up by 40 percent this year compared to 2022, exceeding the one-billion-euro mark in the first half of the year alone.

Market watchers say continued keen interest in properties in the east Mediterranean country is most likely due to lower housing prices compared to similar countries, along with the prospect of an eventual amortization on the back of a booming short-term leasing sector—the “AirBnb effect.”

As a result, the number of “Golden Visa” applications has also surged over the past few months, despite the doubling of the minimum property investment required to earn third-country nationals a temporary residency visa in the country.

Indicative of the steep hike in such investments, half of the 23,963 Golden Visa applications (both initial and renewals) that have been submitted since the scheme was introduced in 2018 were made between September 2022 and September 2023. Chinese nationals account for a massive 61.2 percent of all applicants in the program, with citizens of Turkey and Lebanon far behind in second and third place.

Russian nationals were usually in the “top 5” in previous years, but numbers have fallen due to the sanctions slapped on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

A study conducted by RE/MAX Greece using data on investments and transactions made over the past year provides some interesting insights into the profiles of the foreign nationals buying property in Greece.

Israelis emerge as top buyers

Israelis have recently emerged as the top foreign buyers of Greek real estate, followed by citizens from China, Germany, Bulgaria and Turkey in descending order. Citizens from other EU countries like Italy and France also number among the buyers.

Based on preliminary information, 49 percent of foreign property buyers bought their Greek real estate as an investment; 22 percent will use their property as a holiday residence, and another 20 percent aim to reside in the country permanently, with many moving to Greece for their retirement.

A third of foreign buyers (33 percent) acquired residences for below 100,000 euros—the actual price listed on contracts submitted to the tax bureau, without “under-the-table” payments being taken into account—while almost half (46 percent) preferred apartments over other types of residences.

Bulgarian, German, Serbian and Turkish buyers favored northern Greece, while Israeli, German, Chinese and Lebanese buyers preferred the southern half of the country. The greater Athens area in particular has proven to be a “hot spot” for property purchases by foreign nationals, while various Greek islands have also seen major real estate investments.

Israeli alone invested more than 88 million euros in the real estate market in 2022, while “Golden Visa” applications submitted by Israelis have increased by 76.5 percent since last September.

However, renewed conflict in the Mideast has raised concerns as to whether this trend will continue.