Living the Dream
If you are planning to buy a property in Greece or even just thinking about it you will need a guide to help you though the Greek property purchasing process. Whether you dream of a beach villa, village house or an apartment in the town, it is important to avoid the pitfalls of buying a property in Greece in order to make your dreams come true.
The Dream Verses Reality
In your favourite daydream you have decided to leave your present home behind you and settle in another country. You pack your belongings and leave your country behind. You can imagine the little table, chair and parasol on your terrace overlooking the beach. You are watching the sun set peacefully into to azure sea, while drinking a glass of local red wine and eating olives hand picked from your own trees. You are relaxing away from the stresses and strains of your current life and enjoying a life that you so rightly deserve…
Well, we all have fantasies but, this is the real world and things are simply not always that easy. Are you planning to book a cheap package holiday for a week or two, spend a couple of days looking around, and then buy the perfect little house on the spot? Or have you really thought about what’s involved in purchasing a property in Greece? Have you done your homework, research and planning? Do you know where you want to live when you reach your dream destination? A little forward planning will help you achieve your goal of living the dream. It’s much better than leaving things to chance.
What do I really want from a property in Greece?
The first question you should ask yourself is exactly why you wish to purchase property in Greece. For example, are you looking for a retirement or holiday home? Do you want a summer, winter or permanent home? Are you seeking a sound investment or do you wish to work or start a business? Probably you will find that there are a number of reasons you wish to buy a property in Greece. If this is the case there are many more factor to take into consideration then just buying a holiday home. Take some time to decide what kind of property you would like to purchase, and then discuss your ideas with your partner and family. If you are at all unsure of what or where to buy, the best decision is usually to rent for a while first.
When buying a property you need to consider where you would like to live. Resorts are lively in the summer, but may be crowded with tourists. However, in the winter they may be completely closed, with nothing in the way of facilities or shops. In the mountains or villages a few kilometres in land you will probably be a part of a friendly village community, but if the village is remote no-one may speak your language, so you will have to learn theirs quickly. Another option is to excel at mime. You can make many friends among the villagers this way and have great fun too.
One of the most important aspects of buying a property in Greece and living there is finance, which includes everything from transferring and changing money to mortgages and taxes. If you are investing in property or a business it is important to consider the exchange rate. Take a realistic look. It is easy to imagine that you have more money to spend on your dream property than you actually have. The cost of purchasing a house and costs of repairs can spiral dramatically without you being prepared for it. If you need to borrow money to fund your dream property, be careful where you borrow the money from.
Many mortgage companies will not lend money for property overseas. It may seem trivial to mention, but always remember that if you borrow money to buy property, or to rebuild it, you have to pay the money back! This statement is one that should be at the forefront of your mind when you are making your plans. It’s advisable to have your finance in place before your inspection visit. If you see your dream home you will be able to purchase it without any delays. This way you will not miss out.
Do not count on holiday lettings for your property to tourists during the months you are not there. In the last two years there has been a decline in the tourism in most parts of Greece, and income from letting property has declined with it. To let out rooms legally, you must have a license from the Greek Tourism Board. You must also fulfil fire and safety regulations, and you must pay tax on this income. Authorities are having a clamp down on illegal lets, and fines are enormous!
If you are planning to move permanently to Greece, unless you have enough private income for you to live well on, you must consider employment in the place you are going to live. You must ensure that this will be possible before you buy a house. What kind of job can you really expect to do? What are your qualifications and experience? Are they recognized? Do you speak fluent Greek? Unless your Greek is fluent you wont be completing on equal terms with the local workforce (you wont anyway, but that a different issue!). Most Greeks aren’t interested in employing people who do not have a good knowledge of the Greek language unless it deals exclusively with foreigners. Are there any jobs in your profession or trade in the area that you plan to live? Answer to these questions and others can be quite disheartening. However, it is better to ask them before moving to Greece, rather than afterwards.
The Greek equivalent of the English Job Centre is the OAED which has a special department for Europeans seeking work, although you should expect it to be easy to find a job. Unemployment rates in mainland Greece is generally high. It is higher still on the islands. Some islanders can only find work during the summer season, when tourists visit. This means they either have to save enough money when they are working to live on during the winter, or learn to survive on unemployment benefit in the winter months. Unemployment benefit is only paid if they have enough national insurance stamps credited to them over eighteen months. Working one summer season will not earn you enough to be paid benefits. If you are self employed in Greece you are not entitled to benefits at all.
Looking For Your Dream Greek Property
After you have answered all these question and more your will be ready to start looking for a property to suit you and your family. Now do your research. The internet is a helpful tool. Listed below are links to relevant articles and information about property and the prefecture of Messinia which will help with your research.
Take notes about the kind of properties that are available and their location. Also note down any that are just below your price range (just below, because you will need some money to pay for taxes, legal fees, and hidden costs of buying property). Discuss the properties that you have found with your family and friends. Find out about the area to see if it suits your requirements. Study maps and guide book descriptions of each location.
When you have established what your requirements are contact the real estate sites you have been looking at. Find out if the online property list is up to date, quite often agents only advertise a small selection of the properties that they have available. Let the agents know your full requirement (be as detailed as possible) and leave your up to date contact details with them. Ask the agents to let you know when any suitable property comes up. This will make it easier for them to narrow down the search so you do not spend months looking at unsuitable properties.
If you intend booking a holiday in order to view properties, it is important to let the real estate agent know you are going to be arriving at least a couple of weeks in advance. Tell the agent where you will be staying. Take a mobile phone with you that works overseas, so they can contact you if they need to. The agents will be able to arrange viewing of properties for you while you are in the country, and hopefully, will be able to find several properties in each area you are interested in.
Be open minded, it may be worth considering purchasing a plot of land, rather than a house that already exists. Design and build properties are easy to find and are a very popular choice. Check if the plot has planning permission. It is often automatic if the land has road frontage, with all services (water, etc) nearby. If the land is within the town planning area it should also be buildable, but always check, and get it in writing. Prefabricated buildings are available in Greece now, they can be built by the manufacturers, or by yourself. If you plan to build any property yourself you it is important to remember that you have to build to Greek and European building and safety regulations. These are very different from UK regulations. All buildings must be built to withstand earthquakes, for example!
When you have found the property you would like to buy, it is advisable to get a survey done. This is a step that is often missed out in Greece. Some areas are prone to flooding, earth tremor damage, or sink holes (A large hole that suddenly appears in the earth when the limestone beneath is eroded away by water). Save yourself a lot of trouble in the future by paying for a good survey. When you have found a good lawyer (who speaks your language, as well as Greek) and a good accountant (to sort out a tax number for you, and some financial details), you are ready to make an offer.
It is normal to pay a deposit of 10 – 20 % of the agreed purchase price. This seals the contact between the seller and buyer. If the seller pulls out (which is unlikely) he must return the money plus the same amount again. If the buyer pulls out the deposit is forfeit. However, if previously known problems are revealed the deposit will automatically be return. Property purchase is generally completed in a short period. It can take as little as 48 hour to 2 weeks. However, if the seller has not collected all the necessary documents for the transaction, it can take up to 3 months. You must not pay the full amount until all the documents are in place and your lawyer has made it all legal!
Good Luck with the purchase of your dream Greek property. Enjoy your little piece of Paradise, you’ve earned it.