Portugal has seen a huge jump in Chinese investments over the last few years. One of the key sectors is the housing market which has attracted more than one and a half billion dollars of foreign investment since 2012.
Lisbon is a city that’s once again starting to shine. The economy has rebounded following Portugal’s crippling financial crisis. Property prices are on the way up. But just a few years ago… the outlook was bleak.
"In that time, the real estate completely stopped. Nobody buys, nobody sells," said Fernanda Ilheu, Lisbon School of Economics & Management.
"We had a lot of houses that the domestic market could not afford to buy. We had a lot of parts of town that needed rebuilding and maintenance, and we didn’t have money to do anything."
One of the reasons for Portugal’s revitalized property market is an increase in overseas investment. A key element behind that is the golden visa program that grants a residence permit to anyone who buys a property worth at least 550-thousand dollars.
The policy allows residents access to travel through most of Europe. Between 2012 and 2016, 2,700 golden visas were processed, generating nearly one-and-a-half billion dollars.
Chinese buyers lead the way accounting for one out of every five property purchases.
“We decided to look over the places we can live. And now we have this Portuguese golden visa program so we think it’s worth a try. After we moved here, we traveled all over, and we all think Portugal is a good country to live,” Lee said.
A sign of Portugal’s renewed housing confidence can be found at Lisbon’s conference center.
This property exhibition struggled for survival just a few years ago… it’s now thriving with exhibitors attending from across the country.
One of them, Level Constellation, is a Chinese-owned company that deals exclusively in Lisbon properties.
“I think generally speaking, the golden visa program is a very, very well designed program. Portugal is a very good place to invest. So for them, it’s not only investments but also an ideal place for living,” said Qinglei Dai, Level Constellation.
But government debt and concerns over Portugal’s financial future remain. For now, property prices are on an upward curve… as foreign investors seize on opportunities in this idyllic part of the world.