Greece vs Turkey - where to invest?

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Greece property guide

Investment: Turkey or Greece?

While Greece and Turkey are two very different countries - with not a lot of love for each other, at times - property buyers looking for a place in the eastern Mediterranean will find that they have a great deal in common. A common climatic zone - at least in those areas where most foreign buyers are looking for property; long stretches of coast; similar food, from kebabs (gyros in Greece) to sticky pastries; and a similar orientation to tourism, which makes up a substantial percentage of the economy in both countries.

So, you might find it different to make your mind up between the two. That's why we've summarised some of the key differences - by the time you get to the end of this article you should be clearer about which country suits you best.

What are the differences between Greece and Turkey?

First of all, language. Greek in Greece, Turkish in Turkey. You probably don't speak either, so that doesn't help. Fortunately, in both countries, within the main tourist areas you'll find a lot of locals speak good English, and often German and other languages too. Some areas have large expat communities, too, so you won't lack company.

Secondly, currency. This is where Greece potentially has an edge, since it uses the euro, which is a relatively stable currency, and as one of the top three global currencies, easy to convert and transfer to. The Turkish lira, on the other hand, has weakened markedly in recent years; it fell 30% in 2018. If you'd bought a property in Turkey in the last four years or so, you could have seen its value in your home currency decline - even if its lira value has increased.

The other side of that coin, though, is that the exchange rate currently makes Turkish properties cheap in euro or dollar terms. You'll have to make up your own mind whether that glass is half full or half empty!

What about real estate markets in these countries?

The cost of property is another consideration. Numbeo's Greece/Turkey comparison shows the price per square metre in Greece is 77% higher, but of course, everything depends on where you buy. None the less, there are two things helping Turkey remain cheap for foreign buyers. One, as we already mentioned, is the weak currency, but another is the fact that a high level of development has increased the amount of new property available. In Greece, the financial crisis virtually stopped new development dead, and it hasn't really picked up much yet.

Investors will find that yields are slightly higher in Turkey. Turkish resorts tend to offer yields between 5 and 7%, while on Santorini you might get 4.5 to 5%, and on Crete - 5-6%. However, Istanbul is the exception; a large amount of new property for sale together with high prices have brought yields down to just 3-4%.

The cost of property is higher in Greece, and so is the cost of living. Most things in Greece cost between one and a half and three times what you'd pay in Turkey; eating out will cost you €10 against just three or four euros in an inexpensive cafe, for instance, and a cappuccino is twice the price at €3 instead of €1.60. Utilities, insurance, and transport are all dearer in Greece, so if it's a budget holiday you're looking for, Turkey might be your better option.

Do you need local finance to purchase your property? If so, Greece does have a slight edge here. It's in the eurozone, with low interest rates, and mortgages are on offer to foreigners with a 25 year term, and up to 75% LTV. Turkey, on the other hand, offers mainly shorter mortgage terms (eg 10 years) and at higher interest rates. Of course, if you're spending cash or remortgaging an existing property in your country of residence, this isn't going to affect your decision.

Would you decide for the residency?

Greece also has one big advantage for non-EU citizens; it has a golden visa scheme that gives you access to EU residency and, eventually, an EU passport. Investing €250,000 in a property can give you a 5 year renewable residence permit, and you can apply for citizenship after seven years' residence.

Turkey gives a one year residence permit with any property purchase, but also offers a golden visa scheme with fast-tracked citizenship potentially in just a few months if you invest over €250,000.

It's interesting, by the way, that the top three nations investing in the Greek scheme are Chinese, Russians, and - Turks!

There are a few other factors that might decide you in favour of one or the other country. If you like islands, Greece has 6,000 of them, from the biggest (like Crete and Rhodes) down to tiny islets. Turkey has a few islands - but most buyers head for the beaches. If you want mountains and ski resorts, Turkey has those too - close to the beach; Greek ski resorts are mainly in the north of the country.

And if you fancy metropolitan life, you'll find that Istanbul has a completely different feel from Athens.

But you'll find many things similar - the raki (or ouzo), the dark, bitter coffee, and particularly the summer sun and a nicely relaxed lifestyle.