Comparing Investments In Real Estate: Northern Cyprus Vs. Portugal

Northern Cyprus to the left and Porto, Portugal to the right

Property Investment In Northern Cyprus Vs. Portugal

How do you decide which real estate investment destination is best for you?

Comparing real estate investments in your home country is easy because information on the market is available. You are generally comparing apples to apples.

When comparing real estate markets of countries that are thousands of miles apart, with different economies, cultures, and legal systems, it’s a different scenario.

There isn’t a single number I can pick to show you which country is better. And the investment that is best for you is not necessarily going to be the best for everybody.

I’ll illustrate this by comparing Northern Cyprus’s burgeoning market to Portugal’s more mature property market. Despite appearing similar at first glance, they offer vastly different investment opportunities…

Northern Cyprus

Size: 3,354 square kms
Population: 326,000

Adobe Stock/Vladimir Sazonov

Nestled in the northeast corner of the Mediterranean Sea is the Republic of Cyprus, the third-largest island on the Med. Northern Cyprus is the Turkish Cypriot side of the Republic of Cyprus.

It’s not part of the EU while the Republic of Cyprus is. Despite this, business continues as usual on both sides of the border, and residents and vacationers travel freely across the island.

With long sandy beaches and an ambiance of ancient culture and history, Northern Cyprus is the new lifestyle and investment destination for pioneering investors. It’s also possibly the cheapest place to live in the Western World.

This tiny country has a near-perfect climate, with up to 340 days of sunshine every year and temperatures that rarely rise above 40°C (104°F) or fall below 15°C (59°F), with cooling breezes when you need them.

Medical services and education are high-quality and low-cost in Northern Cyprus. Here you can find some of the best beaches in the world, and some of them are practically deserted.

Plus, as a former British colony, English is spoken widely, and crime is low.

Portugal

Size: 92,000 square kms
Population: 10 million

Skyline of Porto, Portugal at sunrise
Adobe Stock/Mapics

Like Northern Cyprus, Portugal’s climate is hot and dry, and it has great beaches. The country has a Mediterranean feel despite not being on the Med. The Algarve boasts over 3,000 hours of sunshine per year.

Portuguese medical care and education are high quality and relatively inexpensive, too… And most people speak at least some English. A liberal legal system has driven down all forms of crime, and Portugal is now the third safest country in the world.

So far, our two contenders appear evenly matched…

Cost Of Real Estate

Real estate in Northern Cyprus is exceptionally affordable. Properties can cost as little as one-third of the price of similar properties just over the border in the Republic of Cyprus.

One of the best locations in Northern Cyprus is in Kyrenia. We have just announced a new off-plan development opportunity a 15-minute drive from Kyrenia’s city center and a 35-minute drive from Ercan International Airport.

The resort covers 21 acres. Just 1,000 feet away from a pristine beach (along with an 18-hole championship golf course right on its doorstep), it’s surrounded by breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea and mountains.

The property will come turn-key with rental management on-site. It boasts a range of amenities, including:

  • Gym and outdoor sport areas,
  • Pools, sauna, and lounges,
  • Kids’ playground, mini-golf, and tennis court,
  • Restaurant and bar,
  • Supermarket,
  • Barbecue areas,
  • Beach bar.

Off-plan studio apartments in this resort development start at US$58,000—a fraction of what this would cost you in the Republic of Cyprus.

The developer is offering 73.5% financing at an unheard-of rate of 0% over 50 months. This works out as just US$812 per month.

Construction completion is projected by December 2023 plus a four-month grace period.

Find out more about this great deal here.

Portugal, on the other hand, has been at the top of our list for real estate investment and residency visas for the past nine years. Prices have risen steadily, showing an impressive 10.7% rise in 2021 alone.

While beach property is no longer undervalued in Portugal, you can still get beachfront cheaper than in many other places in Europe. You can also purchase real estate inland that is still affordable.

In the heart of Comporta, by one of Portugal’s best beaches, you’ll find a new resort hotel development by the bluest sea, surrounded by pine forests and nature.

It also comes with a host of amenities, including shops, a bakery, library, gym, massage and yoga area, swimming pool, and rooftop and bar area. It’s close to pharmacies, public transportation, schools, supermarkets, and green areas.

The properties are turn-key with rental management in place. As the owner, you’ll be able to stay up to six weeks per year. One-bedroom units start at 230,000 euros (US$249,500).

Find out more here.

Verdict:

With studio apartments in Northern Cyprus starting at US$58,000 and one-bed apartments in Portugal costing you a quarter-of-a-million dollars, Northern Cyprus wins the price comparison hands down.

But this isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison because the Northern Cyprus unit is a studio.

Cost Of Living

In Northern Cyrpus, the cost of living is low. Seafood and fast food are a bargain. Doner kebabs from a streetside café served with a salad costs less than US$3. Education and medical services are inexpensive compared to the United States.

In Portugal, the cost of living is quite low, too. Wine, seafood, and midrange meals are reasonable.

Verdict:

Northern Cyprus and Portugal are roughly equal in the cost of living category, with Portugal having better services and Northern Cyprus being more affordable.

Economy

Northern Cyprus has a small diversified economy with services, including education, tourism, and medical care, responsible for over 69% of the economy.

