The fall in the euro is fuelling greater Chinese interest in buying European real estate, property agents say. Institutional as well as individual Chinese investors were making plans to buy offices and hotels in Europe in the quest for a return of more than 5 per cent, the agents said. Chinese investors have been buying up European property over the past few years, especially after an economic slump prompted nations such as Portugal and Spain to offer residency to foreigners willing to invest specified minimum amounts. Zhang Kesong , a Beijing-based agent who helps mainlanders buy into the European property market, said the euro's fall had encouraged more clients heading on investment scouting missions to Europe. Zhang said one investor bought 11 flats in the Spanish city of Almeria for €2 million (HK$17.7 million) with the goal of turning them into a family hotel and making a 10 per cent profit. "The falling euro has significantly slashed the cost of travelling to and investing in Europe, and more people are tempted to invest there," he said. For example, a €500,000 property in Spain that cost about 4.1 million yuan (HK$5.2 million) in May would have cost only 3.5 million yuan last month, Zhang said. Many Chinese investors were buying the properties to get residency and to ensure that their children could go to university in Europe, with some selling their real estate in China to fund their overseas venture. Portugal has been particularly active in granting residency to non-European investors. In the past two years, Portuguese authorities issued 1,775 residency permits to investors who spent at least €500,000 on property. Of these, 80 per cent were Chinese. Similar "golden visas" are available in Spain, but only 134 were issued between September 2013 and last October. The visas require holders to spend at least €500,000 on buying a property. Real estate consultancy firms also reported a general increase in Chinese investors buying properties offshore. Knight Frank said Chinese overseas property investment grew by 25-fold to US$15 billion from 2009 to 2014, with Australia, the United States and Britain the top destinations. Property consultancy Savills meanwhile estimated that mainland institutions poured close to US$13.5 billion into the sector last year, more than double the 2012 total. Liu Bing , head of investment and advisory services at real estate consultants North China DTZ, said more institutional Chinese investors were also buying into Europe, with Britain and France the top destinations. Most put their money into office buildings and hotels, which usually saw returns of between 5 and 8 per cent, he said. Liu said that while the euro's fall had cut investment costs, these institutional investors were not guided solely by currency exchange rates. "Chinese companies are also looking for investment opportunities abroad, and they are becoming more familiar with investment conditions in Europe," Liu said.