Governments offering investment migration programmes remain attractive options to South Africans. We weigh up some of the most popular countries
WORDS: DEBBIE HATHWAY – IMAGES: SUPPLIED
Covid-19 has impacted prime residential markets worldwide and many people are reassessing where and how they live to accommodate changing lifestyle and work habits. Is the grass always greener? In the Savills Prime Index: World Cities report, which presents an outlook for the near and long term, analysts say the effect of the pandemic on prime residential values in world cities has resulted in a “fall of 0.5% for capital values and 1.1% for rental values”. The most stable markets in the first half of 2020 are “generally characterised by higher levels of domestic demand and tight supply”, according to the report, and this is prevalent in several European cities. Lisbon is among the strongest performers, a status quo expected to continue for the next five years.
In London the market appears to offer good value in a historical context and a rebound is anticipated despite Brexit uncertainty. Pent-up demand from the market being frozen during lockdown is fuelling its recovery, and people are re-evaluating what they want from their homes, says Savills residential research associate Gaby Foord. “Outside space has become more important to people living in London, particularly younger buyers.” The recent announcement of a stamp duty holiday until March 2021 as part of a raft of measures designed to boost the UK property market led to an increase in Savills’ daily website traffic. Enquiry levels rose to 60% higher than the average during the weeks before the lockdown in March. “The cost of buying, holding and selling a £2m (±R42,3m) property in London, compared to other global cities, is significantly lower than in other markets.”
So where to next? Dr Parag Khanna, founder and managing partner of FutureMap, says increasingly restrictive migration policies have encouraged many people to look for a Plan B via a second passport or change of nationality. “Recent estimates suggest that interest in investment migration programmes has jumped five-fold from 2019 through mid-2020,” he says. Dr Juerg Steffen, CEO of leading residence and citizenship advisory firm Henley & Partners, says the volatility of 2020 has boosted the appeal of investment migration for more people in more countries. “We’ve seen unprecedented interest in residence- and citizenship-by-investment programmes from citizens of developed economies. For high net worth investors who want to be well prepared for the next major disruption, alternative residence or citizenship is increasingly seen as an indispensable asset and a vital hedge against ongoing volatility.”
The lowest qualifier for Portugal’s five-year Golden Visa programme is investment in a property more than 30 years old in an area of urban regeneration or in a low human density area. “The total investment with associated costs ranges from €330,000 (±R6,3m)for a single investor to around €380,000 (±R7,3m) for a family of four,” says James Bowling, international CEO and founder, Monarch&Co. Bowling says Monarch&Co’s most popular investment route at the €500,000 (±R9,6m) price point is through a hotel group where the investor owns an apartment or house with full title, which is used as a hotel room and let mostly to short-term tenants.
Meanwhile Forbes magazine rates the Algarve in Portugal as the best place to live or retire. Lisbon is a 2,5-hour drive to the north or a 40-minute flight from Faro International Airport. “Thanks to the brilliant Golden Visa programme, the Algarve has become a most compelling option for retiring South Africans,” says Pam Golding International MD Chris Immelman. “Beaches are beautiful, weather is fantastic, medical facilities are superb, people are friendly, English is widely spoken and golf facilities are the best in Europe.” The Lapa Porto Hotel is a Golden Visa-approved project in Porto, which will operate under Marriott’s Renaissance brand. The design of the conference centre hotel embraces the cosmopolitan lifestyle, integrated in a specific urban context. The architecture incorporates plenty of glass, wood and other natural materials as well as wide open spaces. The investment for a family of four starts at €350,200 (±R6,7m).
Beaches in the Algarve are beautiful, weather is fantastic, medical facilities are superb, people are friendly, English is widely spoken, and golf facilities are the best in Europe Chris Immelman, MD, Pam Golding International
Mauritius has long been a popular holiday destination for South Africans but the government’s recent concessions have made it easier for them to retire, live and work there. “In June 2020, the Mauritian government’s changes to investment thresholds, the extension of work, residence, retirement permits and attractive property acquisition options led to renewed interest from South Africans,” says Xpatweb director Marisa Jacobs. Beyond its natural beauty, the island is known for its excellent private schools, reputable banking systems, regulatory certainty and technology-driven government systems. “The dispensation for owning property in Mauritius is far more flexible than in most other African countries. In Mauritius, a South African is allowed to purchase a property as a freehold or through a 99-year lease agreement with the option of renewal,” Jacobs says.
Foreign nationals are required to invest $375,000 (±R6,1m)in property to qualify for the permanent resident permit. “The effective tax rate of 15% for individuals is well below those applicable in South Africa. A significant difference is that Mauritian residents are only taxed to the extent of the money that they bring into the country. These financial incentives, combined with the close proximity to SA, will likely see more people moving to Mauritius in the future.” Cap Marina is an upscale water village in the north, 50m from the beach in a secure environment of more than 22ha. A variety of facilities are available on its doorstep, including a supermarket, a bakery, a pharmacy and 24/7 medical assistance.
“Thanks to the commercial success of Cap Marina, the groundwork for the first phase of the project has already been laid. You can now invest in Cap Marina from $375,000 (±R6,1m)and obtain a permanent residence permit,” says Evaco Property head of sales Aude Leclerc. The development offers apartments, townhouses and luxurious villas in a range of designs and sizes. Cap Marina is ideal for senior citizens looking for a retirement home, young couples in search of their first home, and investors on the hunt for great property investment opportunities.
Montenegro has not only emerged as an appealing destination for post-lockdown travel, it also presents an excellent investment destination. Applications for the Montenegro Citizenship-by-Investment Programme were up by 142% in the first quarter of 2020 compared with the last quarter of 2019. Amanda Smit, Henley & Partners managing partner and head of South, East and Central Africa, explains that by extending their wealth planning and legacy management strategies to include investment migration in a post-pandemic context, “investors are catalysing the transition to new lives in countries of their choice that offer a better quality of life, where they feel more comfortable and secure and where they envisage a future that is better aligned with their aspirations now and for generations to come”.
In short, Covid-19 has meant that people want safety, space and security – and Montenegro delivers on all three. Approved applicants and their families who qualify for Montenegrin citizenship must contribute €100,000 (±R2m) to the government of Montenegro for the advancement of local underdeveloped, self-governed units and invest at least €450,000 (±R8,6m) in an approved property development project in the capital, Podgorica, or in the popular coastal region of Montenegro. Alternatively they can invest a minimum of €250,000 (±R4,8m)in an approved property development in the northern or central regions of Montenegro (excluding Podgorica). Additional government processing fees and other application fees apply.
Visa-free travel: a snapshot
The Henley Passport Index ranks the world’s passports according to the number of countries their holders can access without a prior visa, based on data from the International Air Transport Association.
Here is a selection:
1 Japan 4 Italy
6 Portugal 7 UK
29 Seychelles 31 Mauritius
44 Montenegro 52 South Africa