Americans who can’t afford their own home are moving to Europe instead


More and more Americans are moving across the Atlantic to Europe, driven by the rising cost of living, inflated real estate prices, a rising dollar and political grudges back home.

Italy, Portugal, Spain, Greece and France are among the most popular travel destinations. Sotheby’s International Realty said inquiries from Americans looking to move to Greece rose 40% year-on-year in the April-June period. In France and Italy, US demand is at its highest level in at least three years, according to Knight Frank real estate specialist Jack Harris. And Americans accounted for 12% of Sotheby’s Italian sales in the first quarter, compared to just 5% for the same period a year ago.

She paid $3,000 a month to rent a four-bedroom home for herself and her son in Atlanta and found it impossible to grow and become a homeowner when prices skyrocketed, despite having $300,000 in cash hand.

She turned to Italy, a country she has always loved, and was able to buy a 3,100 square meter house in Mussomeli, Sicily, as well as a smaller house next door and an 800 square meter shop window – all for 60,000 euros.

Portugal is one of the most popular new travel destinations for Americans

Retirees and the wealthy have traditionally been the top American buyers of real estate in Europe. But relatively cheap housing – particularly in smaller cities and towns – and the rise of remote work have made the continent attractive to a wider range of people, including those who are younger and being squeezed out of the housing market at home. Rising crime rates in some US cities and political divisions have also prompted Americans to look across the pond for a quieter lifestyle, buoyed by a euro that just fell to par with the US dollar for the first time in more than 20 years has fallen.

‘Beautiful life’

For Stephanie Synclair, 40, of Atlanta, buying a home in Italy was a long-held dream that came true this April.

“I would never have tried to shop in Italy if the US market hadn’t been so crazy,” said the entrepreneur. She plans to work remotely and envisions a “bella vita” of fine food and wine, along with a local literary club and an art space she wants to open at her store “reminiscent of the Parisian art scene of the 1920s “.

The median price of a home in Atlanta reached $404,575 on June 30, up 19% year-on-year, while an 800-square-foot property in Sicily’s Palermo region cost an average of €86,560, according to real estate platforms Zillow and Idealista.

“The rising cost of living has made living in every major US city more expensive than European cities,” said Michael Witkowski, vice president of US-based expat consultancy ECA International. “High home prices along with a strong US dollar and political tensions are all contributing to Europe’s growing allure.”

Retire at 50

Of course, moving and relocating to another country is not always easy. There are visa requirements and the tax situation can be complicated and costly. The US taxes all of its citizens regardless of where they live, and working for an American company remotely while in another country can cause tax problems for you and your employer.

To address some of these issues, Italy will begin offering a remote worker visa for foreigners later this year, which Synclair is hoping to offer. The government also introduced a program in 2019 to sell one-euro homes in rural areas to foreign buyers, who would pay for renovations and boost the local economy.

Initially lured by the one-euro homes, Miami resident Cathlyn Kirk, 47, bought a three-story, three-bedroom house in Mussomeli, the same village as Synclairs, for €37,000 last November. The Homeland Security officer, who was due to retire in two years, wanted to move to a country where she could live comfortably on a public pension.

“I can retire at 50 and still have a good life filled with travel and good food,” Kirk said. “Not many can do that.”

cost and security

The Iberian Peninsula has also become a popular travel destination. According to government data, the number of Americans residing in Portugal increased by 45% in 2021 from the previous year. In Spain, which has the largest American population in Europe, the number of US-born residents increased by 13% between 2019 and 2021, and demand has continued to grow this year, according to Alejandra Vanoli, managing director of Spanish real estate agency Viva.

To attract foreign buyers, Portugal and Spain both offer so-called “golden visas,” programs that grant residency rights based on an initial investment of €350,000 and €500,000 respectively.

For Jamie Dixon, 37, moving from Los Angeles last July with her seven-year-old daughter and husband was made possible by moving to a remote job and obtaining a permanent resident visa, which required a lease, bank account and health insurance in the country.

The operations manager of a tech startup who originally lived in a two-bedroom mobile home in Malibu, California, couldn’t afford to fulfill her dream of buying land with her friends to build a shared living space in LA.

A new remote job enabled her to leave the city and move into a €2,000-month three-bedroom, three-bathroom apartment with a private roof in Cascais, a coastal city with a large expat population.

In addition to the low cost of living, Dixon said her family now has access to a broader multilingual international community and less stress related to crime or politics.

“Violence has increased so much in America,” she said. “I wanted to give my child a normal childhood.”

Disclaimer: This article first appeared on Bloomberg and is being published under a special syndication agreement


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