By João Richard Costa, Director of Sales & Marketing, Ombria
International real estate is a frequently chosen vehicle to diversify an investment portfolio, and demand for residential properties doesn’t appear to be easing. According to Knight Frank’s “The Wealth Report 2023”, a third of investors are turning to property investments to provide an inflation hedge and diversification. In the year ahead, 19 percent of UHNWIs (ultra-high-net-worth individuals) intend to invest directly in income-producing real estate, with 13 percent planning to take the indirect route.
Global UHNWIs consider residential real estate the safest asset class, with 45 percent of Knight Frank’s survey respondents favouring this type of investment vehicle over gold, bonds or commercial real estate. UHNWIs’ share of residential real estate owned outside of their countries of residence currently stands at 28 percent.
One of the top destinations for investors and lifestyle buyers is Portugal—particularly the Algarve, which still promises property-price growth and guaranteed rental returns.
As a result, our team at Ombria, the sustainable lifestyle resort in the Central Algarve, has seen continuous demand from international buyers from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France and the United States.
What makes the Algarve an attractive choice for investors?
Three hundred days of sunshine per year, regular flight connections from Faro International Airport, arts, culture and an abundance of activities to experience have all established the Algarve as a tourism hotspot. Inevitably, this has driven demand for holiday homes, with real-estate values and rental returns growing over the past few years.
In the 12 months to September 2022 alone, real-estate prices in the golden triangle of the Central Algarve increased by 15 percent, making it the second-highest performing European real-estate market.
Supply and demand
As we know, property prices are very much dictated by supply and demand. The Algarve is no exception, and findings from the Portuguese National Institute of Statistics (Instituto Nacional de Estatística, or INE) reveal that over the past 10 years, for every house completed in the Algarve, seven houses were sold. That’s an annual average of 1,500 completed properties out of 10,300 sold.
Looking ahead, there are no signs of the demand for quality real estate slowing down. Residential sales in the Central Algarve region have remained robust, as transactions increased by 21 percent over the year to the second quarter of 2022. Based on this and the steady number of buyer enquiries we witness at Ombria, we foresee that investors can expect their property values to continue to appreciate.
Bearing in mind that the majority of investors are seeking income-producing properties, one must factor in the impacts of the tourism industry. The general rule is: The stronger a destination’s tourism market, the stronger the chances are for a property to deliver a steady rental income.
In 2022, Portugal’s tourism sector enjoyed a return, including revenue from tourist accommodations, exceeding €5 billion. With 19.1 million overnight stays, the Algarve was the most popular area, welcoming more than 4.8 million visitors from all over the world.
Branded residences are not a new concept, yet buyers still favour an investment linked to a household hotel brand name with a trustworthy team to manage their homes. Ombria has seen strong buyer interest in its branded residences: Viceroy Residences. More than 80 percent of the 65 one- and two-bedroom apartments, integrated within the five-star Viceroy at Ombria Algarve resort (opening in the fall of 2023), are now sold or reserved, leaving only 12 units remaining.
Due to be completed this year, Viceroy Residences are fully furnished and offer a guaranteed 5-percent net rental return per year for the first five years. Owners can be confident that the renowned Viceroy Hotels & Resorts will manage their properties perfectly.
The owner of a Viceroy Residence will have access to the hotel’s facilities and Ombria’s 18-hole golf course, eight onsite restaurants and bars, several heated pools, a spa, a kids’ club, a fitness centre, a clubhouse and a conference centre, as well as services such as the concierge, cleaning, room service and maintenance.
Last but not least, owners will benefit from various advantages and discounts on golf as well as at hotel facilities—including all of Viceroy Hotels & Resorts’ 10 locations, such as those in the US, the Caribbean, Central America and Europe.
Buyers can also discover Ombria’s latest phase, called Oriole Village—a collection of 83 one- to four-bedroom apartments, townhouses, semi-detached villas and detached villas, which Viceroy Hotel Group will also manage.
Shift to sustainability
The world has been moving toward sustainability, impacting consumer and investor behaviours. Knight Frank’s wealth report reveals that energy sources (57 percent), opportunities for green refurbishments (33 percent) and materials/embodied carbon (30 percent) are increasingly being factored into investors’ decision-making processes.
Here at Ombria, we have seen a clear shift in buyer priorities, with the need for sustainable features becoming increasingly important to many house hunters. Today’s buyers seek not only a property with attractive onsite amenities but also a development that moves with the times and acknowledges the need for sustainability.
Ombria prides itself on being a sustainable lifestyle resort, and our properties and communal areas feature an abundance of sustainable features. Buildings will occupy less than a quarter of the development’s total area. Bioclimatic architecture will allow energy to be conserved wherever possible, using locally sourced materials perfectly adapted to the local climate.
The Portuguese government plans to end the Golden Visa programme, hoping that this will reduce foreign real-estate investment and, as a result, help ease pressures on increasing property prices. However, it is unlikely that the end of the programme will have this impact as the number of property transactions with the objective of obtaining Golden Visas represents an insignificant fraction of the total real-estate transactions in Portugal (about 1 percent), thus having a negligible influence on prices.
Portugal is an attractive country for several reasons—namely, safety and quality of life, political and social stability, the quality of its infrastructures, a pleasant climate and low living costs. This has led to an increase in the number of people choosing Portugal to spend their holidays, buy holiday homes or live permanently. The most likely reason for the increase in property prices in recent years goes back to the topic of supply and demand, as the uplift in buyer demand has not been accompanied by an increase in the supply of properties.
Therefore, we would like to see the government implement measures such as reducing the tax burden and VAT (value-added tax) on construction, as well as reducing bureaucracy in licencing processes. These measures are essential for reducing construction costs and increasing supply, thereby decreasing real-estate speculation.
The ending of the Portuguese Golden Visa programme is unlikely to affect demand significantly, whether from the UK or other countries, as Portugal will maintain its attractiveness factors. It is also worth mentioning that any visa-driven investors are already deciding to apply for the D7 Visa (Retirement Visa or Passive Income Visa) instead.
Individuals of any nationality (European Union [EU] and non-EU citizens) can take advantage of attractive tax benefits via the Portuguese Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) programme. The NHR is not a visa such as the D7 Visa or a residency-by-investment programme such as the Golden Visa. It is a special tax regime for residents in Portugal, enabling qualifying entrepreneurs, professionals, retirees and HNWIs to enjoy reduced tax rates on Portuguese-source income (most foreign-source income is exempt from Portuguese taxation) for 10 years.
In addition to the financial, sustainability and lifestyle aspects discussed in this article, it might also be worth noting that the Algarve is home to the majority of Portugal’s golf courses, with Ombria benefiting from its own 18-hole course. With many business deals being completed on the green, the high number of golf courses in the Algarve may just be another contributing factor to the region being so popular among investors.