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Turkey beats France, Spain and Portugal for retirement home

Life on a Turkish beachWe examine Spain, Portugal, France and Turkey, rating them for lifestyle, economy, property prices and investment potential, healthcare, tax, visas and overall cost of living abroad for retirees

Turkey comes up trumps head and shoulders above France, Spain and Portugal as the best place to retire in the sun and buy property overseas. Our research took into account over 100 case studies of retirees, who bought property in Turkey, Spain, France and Portugal since 2003 and moved permanently.  Families we interviewed included 25 British ex-pats, 20 German ex-pats, 18 Swedish and Norwegians, 14 from US and Canada and rest from Russia and the Middle East.   The following table illustrates our overall findings

Country retirement and permanent home score (top score = 35)

France  21 (60%) Spain  19 (54%) Portugal  27 (77%) Turkey  32 (91%)


Turkey receives top scrore with a satisfaction rate of 91%, followed by Portugal and France.  Spain finishes the overseas retirement and property race in the forth and last position with a satisfaction score of 60%.  

FRANCE
That British retirement favourite is still going strong, with around 150,000 Brits calling France home and a prime place for investing in overseas property. Favourable weather, good travel links and proximity to family (if you’re a Brit, of course) combine to make a very nice retirement spot. 

Lifestyle
France enjoys a temperate climate in the north with cool winters, and a hot Mediterranean climate in the south. French cuisine doesn’t require much explanation. Plenty of fresh produce and rich, tasty local dishes are a huge attraction for those considering moving here. It’s easy to make friends with other expats who have moved to your area and there are plenty of clubs and coffee mornings you can attend to meet others in the same boat. Smaller French centres are notoriously closed, however, and you might find it difficult making friends with the locals. Start French lessons as soon as you can - you’ll find learning the language will open many doors.
Rating: 5/5

France economyEconomy
The French economy saw no growth in 2012, after an annual average real GDP growth rate of 1.7% in 2010 and 2011. In 2013, the economy is projected to grow by a meagre 0.1%. Economic growth is still fragile in France and France is not out of post-recession danger yet. Increased taxation has been met with anger and frustration by a population already experiencing 11% unemployment.
Rating: 2/5

Property
The country took a huge hit during the recession and house prices are lower than they’ve been for some time, attracting a few new buyers interested in investing in overseas property. Buyers beware, however: some of these French property bargains may not bounce back for some time, which is fine if you want to stay for a long while but if things turned pear shaped you may find yourself without a buyer. 
Rating: 3/5

Health care
EU retirees can access the French health care system. France is renowned for its decent health care - but most French citizens top up with private medical insurance as the state system pays for just 70% of your health care. If you’re a non EU citizen you will need private health care, which costs around 900 Euros/year for over 65s.
Rating: 3/5

Tax
Ninety percent of pension amount from your home country will be taxed. (Eg, if your pension is 10,000 Euro each year, 9,000 of this will be taxed). Tax can be as much as 50%.
Rating: 2/5

Visas
France makes it fairly easy for retiring expats to gain long term visas. The main stumbling block is that you’ll need to demonstrate that you have adequate financial resources, including private health insurance that covers the same aspects that the national health system does. 
Rating: 4/5

Cost of living*
France’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) is 103.24, up from 101.17 in 2011. Prices are high in France but have remained largely steady in an uncertain Europe.
Rating: 2/5

Overall rating for France: 21/35 

SPAIN
Despite what you read about Brits leaving the country in their droves thanks to falling house prices and wildly fluctuating currency, you can’t ignore the fact that Spain is home to Europe’s largest expat community and some of the loveliest cities you’ll see. It’s estimated that around 800,000 Brits live in Spain for a good part of the year. However, international real estate agents will tell you that investing in overseas property in Spain is falling in popularity due to the economy.

