Eleanor Legge-Bourke: Michael Maxwell, you are South African who relocated to Portugal recently. Why Lisbon?
Michael Maxwell: We have always loved Portugal from a lifestyle point of view. It's a country in which I'm invested emotionally as well as financially. I saw a great deal of potential in terms of the growth in Portugal, a lot of which was driven by the Non-Habitual Resident’s Programme, or the Golden Visa Programme, and generally people were moving here for the lifestyle and other reasons. The day we came here, we started looking around and got a better feel for the place, my wife started to like it as much as I did, and here we are.
My wife is an opera singer trained through the Royal College of Music. Being someone with an artistic eye, she is driven by beauty, and Lisbon offers a great deal of that. After four years in London, you really do appreciate what Lisbon has to offer. It is that perfect little city, not too big, not too small. There's no pollution, no crime, no traffic: Lisbon offers many sophisticated cultural elements. The city is big enough to offer everything you want, but small enough that it's all very accessible at the same time. We are talking about a country with a top (fifteenth) rated health care system, it is eleventh in the world for infrastructure, fourth safest country in the world so stability as well as beauty... And that's really why people move here.
The NHR (Non-Habitual Residents Programme) has been attracting the HNWIs (High Net Worth Individuals) from within Europe. Are they the right kind of people for Portugal?
Yes. The thing to realise about successful people in life, no matter their age, is that people will come here and establish new businesses or at least spend their hard-earned money. It has been a hugely successful contributor to the economy here. The NHR Programme is attracting the young digital nomads, the crypto crowd, the start-up guys, established business owners, wealthy retired people among so many others.
If we think in terms of a post-Covid world, how would you describe the success of the prime real estate market in Portugal?
Prior to the pandemic, the real estate markets had a very obvious boom. Excitingly, a lot of that boom didn't involve American investors to a large degree. They have only really arrived in quantity in the last year or two. We are seeing that as being the fastest growing demographic of investor.
The real estate market here, despite the exceptional growth of recent years perhaps still has level or two to go. It is odd to say that Portugal is one of the oldest countries in the world whose potential the rest of the world is finally waking up to. They are now coming here for a multitude of reasons, but these are reasons that Portugal has always had.
In terms of the property markets, the reality is that Lisbon and other Portuguese cities will always have limited supply. The demand seems to be growing faster than the supply. So, you can anticipate that the market still has a few more years to run prior to reaching a plateau.
What do people need to look out for when they are looking to invest in real estate in Portugal?
Number one is to take your time. There is an end in sight for the Golden Visa Programme in Lisbon and certain thresholds are going up from the start of next year. So, there is an element of rush, but if you are going directly into real estate, take your time, really get a feel for the neighbourhoods you are investing in or looking to live in.
There are other ways to qualify for the Golden Visa Programme, such as investing through funds. Funds give you access to phenomenal teams, they give you access to, ideally, a very diverse strategy across the market. It's possibly a bit more cost efficient as well as it gives you that chance to take your first step into Portugal and get your Golden Visa, but gives you the time to understand the lay of the land.
Where are your investment hotspots at the moment?
I think when you are investing other people's money, or your own, you don't want to be speculative. Rule number one should be - capital preservation thinking about the long term in mind. The reality is that the majority of real estate transactions in Portugal occur within an hour’s radius of central Lisbon. It is the most liquid market, that's where most of the rentals happen. That's where properties are on the market for the shortest amount of time prior to being sold. It is a tried and tested path that gets results and is likely to still get results for a long time, so I would say stick within that.
What have been the biggest achievements of EQTY, the fund focused on real estate for which you work, since you launched?
What we have created is completely unique and it took a long time to put together. To create a cooperative, non-compete approach with five of the leading developers across Lisbon, a true platform, is an achievement in itself. We have pioneered the use of sub-funds, which is something not commonly seen here. It is all about improving the sectors we are involved in, in any way that we can.
Being a platform is beneficial to us because the more people we have on the platform, the bigger the pipeline of investment targets. This added value gives us the ability to access phenomenal developers and get insights into what they are doing ahead of the market. That means we can make more informed investment recommendations, spot trends a bit earlier and plan long term.
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4th Floor, Office 7
Av. Eng Duarte Pacheco
Lisbon, 1070 - 102, Portugal
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