The residential market, particularly prime real estate in Lisbon, has been growing steadily since 2014. Since I made a career change in 2016, from retail to the real estate market, I’ve always had the feeling of being in the right industry at the right time.

At Sotheby’s Realty, as a district manager for a prime district in Lisbon, Príncipe Real, which I like to think of as the Lisbon equivalent of the Le Marais district in Paris, with its hip boutiques, antique shops, galleries, trendy bars, and beautiful 19th century palaces, I got to meet the city’s most interesting individuals and upcoming developers. It was the best position one could hope for. I worked in one of the most sought-after districts in Lisbon: central and traditionally residential, but still slightly away from the touristic hubs of Av. da Liberdade and Chiado. High-net-worth individuals were on the waiting lists to get a prime property there.

When the opportunity came to join the EQTY team, I recognized all the developers on their platform, showing me that they were on the right track of the added value chain. These were developers very well known within the prime real estate market, and I had already worked with many of them through Sotheby’s. The experience of the team and the exclusive access to this extensive portfolio pipeline made the decision to join the EQTY team very easy.

What makes Portugal, and more specifically, Lisbon, so appealing to foreigners and Portuguese alike?

I am what you call in Portuguese an “Alfacinha de gema.” The literal translation is “Little lettuce from the core,” which might not be too glamorous, but relates to being born and raised in Lisbon. A person from Lisbon is casually known as an alfacinhaor little lettuce. Historically, it is said that this is how the Moors used to describe the people of Lisbon as they cultivated vegetables in small gardens near the castle walls that were being maintained in the city. It is also said that, similarly, the Portuguese don’t particularly like to leave their place. After having experienced living in Africa and the United States, I can relate to why people might find Portugal, and specifically Lisbon, so appealing that they’d never want to leave.

The district of Lisbon has that slow-moving and casual environment inherent to small cities, but with the infrastructure, art, history, and culture of a leading European capital. From central Lisbon, it takes you only 15 minutes to the beach, and the average yearly temperature of 16.7°C (62.1°F) makes it possible to enjoy weekends at the beach from March through October. It is no surprise that the digital nomad crowd is storming in and making their way to Portugal to enjoy surfing and all the other activities that the city has to offer all year round.

Additionally, there is the fact that Portugal is ranked 6th in the Global Peace Index, has a stable political framework, great public health and education systems, a low pollution index, the cost of living is substantially lower than most EU countries, Portuguese cuisine is amazing with local organic products prevailing, and most of the younger crowd speaks a proficient level of English.

What attracts investors to Portugal, especially high-net-worth individuals?

Although the Golden Visa program was established with the objective of attracting foreign investment and dynamizing the Portuguese economy, it is not the main driver of the Portuguese Real Estate market’s appeal and only accounts for a small percentage of the market value (below 5% of real estate transaction volume in 2021). The Non-Habitual Resident program (NHR), first established in 2009 and updated in 2020, has in fact been a more significant attraction for foreign investment into the country.

According to Henley & Partners’ Global Citizens Report, Portugal is ranked among the top 10 countries for migrating millionaires for 2022. With several news articles increasingly identifying Portugal as the new investment migration destination, the country has been trending with noted increasing attention from around the globe. As such, we are currently witnessing a great influx of US investment. HNWIs are looking for alternatives for retirement or a “plan B”, and a European investment providing a residence in Portugal with access to the Schengen Area sounds inviting. It also contributes to the fact that the dollar is currently at parity with the euro.

Portugal is undeniably on the radar as a living destination, and international demand is expected to be booming despite the recent changes in the Golden Visa rules. Evidence of that is the increase of 7.8% in the first quarter of 2022 in the average sales price in Lisbon’s high-end residential market, even though the city is excluded from the GV program by real-estate acquisition.

How would you say the residential market is currently performing in Portugal? Any market bubble in sight?

Since I entered the real estate market in 2016, there has always been speculation about a real estate bubble. However, apart from the beginning of 2020 due to travel restrictions and COVID uncertainty, the prime residential market has been robust and keeps growing with no break in sight. In fact, according to JLL research, 2021 has a record high sales volume with 190.000 dwellings sold, of which 11% is attributed to international demand and 89% is attributed to the domestic market. International demand largely focuses on prime assets, with very little leverage being used by buyers. At Sotheby’s, for example, most of the investors I’d engage with required no leverage.

We can’t ignore that there is an imbalance between supply and demand, which is rapidly driving up housing prices in Portugal. However, the market has been quite resilient despite COVID-19, and 2022 is expected to be another outstanding year as demand for real estate is higher than ever.

In short, there is still a lot of room for market growth, especially with the rising interest from foreign nationals due to the political and economic climate worldwide. As well, with stricter rules on home credit since the 2008 recession, and the mortgage market only accounting for 45% of the market share, occurring in the prime residential market in Portugal in the near future, Portugal appears to be on solid ground.

What are the advantages of the EQTY branded funds, which have a great focus on prime real estate in Portugal?

With financial markets and cryptocurrency facing record lows, those seeking alternative investments to stocks and bonds may turn to the housing market. This strategy still entails some risks, but they are mitigated if you choose to invest wisely in a well-performing market. The prime real estate market, particularly in Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve regions, ticks all the boxes, especially at a time of inflation.

The general perception as to why the fund route is chosen is tax efficiency and the fact that it requires less direct management than the traditional real estate route. Naturally, funds are able to offer greater diversification and are highly regulated and managed by professional, independent, and licensed fund managers. Furthermore, even with the recent changes in the GV program, investment through funds is a great long-term alternative if you want to have access to capital gains and attractive yields expected from the pool of prime real estate assets.

EQTY initiated funds are GV eligible, regulated funds managers cherry pick from a platform of leading developers EQTY has put together in the prime residential market. Instead of buying or financing only one developer, the risk is diversified by selecting only the best units from the best developers in the country. Track records, balance sheets and overall performance are a priority. Any acquisition should include an extensive market analysis and a conservative estimation of the expected yields. Coming from a real estate background it puts me at ease that I’m working with such a high-quality portfolio. Apart from the fact that I wouldn’t work for a company I didn’t believe in, it really makes my job easier, as a business developer, to be working with such a differentiated and forward thinking team.

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