Lifestyle
Spain’s huge expat population makes it easy to settle into your new life. There are clubs and meet-ups galore. The Spanish language is easy (well, easier than many!) to learn. Food is good value and of course Spanish cuisine is some of the best in the world. The weather is favourable for most of the year, especially in the southern regions which enjoy a typically Mediterranean climate.
Rating: 5/5

Spain economyEconomy
Almost nowhere was worse hit by the recession than Spain. Unemployment is stuck at around 26% and there are an estimated million properties on the market. Emigration is at an all-time high. The government borrowed 41 billion Euros to dig itself out of a hole and as a result there have been cuts in almost every sector. There are a few green shoots appearing but it will be a while before it’s business as usual in this European country.
Rating: 2/5

Health care
If you can’t afford expensive private health care (around 800 euros per month for a couple over 60) be prepared to queue with the masses. The recession has brought about cuts in the health care sector, and while the care is generally adequate there is a lack of aftercare - this is a cultural gap between Spain and other countries as in Spain families often take on the burden of care of relatives. 
Rating: 2/5

Spain property prices change graphProperty
House prices are lower than they’ve been in a decade, but be aware the market may not pick up again for some time and you could be stuck with an unwanted Spanish property should you choose to sell. Avoid the half-empty coastal developments where there are plenty of bargains - but for a good reason.
Rating: 3/5

Tax
The Spanish government now requires anyone who resides in Spain for more than six months and has overseas assets worth more than 50,000 Euros (this includes bank accounts, property and any investments) must declare them. You will also be taxed as much as 48% on your pension.
Rating: 1/5

Visas
EU citizens must obtain a foreigner’s card, which entitles to you to health care within the country. If you don’t have a state pension you need to demonstrate you have regular income. Non EU citizens will need to jump through a few hoops: you’ll need a visado de residencia from your local Spanish consulate (this will allow officials to examine your finances). Generally, you’ll require a certificate showing you will be receiving a regular pension; proof of any income and details about Spanish-owned property; and proof of Spanish property ownership.
Rating: 3/5

Cost of living*
Spain’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) is 83.14, up from 76 in 2011. Rising prices are a big factor for people leaving the country.
Rating: 3/5

To see detailed cost of living comparison between Spain and Turkey, refer to retire to low cost of living in Turkey

Overall rating for Spain: 19/35

PORTUGAL
Portugal is renowned for its rich history, good food and wonderful weather. Cost of living is low here and retirees will find their pensions go further than other comparable Mediterranean countries. Portugal has the third largest expat community after Spain and France, highlighting its enduring popularity.

Lifestyle
With almost 2000km of coastline, Portugal is famed not only for its beaches but for its amazing seafood. The climate in the north is mild with above average rainfall, and the south of the country enjoys a typical Mediterranean climate. Locals are friendly and helpful, and most popular centres have a decent sized expat population where you’ll find clubs and language exchanges. Produce is fresh and varied and the Portuguese cuisine is rich and delicious.
Rating: 5/5

Portugal economyEconomy
Portugal is finally emerging from its worst economic crisis in 40 years. Strict austerity measures have produced some green shoots - but the worst is far from over. Although the economy grew by 1.1% last quarter - one of the best results in Europe - a number of factors have experts worried. Unemployment remains extremely high, at 16%. Further cuts in health, education and social security are expected to cause anger amongst the population. Most analysts believe Portugal will require outside help.
Rating: 3/5

Property
The recession left the Portuguese real estate market in crisis. It was difficult to get a mortgage, dozens of developments sat empty or half finished, and confidence hit an all-time low. Many Portuguese based international estate agents shut up shop altogether. The economy is looking healthier these days but house prices remain lower than they were before by up to 50%. Be aware however that there is a surplus of Portugese properties on the market and it will be a few years before the balance is redressed. 
Rating: 4/5

Health care
If you’re an EU national you are eligible to receive health care under Portugal’s national health system. The public health system is strained and there are usually long waiting lists for most procedures. If you live rurally you will need to travel to larger cities for some procedures. If you’re not an EU national you have no choice other than to get private insurance. Costs vary depending on the company, your policy and your age, but a general rule of thumb is if you’re over 60, this costs around 200 Euros per month, and you will also need to pay between 40-100% of the cost of any medicines you need.
Rating: 3/5

