With streaming shows like Netflix’s “Emily in Paris” or the romantic image of working remotely from an Italian villa, U.S. travelers are showing renewed interest in moving to Europe to see what life would be like in another country.
There are a variety of reasons why an international move to Europe from the United States is more affordable and attractive than ever before. For example, the U.S. dollar has been strong in terms of the exchange rate of both the euro and the pound. Home prices in certain countries are more affordable than in large U.S. cities, so it is affordable to rent a flat, buy a townhouse or condo, or purchase a single-family home in Europe.
European countries such as Portugal, Spain and Italy are considered the hottest areas for U.S. consumers to buy real estate. Americans looking to downsize or renovate a home will find opportunities in these countries, experts say, which also benefit from attractive weather, beautiful landscapes, waterfront property, and an overall good quality of life. Portugal also has something known as the Retirement Visa or Passive Income Visa, which makes moving there easier for Americas.
Some things to consider when thinking about a move from the U.S. to Europe:
— Why move to Europe?
— What are the pros of moving to Europe?
— What are the cons of moving to Europe?
— How to move to Europe
Why Move to Europe?
Some challenges are creating lower real-estate prices in some parts of Europe. Housing costs may be lower because of pandemic-related economic downturns and reduced tourism. Another issue is the war in Ukraine, the uncertainty of which is slowing the European real estate market overall.
With so many variables in play, this may be a good time to look into moving to Europe. With slower real estate sales, finding affordable rent or a good price on a two- or three-bedroom home comparable to a U.S. residence may be relatively easy to find and finance.
Pros of Moving to Europe
People who have made the move to Europe in the past few years say there are many pros and cons to consider when making such a significant move. Among the pros are accessible and affordable transportation between European cities, allowing for less expensive tourism; a strong exchange rate; more cost-effective home prices; and an overall healthier lifestyle, ex-pats say.
Nathan Heinrich married a native Italian, and they moved from New York to the Prosecco Valley near Venice in 2020. Heinrich says he tried to research this kind of move before they left only to find limited information. So, two years ago, Heinrich debuted his own podcast on the subject, aptly named “I’m Moving to Italy.”
The exchange rate has been a boon for his family, Heinrich says. “For the first time in the past 20 years, the euro and the U.S. dollar were at a dead-even exchange rate in the past year,” Heinrich says. “While the euro has recently inched back up compared to the dollar, the exchange rate is still quite favorable for American tourists or those who want to retire in Europe.”
For Heinrich, his family’s move to Europe brought improvements in his physical as well as his mental health. He also feels his family’s economic situation improved, largely because they have full health care coverage in Italy, giving him additional peace of mind when it comes to managing their money.
“Due to much stricter regulations on food companies in the EU and Italy in particular, I feel much better about buying groceries in Italy,” Heinrich says. “Also, I walk everywhere, as do many Europeans. I feel much better than I did living in the Hudson Valley of New York, and I have lost weight without trying.”
Europe’s lifestyle and smaller homes are a plus for Martha Miller, who moved from San Antonio, Texas, to sunny Valencia, Spain, in July 2021 with her husband and teenage son.
“Downsizing is the bomb. I used to spend a lot of time managing our stuff, but now I have more time to read, walk around a vibrant city and spend time with my family and new friends,” says Miller.
“We sold our house and car, put nothing in storage and shipped only what was really important to us,” says Miller, who wrote a book about her experience called “How We Quit Our Jobs, Gave Away Our Stuff & Moved to Italy,” based on her experience living in Rome from 2001-2003.
One final pro: If you’re a pet parent, you’re going to love Europe, says Gigi Chow, who runs the travel website Wet Nose Escapades, which documents her travels with her Yorkshire terrier, Roger Wellington. The duo moved from Los Angeles to Barcelona, Spain, in January 2020.
She and Roger Wellington paid $1,200 monthly for a two-bedroom apartment around 650 square feet in Gracia, a quiet neighborhood close to the famous La Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell. The duo, who are now living in Rio de Janeiro, are moving back to Europe later in 2023.
