Golden visa and Citizenship by investment programs offer a great opportunity to buy real estate for acquiring citizenship and residency for a designated real estate investment, which does not come cheap. When buying a real estate you have be little careful to safeguard yourself from scams in Europe or Caribbean, particularly when buying online. Foreigners are particularly targets for ripoffs
1. Use a Lawyer
Do not blindly trust property developers or sellers. Always use a lawyer, to check the paperwork and property. Chances are the property has hidden issues (like encumbered, bills not paid, state taxes, condition). A lawyer will ask you 1-2% fee, it is worth it, after all you are spending hundreds of thousands of euros to buy a property with clean title in europe.
2. Bank Appraisal
Chances are the property are being sold at inflated prices by brokers or developers. Ask for bank appraisal with surveyor’s certificate which will tell you the real price of the property.
3. Govt approval first
For citizenship programs, you MUST invest only in Government approved projects, else you would be ineligible for citizenship. Secondly, do not pay in full before obtaining a Letter of approval from CIU. Check the list of development project, these are usually listed in CIU Units. This way you protect yourself from being conned by the developer. You can execute a sale contract and include citizenship as a condition.
Know all the taxes incurred with the property. For example VAT, property tax, capital gains tax, stamp duty and application fees. The broker fee usually is paid by the seller. Do your homework on the taxes incurred with income from rentals. For Airbnb, you might also want to secure a permission from local authorities before renting out.
5. Property restrictions
Many countries have restrictions on foreigners buying land or construction in restricted areas. These areas are restricted for military or other purpose (eg. Turkey, Greece). Investing in these areas with make you to lose entire sum of money and will disqualify you from acquiring citizenship or residency.
Are you investing in hotels or commercial properties? If you are investing in hotel share, be sure to ask for yield returns from the hotel. Due to Covid-19, many tourism properties and hotels have taken a beating due to no tourism. Chances are your investment wont make any yields until things get back to normal (wont happen for 1-2 years).
The American Golden visa program known as EB-5 also suffers from investment frauds in conning many chinese investors. Be sure to check if the firm is registered regional center and in good standing.
7. Low Property prices
Keep an eye on the lowest property prices per square meter by country. You dont want to invest in a country, that has exorbitant prices in the real estate market. Save as much as you can (these are pandemic times), pick a country that has good value for your money and returns.
Warning signs of fraud
- Promises of a citizenship or passport or a golden visa (these are not guaranteed)
- Offers of Guaranteed investment returns or no investment risk. (all investments are prone to risk)
- High investment return offers (Investments tend to go up and down, be wary)
- Unregistered investments from unlicensed sellers and unlicensed persons offering immigration advice.
How to prevent property scams?
- Do not fall for cheap and unsolicited offers
- Do not trust anyone
- Watch out for RED flags (eg. super high returns is a bait)
- Watch out for fake documents and papers.
- Cross verify the property details with Govt authorities and Land registry offices.
- Dont pay inflated prices.
- Work only with trusted companies and brands
- Seek independent verification through third parties.