It doesn’t charge tax on foreign pensions and will charge between 10% and 37% on foreign income if you become a tax resident.

Medical tourism is one of the new boom industries.

Agriculture is another booming industry in Northern Cyprus, and the completion of the freshwater pipeline from Turkey has opened the floodgates of year-round food production.

With six universities that attract nearly 100,000 foreign students, education is the second-biggest industry. Northern Cyprus is looking to the future.

A staggering 4 million tourists visited in 2019, and it’s gearing up to accommodate more.

Portugal has a diversified economy based on tourism, manufacturing, and attracting corporate headquarters for its low corporate tax and wage rates.

If you move to Portugal, you can apply for Non-Habitual Residence tax status for 10 years. This allows you to receive income at reduced tax rates. For employment and self-employment income, the tax rate is a flat 20%. Pension income is taxed at 10%.

Verdict:

Due to its size, Portugal has an economic advantage over Northern Cyprus. However, Portugal only received 28 million tourists in 2019, which is only 7 times more than Northern Cyprus (while Portugal is 30 times the size and population of Northern Cyprus).

Visa And Investment Residency

In Northern Cyprus, owning property makes you eligible for residency, and your family can then apply for residency as your dependents. Having Northern Cyprus residency doesn’t give you any additional visa-free travel, so it’s really only useful for living in Cyprus.

Portugal, in comparison, has its Golden Visa investment program. The minimum investment you can make that will get you residency is 280,000 euros (US$304,000), though these investments are limited by location and probable investment returns. Property by the coast is no longer eligible.

Having a Portuguese visa allows you access to the Schengen Area.

Verdict:

Residency in Northern Cyprus can be achieved by any investment in real estate regardless of its size.

The Portuguese Golden Visa, even with its minimum US$304,000 price tag, only allows you 90-day access to other Schengen Area countries.

For U.S.-passport holders, the benefit of the more expensive Portuguese investment visa over Northern Cyprus’ is minuscule.

The Portuguese visa makes you eligible for an EU passport after five years, which adds another layer of complexity to the consideration.

If you eventually want a good second passport, the Portuguese Golden Visa scheme is better, even with the higher price tag.

If you aren’t interested in a second passport, Northern Cyprus is the better option.

Returns And Risk Diversification

Northern Cyprus’s undervalued market and up-and-coming economy offer higher returns than Portugal but with slightly higher risks.

Northern Cyprus can offer investors ROIs of 7% to 10%, and property appreciated by an average of 7% last year. Experts I know and trust expect this appreciation to increase this year…

With its more mature markets, Portugal offers investors a steady 3% to 5% ROI. Last year, Portugal realized an average appreciation of 10.3% due to high demand for its cultural offerings. This appreciation is likely to soften in the coming years.

Market Risk

Northern Cyprus has some advantages and exposures that Portugal doesn’t. It is strongly connected to the Turkish economy, even though real estate is often traded in euros and pounds.

Portugal has the ponderous might of the EU backing it, plus all the drawbacks that being part of the third-largest bureaucracy in the world brings.

Exchange Rate Risk

Northern Cyprus uses the Turkish lira, which is quite volatile. That said, high-end property trades in euros or pounds.

Currently, the lira is worth half what it was just over a year ago. Non-tourist/local style properties are heavily discounted at the moment, but these aren’t your ideal rental units as they’re more for locals.

Portugal uses the euro, which fluctuates much less than the lira does, meaning the real effects of exchange rate appreciation or depreciation are much less.

Verdict:

The up and coming markets of Northern Cyprus offer greater ROI and long-term capital appreciation opportunities but come with greater market and exchange-rate risks. With a weak lira, opportunities exist today.

Market Maturity

The market in Northern Cyprus is still in an early phase of development. Prices are still undervalued in many areas. You often see properties costing 50% less in Northern Cyprus than just over the border in the Republic of Cyprus.

The Portuguese property market is mature and closer to the top in big cities and desirable beach areas. There is still strong long-term capital appreciation potential in the interior of the country.

Verdict:

The market in Northern Cyprus has better long-term appreciation potential, but the market in Portugal is steadier and has lower risk.

Let’s compare the two developments I already mentioned focusing on the best two-bedroom options…

Northern Cyprus: 2-Bedroom Oceanview Loft Apartment With Rooftop Terrace And Balcony

Portugal: 2-Bedroom Oceanview Condo-Hotel Unit

Cost: US$191,995 with financing Cost: 385,000 euros (US$417,000)
Size: 1,055-square-foot interior area, 474-square-foot terraces Size: 484-square-foot living area with 440-square-foot terrace
Projected ROI: 7% to 10% Projected ROI: 3% to 5%

Verdict:

You get a lot more for your money in Northern Cyprus.

If you are looking for wild ROIs and long-term capital appreciation potential, you should check out Northern Cyprus.

If you are less attracted to pioneering new real estate markets and want lower-risk, lower-return options in Europe with the possibility of getting an EU passport, Portugal is the option for you.

No matter what you decide, there is an overseas property out there that is the perfect investment and diversification opportunity for you. You just need to find it.

Con Murphy
Editor, Overseas Property Alert

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