Real Estate: The New Frontier
The twenty-first century has revolutionized virtually all aspects of the global economy through rapid technological investments. Real estate is no exception to this advancement, and the industry is also experiencing unprecedented change globally, particularly with the advent of virtual reality and international investments. Whereas the real estate industry has often been considered an “in-person endeavor,” the increasingly “on-demand” economy has resulted in several real estate transactions that have taken place without any physical interfacing between the buyer and seller.
Virtual Reality Meets Real Estate
Advancements in communication technologies have provided real estate stakeholders, including sellers and buyers, with unique opportunities. Virtual reality (VR) has been particularly useful, as it enables agents to showcase real estate remotely to individuals from all over the world, broadening options for both sellers and buyers.
Several examples abound of successful VR ventures in real estate. For instance, depending on the technological acumen possessed by a given real estate agency, it is possible to create a beautiful, 360-degree showcasing of a home. This showing can include the ability for potential buyers, or end-users, to zoom in on certain features and perhaps remember the real estate even more effectively than they would have in person. In addition, if the real estate agent is selling a property that is not yet fully constructed, a large showroom with full-scale models of apartments or condos can be created, providing more visual insight than traditional, largely colorless, 2D or 3D layouts.
Furthermore, real estate buyers and sellers can take advantage of popular communications platforms to communicate remotely via videoconferencing, an option that is widely available through smartphones, tablets, and services, including Skype and Zoom. Given the relatively low investment relative to the probable gain for real estate agencies, it is likely that VR will continue playing an increasingly important role in the real estate industry.
Real Estate Meets Citizenship
Aside from purchasing a residence for one’s self remotely, other individuals interested in diversifying financial and national risk have increasingly sought permanent residency, or in several cases, citizenship abroad simply through investing in real estate in a country that participates in the Golden Visa Program or other investment program designed to attract private foreign direct investment (FDI).
These programs will likely attract more interest as global geopolitical uncertainty continues to generate fear, leading some individuals to seek safer havens in other nations. The degree of residency offered varies by country, but all programs can generally be broken down into citizenship by investment, immigration by investment, or residency by investment.
Citizenship by investment, the option that provides investors with another passport, is available in various regions of the world, including the Europe, the Caribbean, and the South Pacific. Investment requirements vary, with the greatest amount required in Cyprus at 2.15M EUR, which enables investors to live, work, and study in Europe. In contrast, Vanatu citizenship, which offers visa-free travel to 129 different nations and citizenship in a stunning South Pacific Island, all for a donation totally merely $130,000.
Immigration by investment offers the next-highest degree of permanent residency, which enables entire families to reside in a different country with legal documentation. In addition, beneficiaries will enjoy access to the EU Schengen Travel Zone. In this category, a few popular European nations are included, such as Spain, Greece, Portugal, and Ireland. Ireland requires the highest investment at 1M EUR, though it provides full family residency. Portugal requires just 350,000 EUR via real estate investments, and investors also can apply for Portuguese citizenship, which would include an EU passport, after five years.
Lastly, the residency by investment option provides the most flexibility in terms of residency, as it is intended for individuals who may not with to emigrate, but would like the immediate opportunity to do so, should the need ever arise. Some of the same participants in the immigration investment program are also in the resident investment program, as well as other additional nations. For instance, Malta has higher investment requirements, totaling over 1M EUR, but it also provides a Maltese passport. Even the United States has a residency by investment option, though application that leads to a green card is more rigorous than the one that leads to temporary, longer-term residency.
When engaging in any remote transaction, particularly with overseas investments, self-protection is always an important consideration. For domestic real estate, ensure that you research the agency carefully and check the credentials of your agent. For extra self-protection, it is worthwhile to scrutinize the agency’s and agent’s past dealings
While investing in international real estate offers the possibility of impressive returns, particularly in rapidly developing nations, it is critical to be familiar with the differences between domestic laws and international laws as they pertain to real estate. As detailed above, some countries may have greater requirements than others in terms of the amount of time an investor needs to physically spend in the country. These laws also may be subject to change, which is why seeking professional legal counsel is highly advisable.
Thus, it is highly recommended to seek the counsel of a lawyer with extensive experience in international real estate transactions, preferably in the region of the world that interests you for investing. Furthermore, if you intend for the international real estate investments to serve as form of receiving passive income alongside long-term investing, such as through Airbnb, Booking, or other vacation rental service, hiring a local property manager is likely well worth the investment. Local property managers can ensure that your investments remain safe, clean, and well-managed, which would provide you with significant indirect cost savings in the form of time.
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