Tax
Desperate to court foreign investment, the Portuguese government has taken measures to attract expats with tax cuts. Tax has been more than halved for expats, from 48 to 20% - and retirees no longer pay any tax at all. Anyone buying a property over 500,000 euros will be granted a “golden visa” which converts to citizenship.
Rating: 4/5

Visas
EU nationals can remain in Portugal as visitors for up to 180 days, after which time you’ll need to apply for an extension or a residence card. Non EU nationals are allowed a stay of up to 90 days. After this you’ll need to head to the SEF( Servicio de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras) and apply for residency. You’ll need to prove that you have an adequate income or financial resources.
Rating: 4/5

Cost of living*
Portugal’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) is 75.31, up from 73.09 in 2011. Portugal remains a favourable place to live, cost wise, especially if you live outside of the main centres.
Rating: 4/5

Overall rating for Portugal: 27/35 

TURKEY
This country, whose southern regions encompass the Aegean and the Mediterranean, is rich in history and culture, as well as the beaches and sunshine that have attracted tourists and travellers for years. A strong economy coupled with house prices that are still low mean interest in living in Turkey is rising.

Lifestyle
Southern Turkey’s Mediterranean climate means long summers and temperate winters. Food is fresh and very tasty, and there is no shortage of leisure activities which include outdoorsy pursuits such as hiking and parasailing, as well as more cerebral pastimes like visiting ancient cities and perusing museums. There are plenty of expat clubs and activities, although locals are friendly and helpful. Learning Turkish is a must although a great many people speak English, especially in the larger centres.
Rating: 5/5

Turkish economyEconomy
Turkey emerged relatively unscathed from the global recession, with positive growth in most sectors seen in the past couple of years. In under a decade, the per capita income in the country has nearly tripled, and unemployment remains low. Turkey is currently the 18th largest economy in the world and is well on track to its goal of entering the top 10 by 2023. Property for sale in Turkey is currently going through a boom.
Rating: 4/5

Property
The country’s strong economy has meant that Turkish real estate prices have either remained stable or increased. In some centres property in Turkey is rising in value by up to 10% annually. It is still possible to buy a decent priced Turkish villa or apartment for a very competitive price. Demand is high for Turkish property for sale, as those selling their homes have discovered. There is a strong exit strategy should one ever need to sell up and move back home, which is an important consideration for many moving overseas.
Rating: 4/5

Health care
Medical insurance is now compulsory for anyone making the move to Turkey. Rates vary but as a rule of thumb if you’re over 60 you’ll pay around 60 Euros per month. Turkey’s health care is growing in reputation and medical institutions (especially in the larger centres) have some of the best facilities in Europe.
Rating: 4/5

Tax
Regardless of nationality, your pension will not be taxed in Turkey
Rating: 5/5

Visas
Anyone buying a retirement apartment or villa in Turkey will automatically be granted a year-long Turkish residency visa. This applies to most nationalities including the majority of Middle Eastern buyers, US citizens and any EU citizen.
Rating: 5/5

Cost of living*
Turkey’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) is 55.48, up from 54.09 in 2011. Turkey’s low cost living is a major attraction for potential buyers of apartments or villas in Turkey.
Rating: 5/5

Overall rating for Turkey: 32/35


Choosing Turkey, life on a beachConclusion: Spain, France, Portugal and Turkey have much in common: favourable weather, fascinating histories, great food and gorgeous coastlines. But the differences between them are pronounced. Our analysis shows that Turkey is the clear leader, with the most favourable retirement conditions and most affordable real estate. Portugal follows at a respectable distance, leaving France and finally Spain in the dust.

Overseas home buyers are turning away from traditional retirement destinations and by reading the above, it becomes clear that this sea change is due to a number of factors, primarily cost of property and goods and services as well as restriction imposed by the Euro zone, not to mention the economic down-turn that significantly affected traditional Euro zone countries. 

Please contact us if you have any questions about the above analysis.

*The CPI is  is a relative indicator of consumer goods price, including groceries, restaurants, transportation and utilities. It is measured against the prices in New York City, which represents 100%.

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