Buying in Greece

If you are thinking of buying a home in Greece, whether for permanent living or as a holiday home, or as an investment with view of renting to holiday makers, then you might wish to consider renting first, before making a purchase.  You could consider renting in the chosen area, followed by renting on an island, or a village house to rent, followed by renting a villa by the sea.  All these renting options will provide you with an experience that might make your purchasing investment easier, regarding location and the type of building.  One thing to remember though, is that living in Greece is totally different to actually holidaying in Greece. Greece might have sparkled after the Olympics, which saw plenty of cash ploughed into the infrastucture of Athens.  The reputation of the country at one time was seen as a quality country and a superb destination for a second or holiday home. 

However today, things are totally different.  The media coverage over the last couple of years, has tarnished the reputation of this beautiful country.   The demonstrations, strikes, the Greek economy and even animal welfare, have all contributed to factors which might have deterred potential investors.  But it is not all areas that have been affected by these troubled times.  Life in Ermioni, within the Argolida region of the Peloponnese continues as normal.  The people are friendly, very hospitable and do welcome foreign visitors.  There are some beautiful areas within the region which one could consider investments, but it all depends upon each individuals needs.  The Ermionida area has become a sought after area, and is a great place to consider any potential investments.   Property prices remain stable at the moment, but are expected to rise with the construction of the new super-yacht marina, which commences end of '13 or early '14.   With this, there has never been a better time to buy, than now.  

It is important to research all the background information and not be afraid of professional real estate agents to help you. But do be careful, as even in today’s times, innocent individuals can be misled. This happened to an innocent couple, who bought a house and ended up paying twice the amount of the actual value, to find out later that this house was an illegal build, which meant it never had an authorised building permit and no foundations to  the house.  In today’s economic climate, many agents want your business, but the most important thing is to take your time and do plenty of research.  Real Estate has changed recently.  New laws are in place to safeguard the potential investor.  Unlicenced agents should not be in operation, so do check everything before you buy.

Further advice to individuals who are seriously considering buying a permanent home or a holiday home in Greece:

  • Do you need this holiday home for permanent living or seasonal living?
  • Is this home to provide income, i.e. Holiday rentals or just for own personal use?
  • Do you wish to live on the mainland or an island?
  • Do you wish to be involved in village life and experience community living?
  • Do you want a villa with a pool and be away from everything?
  • Do you want a restoration project or a full renovation project?
  • Do you want to buy land and self build?
  • You don’t need to buy through real estate companies, as long as you have a reputable lawyer.
  • Ensure you get a structural engineers report for any property you might be interested in.
  • Do not buy any differently from how you would buy in your own country
  • Do you wish to buy as an investment?
  • Get a good lawyer.