“Although there are exceptions, it’s the norm in many European countries to allow dogs inside restaurants, bars, farmer’s markets and even in some grocery stores,” Chow says.
Cons of Moving to Europe
The downsides include a large distance between you and your U.S. family and friends, making in-person visits challenging; a different culture that may take time to get used to as “busy” Americans; language and cultural barriers; and increased taxes, as you may have to pay taxes in both the United States and Europe.
“Americans are the ‘get things done’ sort of people. But while many European cultures such as Italy, France and Spain have some of the best weather, they are also some of the worst when it comes to accomplishing projects in a timely manner,” Heinrich says. “Type A personalities, you’ve been warned.”
Oh, and if you move to Europe, you may receive regular visits from U.S. family and friends — which some may see as a negative, depending on the situation.
Taxes and energy prices also can be more costly, ex-pats say. Heather Teysko and her husband moved to Spain because they were digital nomads who could work anywhere, and they were looking for an adventure for their young family, she says. While in Andalucia, the writer who also hosts “The Renaissance English History” podcast says they adored the lower cost of living, easy travel around Europe and learning about new cultures.
As for the challenges, they come in large and small sizes, Teysko says. On the larger side, they found the energy prices in Europe to be higher than expected. “The butane we used to use in our heater now costs about three times what we paid for it last year thanks to the war in Ukraine,” she says.
Little things also add up, Teysko says, like finding items in the grocery store. “I’ll never forget the time I spent an hour searching for chocolate chips. They were in the ice cream section. Because of course they were,” she says.
As for taxes, Heinrich says if you plan to work in Europe, you may find yourself paying taxes in both the United States and Europe. “The United States taxes its citizens who have dual citizenship or even those who just live and work abroad,” Heinrich says.
Lara Bianco, a former Chicago native, moved to Italy in 2021. Bianco started the blog “My Dolce Casa” when she moved to Europe to share her experiences and research on moving abroad. Bianco warns that it can be hard to make friends, and there is a fair amount of bureaucracy to overcome when dealing with stores, restaurants and government agencies in particular.
“It takes time to make real friends in a foreign country, so being far away from family, close friends and familiar faces can be very difficult, especially during the holidays,” Bianco says. “Cross-Atlantic trips to cure homesickness can be expensive.”
Bianco’s blog includes a real estate section, where a recent post explored real estate costs in Spain: “The average house price of a 2,000 square foot home in Spain is $386,000, or $193 per square foot. In 2023, property in Spain costs about 5.5% more than house prices in Italy, where an average home sells for $366,000,” the post says.
“Compared to the home prices in the United States, Spain houses are about 15% more affordable, on average. For this reason and many others, Spanish real estate is in high demand among foreigners, including Americans, who are looking to buy property in a beautiful, sunny, highly desirable location such as Spain.”
How to Move to Europe
Overall, Bianco says moving to Europe was “the best decision of my life.” She chose Italy because of her Italian heritage and because it was easier for her to obtain residency.
Bianco says she loves her lifestyle in Carovigno, Puglia, where she was able to purchase a one-bedroom apartment for about $125,000 near the city center. She appreciates the Mediterranean climate and sunny skies, which was a trade up from snowy Chicago winters. The greatest pro for her move was the travel adventures living in Europe offers
“When you’re based anywhere in Europe, visiting the continent is incredibly easy and cheap. If you have Paris, London, Iceland or the Greek islands on your bucket list, they’re literally only a couple of hours away on a $100 flight no matter where in Europe you live,” Bianco says.
“For me, personally, this might just be the biggest perk of moving to Europe. Plus, there is so much to see in Europe, traveling alone will keep you entertained for years to come.”
One final tip: The ability to gain residency for U.S. citizens is an important factor when moving to Europe.
“Some countries make it easier for Americans, some don’t. I think this is why Portugal has exploded in popularity in recent years, because of its friendly immigration laws,” Bianco says. “Choosing a country where you can gain lawful residency is a pro, but it can also be a con if you choose one where it is very difficult to become a legal resident.”
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