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Chinese appetite for Greek property seen rising

Chinese investors Greece

A growing appetite for Greek real estate among Chinese buyers is expected to continue as low property prices in Greece and progress Athens is making with creditors on bailout talks is helping fuel investor interest from the Asian country, said Daphni Korobeli, a Greek lawyer based in Shanghai.

The spike in interest comes as Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras winds up Monday his four day visit to China, his second in the last year, hoping to add to Chinese investments that have been provided some relief to the crisis struck Greek economy.

Mandarin speaker Korobeli, who has been involved in tens of Greek real estate deals with Chinese buyers, told that growing bonds between the countries, more favorable coverage of Greece by Chinese media and a push by China to hook up and invest in countries of strategic interest are supporting the rising demand for Greece.

At the same time, the Chinese are becoming more tuned into what is happening outside of their country, seeking solutions to their everyday problems.

"They are very concerned about pollution, the food they are eating and where it comes from. They want to increase their quality of life by buying a home abroad," said Korobeli, a partner at KCH law firm.

Chinese have been investing big in Greece, a country struggling to draw foreign investors.

China's biggest shipping company, Cosco, bought a majority stake in the port of Piraeus last year just before China State Grid agreed to buy a 24 percent stake in Greek power grid operator ADMIE for 320 million euros.

Last week, Greece's Copelouzos group signed a deal with China's Shenhua Group to cooperate in green energy and power production in Greece in a deal worth 3 billion euros.

After meeting with Tsipras n Beijing on Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping said the two countries need to expand their cooperation in energy, infrastructure, oceanic and telecommunications sectors.

The biggest source of foreign buyers in Greece's residential property market comes from China. Since Greece launched its residency for investment Golden visa program in 2013, some 1,500 residency permits have been issued to non European Union nationals, with the majority going to Chinese buyers.

READ ALSO: EU Golden Visa programs - Take your pick

Korobeli said there are different categories of Chinese buyers in Greece: those who simply like Greece, those that just want an investment or buyers that want both.

"Chinese buyers prefer newly built homes. They usually want a sea view or to be close to a beach and close to shops, public transport, international schools," she said.

The Chinese are helping breathe life into Greek properties where prices have dropped some 45% in the last seven years but the amount of money being poured into local real estate is far less than that spent in other countries, such as Cyprus and Portugal.

Korobeli said that Greece needs to become more transparent to gain the trust of Chinese investors. Trying to provide Chinese buyers with basic information about their investment's future costs can sometimes be a struggle.

“They (Chinese buyers) ask me how much ownership tax they should expect to pay for their Greek property every year and I can't answer them, as this tax is dependent on many different factors and it is very hard to be calculated accurately, or might even change,” she said.

"A steady tax framework would help increase trust in Greece."

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