Permanent living/Seasonal living:  For permanent living, one needs to ensure that provisions are made for the colder months. Everybody seems to think that Greece is warm and sunny all year round. We also fell into that thought. This is not the case. Greece can be very cold and wet during the winter. We know people who have had villas built, but without making any provisions for a wood burning fire, central heating or adequate inverter air conditioning. Houses do get damp, due to the elements of living close to the sea. Even an old house like ours, with thick one meter walls, can be very cold, due to the very high ceilings, but we are lucky as we have all the amenities needed to keep warm. For seasonal living, our opinions would be still to make provisions for heating, as early and late summer, can bring a chill in the evenings.
You can buy everything you need here in Greece. Do not think you will not be able to buy things. Unless you decide to live on a remote island, away from everything, then bringing everything might be a good idea. 
Holiday rentals/personal use:  If the house is bought with view of renting out to holiday makers, then it is important to consider families and have 2 bathrooms.  If the house is owned and only part of the house is to be let, then a private entrance for the guests is very important, so that they have their own access/exit doors. Special attention needs to be given to the furnishings and equipment. Generally the rule of thought is to put the basic and cheapest equipment in, and buy the cheapest in terms of white goods, linen, towels etc. Sadly we would disagree with this thought. We have  stayed in places where the mattresses have had holes in, the linen has had holes in, and the towels have been of poor quality.  In terms of kitchen, we have had the very basics to use, which hasn’t been adequate. Many families do like to stay in holiday homes, and enjoy cooking for the family.  Therefore it is important to have adequate utensils in the kitchen.  For us, linen and towels were all bought in the UK, as the quality is far superior than here in Greece.  Even our single beds, quilts were all bought in the UK and brought over.  Maybe this is one of the reasons our guests always enjoy a good night’s sleep and compliment us on the comfort of the beds.  Again, our thoughts are to give guests what you would like yourself.
If the holiday home is bought for personal use only, then at a later date, you might wish to consider renting out, so at the start it is important to consider the requirements that might be needed for potential guests.
Island living:  Consideration needs giving to living on an island and what this actually means.  When the weather turns and there are extreme windy, stormy weather conditions, islands can be cut off from sea sailings.  You or the holiday maker could be trapped on this island for days, until the weather improves. Therefore provisions need to be made should this happen.  This is not applicable for islands that are served by Super Ferries or flights.  However for the islands that are not served by the big Super Ferries and do not have airports, if a person needs to travel further, or get back to country of origin, the boats may run in the mornings, but then may be cancelled mid afternoon, due to weather conditions.  Furthermore, the islands are full of life during the holiday seasons, but during the periods of October to November, islands can become desolate and one can feel cut off.  This is not applicable to the bigger islands of Rhodes/Crete/Corfu, as island life is continuous; nothing shuts down, except the holiday resorts.  Do you wish to rent out all year or just seasonal?  If it is all year rentals, then an island might not be the best choice, as the sea timetable schedule change during the winter months and there will be very limited provisions available to holiday makers.  During the height of summer, there is a water shortage on certain islands, which has to be shipped in.  This is a huge inconvenience if you have holiday rentals, as guests might run out of water. . . for days!  At  least on the mainland, there are no major problems in terms of shortages of water or any utilities.  Further issues to consider of island living:
  • Islands may not have adequate internet connections. 
  • Some islands do not allow for cars, other islands may be inundated with lots of motorbikes, which could be a nuisance. 
  • One needs to consider how they are going to transport their possessions to the particular island chosen to live permanently or seasonally. You are limited in terms of choice living on an island (not applicable to the 3 big islands).  If you have to have replacement appliances, you will have to travel to the nearby larger island, or mainland, to have items shipped, which could result in further unexpected costs.
  • You may have flights of steps to climb home, especially if you have bought a village house. In cooler weather, this is not daunting, but in the height of summer, this can be horrendous, especially if you are carrying a 6 pack of water, or other heavy items.
  • Choice may be very limited on islands. If you have animals and you need the attention of a vet, which the smaller islands do not have, you can be stuck.   Vets seem to charge very high prices, more than the UK, so consideration needs giving to this.  Medical treatments may be the same. To see a specialist, or go to hospital may mean travelling to the mainland, or to a nearby larger island for consultation.
  • Because you are a foreigner, you may be charged higher prices for everything, including groceries.
  • If you buy with view to rent to holiday makers, ensure there is back up in the event of power failures/water shortages, or if something goes wrong for guests.  It is important that these issues are dealt with immediately, not where guests have to wait for days, or when they have left.

