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Lisbon’s property market has been fuelled by strong demand from Chinese investors in particular – as well as South Africans – looking for returns from real estate plus the opportunity to gain access to a European passport through a special visa. In this interview, Malcolm Lobban of LX Living clarifies the legal details about Lisbon property developments and highlights the advantages of Portugal bricks-and-mortar – including the opportunity to use the bank’s money to boost your offshore investments. LX Living is a BizNews business partner. – Jackie Cameron
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Malcolm Lobban on the Golden Visa programme:
The programme is pretty much as it was, when it started out in 2012. I think it’s close to €5bn that has flowed into the programme, which has been incredibly valuable to the Portuguese economy and the state of the country as a whole. Right now, it’s business as usual. There have been interesting speculations about an imminent change, but fundamentally the programme has encouraged a massive investment in real estate. Many of our clients at LX Living have seen fit to follow that opportunity which allows you to get the Golden Visa and ultimately, the European passport within the five-six year timeframe.
On speculation and misinformation surrounding the Golden Visa programme:
The success of the programme in Portugal, sort of had the impact of gentrification. Gentrification is a challenge around the world, where wealthier people buy into poorer areas and change the character of those areas. One of the downsides is that more often than not, people are displaced. That’s exactly what has happened – particularly in the city of Lisbon and Porto. Where we focus is Lisbon. There has been a level of gentrification and some sort of backlash. Sadly, these things are unavoidable and need to be confronted, to find some sort of elegant solution – including affordable housing, social housing to accommodate people who no longer can afford to live in areas where their families have lived for centuries.
The parliament of Portugal, earlier this year in February/March, voted for a review of the Golden Visa programme in Portugal. Potentially, the outcome where Golden Visa’s would still be available, but they would look to encourage people to invest in other areas, not just the main centres of Lisbon, Porto and The Algarve. Since then, nothing has happened. Very recently, there was some speculation in the media that this is about to happen. That in fact, the government is about to move forward on this. The truth of the matter is – confirmed by the immigration consultants and the legal profession in Portugal – that there’s nothing on the table right now, suggesting that a change is imminent.
On what would happen if the changes were to come in:
Assuming that a change does happen to the likes of Lisbon, what they’re going to have to do then is put something specific on the table – the actual, new parameters, if you like – which would have to be debated, finally approved and implemented. To suggest that the change is going to happen and be implemented on the 1st of January, I think is probably pushing it. It’s not going to happen, to be quite frank. We would hope that it’s probably not going to happen for at least twelve months. Quite frankly, it might never happen. But, that’s the speculation that is going on. Happy news for our clients at LX Living, is that our project is going according to plan – in fact, extremely well – and all our clients that are seeking the Golden Visa through their investment with us, we don’t for one minute believe that they are going to be impacted by this possible change.
How to get a Golden Visa:
There’s no rocket science to it. To get the Golden Visa, you need to invest the minimum amount of €500,000. Obviously, our clients take great comfort in the fact that we’re offering them a good investment in the first instance, and a Golden Visa right behind it. That’s because the track record of the development team that underpins LX Living are well known to South Africans. Johnny Rabie specifically, with his forty year track record in South Africa. We’ve had a wonderful response from South African investors, who feel safe investing with us. When it comes to the specifics of the Golden Visa, we have a pretty good working knowledge of how it works. But we always put our clients in front of one of those three experts on the ground, in Lisbon.
The simplicity of it, is that you go through a process starting with making the investment, providing the paperwork, providing the authorities with all the requisite requirements – including the horizontal approval – which we expect in the short while. Then the process starts to unfold, and it cannot in anyway be undone by a change in the legislation. Once your application is in, it’s pretty much cast in stone. You’re not under any risk for any future change in years ahead.
On LX Living offerings in Lisbon:
Our first project is a €90m project in the heart of Lisbon and it’s very well located. It’s 150 apartments. It incorporates very much the principles that we’ve been following in Cape Town – which has got a mixed-use flavour to it – 1400m² of retail, a parking bay for each and every apartment owner – which is a big attraction in Lisbon – given the shortage of parking. Two swimming pools, a gym, a location that is going to be right on the new Metro station. All sorts of compelling investment fundamentals, backed up also for investments below €650,000. A two-year guarantee where our investors earn 4% guaranteed. We’ve had a great response. We have got about 15 clients that came from the BizNews channel to LX Living.
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