Village life - old village houses:  Old houses are charming, full of character, thick stone walls, stone floors that date back to an earlier period, traditional Greek features and shaded courtyards. These types of houses are what individuals seem to enjoy and appear to be the better investments.  Living in an old historic village allows you to enjoy village life and participate in community events, even though you might not speak the language. However, living in a village does have its drawbacks.  Houses are old, charming and full of character, but village houses rarely have gardens, there are just paved courtyards.  If you are a keen gardener and have enjoyed gardening, then you will have to make do with pots.  Church bells might also be another nuisance for some, but these bells are all part of the charm of village life.  Motorbikes might also be another nuisance, but they are the main form of  motor transport within a small village.
In a village you might have to get used to the rickety rubbish bin that collects rubbish every morning, but at least the rubbish is collected and not left for days to pile up.  
The locals do enjoy seeing visitors, especially when they use the local village shops. In time though, with the supermarkets, these traditional village shops will soon close, so it is important to support them whenever possible.  Village life is pretty safe, children during summer play out until midnight and it is lovely. The sea surrounds the area and we are only a few minutes walk to Mandrakia or Limania, where we can sit and look out onto the horizon.  However a view would have been nice, but then if you are exposed to the harsh elements of the sea, the house becomes damp. Also in the height of summer it is much too hot to sit out on balconies.
Again, if a village house is bought for living and maybe for rental purposes, one needs to ensure that adequate facilities are provided for.  People love the quaint, charming village houses and the life associated with a village. 
Villas with pools - away from it all:  For some, this is totally ideal, away from it all, in peaceful and tranquil settings……..mountainous or sea front.  However, villas need maintaining, especially if they are bought for rental purposes, also villas can become damp before the height of the hot summers. The gardens and pools  will need maintenance, which we have learnt from many, is sheer hard work.  However, some villas are stunning, some villas have 360° panoramic views, but most villas are the same in terms of style.  There doesn’t appear to be a great deal of difference from one villa to another. They may differ in terms of location, but most have that same ‘boxy’ look. If one wishes to buy a villa to live and to rent out, it might be an idea to make it slightly different from all the others.  Holidaymakers will not have the opportunity to just walk to the bakery, or supermarket, or tavernas to experience the culture, or to buy provisions. One will definitely have to rely upon a car to travel back and forth, which can be an additional cost. 
Research suggests that modern type of accommodations, whether they are villas or apartments; tend to struggle in terms of holiday rentals, yet old village character houses, do offer better returns, as they are sought after and very different from one another.  If you are considering buying a villa as an investment purpose, do think carefully, as the economic downturn is saturating the market with villas and some have been for sale for a number of years.  At the end of the day, if it is bought for permanent living, then this for some is idyllic.
A restoration project or a full renovation project:  If it is an old house with character that someone wants to buy for rental purposes, then this could be good option.  However here in Ermioni, there are very few of these houses left, but close by, there are still some available.  Prices are high for these ‘wrecks’ and costs for restoration or renovations can be high, especially if you are a European and do not yet live here.  But once finished, the house will be a beautiful traditional Greek home, oozing with character. These types of houses will provide lots of return all year round and could be considered as a good investment.
Buy land and self build:  Land is plentiful in Greece and the sad thing is that prices have been heavily inflated. The policy seems to be that when something doesn’t sell one year, instead of lowering the price to try and attract a buyer, we know many who increase the price.  Last year, a local Greek man was selling a 15 stremma/acre piece of land for approximately 350,000 Euros.  This year he has decided to up his price to 3,300,000 Euros.  This just doesn’t make sense, as no-one will buy land for over 3 million when one can buy a beautiful house with land for less.  Buying land and self build means one can choose the exact location and custom build.  But, beware that if the house is to be for living purposes all year round, adequate provisions need to be made for the colder months.   If it is a project with view of renting, then do consider the needs of the holidaymakers.
Real estate or private buys:  Beware of real estate 'cowboys'.  They still do exist.  Recently we learned of a couple who used a 'professional' company to purchase an old house, which appeared suitable for their needs.  However, when they wanted to inspect the property, pressure was put on them and within 5 minutes they decided to buy. Sadly they bought this house only to find, once the sellers (who were somehow related to the real estate people) moved out, many problems were identified.  As a result they were faced with major costs and repairs.  Real estate agents may seem expensive for any property purchase, but the real estate specialists do have the local up-to-date knowledge and know the complicated Greek property laws (which seem to change every year) and at the very least you will get a property that is legal.  Our recommendations for anyone wishing to buy, is to always consider a structural report, before parting with any money and do plenty of research.  Choose a real estate agent, who is licenced and will work with you, not against you.
If you can find a house suitable for your needs, then buying privately can certainly seem to be the most economical option, but not always the best long-term option.  If it is village life that you want, generally anything that is for sale will have a telephone number painted on one of the walls or gates.  But unfortunately, in many cases when the seller knows it is Europeans that are interested in buying, the prices seem to get inflated.
Ensure you get a structural engineers report:  This is something a person would do in England when buying, so why do so many ignore this? We ensured that when we bought our home, we had a full structural report.  At the time, the cost was over 1,000 Euros, but in our opinion, it was money well worth spent.
Do not buy any differently from how you would buy in your own home country:  Do not be pressurized into any immediate buys, no matter what is said to you. Sometimes when you are in the sunshine, in a Mediterranean country, it is easy to make relaxed decissions that can lead to big mistakes. We did exactly the same thing.  We liked the house we bought and the pressure put on us by the seller lost us 600 Euros.  We thought we were dealing with an independent solicitor, but in actual fact, we were dealing with the vendors solicitor.  In England, one would seriously think carefully before buying.  Do the same in Greece.  Do not part with any money beforehand. 
Do you wish to buy as an investment:  The properties that make good investments are the ones that are sought after, rarely available and ones that are different from all the rest. These also would provide excellent rental returns. When we bought our home, we thought the asking price was too much. Today, for the same price we could buy a renovation project . . .effectively a ruin.  At the time, we didn’t buy our home as an investment, but the good news is that if we wished to sell, then the profit could buy us a couple of houses.
Modern houses, villas, apartments, may be slower in terms of investment and returns, unless you can offer panoramic sea-views etc. We know of some beautiful houses, but sadly there are nightclubs within the area, whereby the music starts at 10:00 pm until 08:00 am. The music can be very loud and not only are holiday makers affected by this disturbance, they also have to endure the shouts of the drunks and the noise of the traffic. This is not what Greece is about, and one needs to consider the surrounding area as well as the actual property.
Get a good lawyer:  We did a Google search and selected 3 lawyers. The one that gave us the most information, help and advice was the one that we selected.  Lawyers in Greece are plentiful, and most speak foreign languages, but do ensure any local lawyer you select works for you . . . and not for the vendor.