Has it managed to cling on to the euro? Have property prices nosedived? Holiday homes in this beautiful country may now be more affordable, but don’t forget to do your research...
Some people like Greece; most people love it. Yes, it’s steeped in history and has stunning scenery and beaches, but it’s the people, their friendship and generosity, that make visitors fall so in love with the place that they return time and again, before buying a holiday home or relocating entirely.
The Greek debt crisis on our screens last year has created an unfairly poor impression, and, in reality, although the Greek population is suffering under the austerity measures, the effect on the already simple Mediterranean lifestyle on the islands that draws second-home owners is generally yet to be seen and tourism on the islands remains strong.
The recession has seen off the building of large holiday home developments and also produced some great bargains if you can pay cash. While some agents report a shift away from second-home owners towards the 55-plus age group seeking a permanent move, others are buying with a very long-term view.
Hundreds of Greek islands vary in look, price, accessibility and weather. The Ionian Islands on the eastern side, just across the sea from Italy, include Corfu with its rolling green hills and Italian-style townhouses from €120,000. Corfu’s northeast coast has been dubbed “Kensington-on-Sea” for its high-end visitors including Prince Charles and David Cameron.
Another Ionian island is Kefalonia, still remembered fondly from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, with apartments from under €100,000 and country villas from €250,000.
Over in the Cyclades Islands – including Mykonos and Santorini – you find the traditional white sugar-cube houses with beautiful blue shutters, available restored for around €150,000 as well as slick contemporary-style villas costing several millions.
Less expensive, the lifestyle on the Sporades islands looked so alluring in the movie Mamma Mia! that they’ll be hoping that the long-awaited sequel happens soon.
In western Crete, easyJet is increasing flights to Chania, where Kolymbari and Kissamos are proving popular. As a general guide, a detached two-bedroom house costs around €115,000 to €145,000 and a three-bedroom detached property between €150,000 and €210,000.
The accessible Peloponnese – on the mainland – has been historically popular with Athenians, but British buyers such as the BBC’s John Humphrys have also bought there and Greece’s most expensive new development, Aman at Porto Heli, is going ahead there.
For most purchases, the notary prepares the contract and your lawyer checks for encumbrances and documents such as the build licence. Generally a 10 per cent deposit is paid, which secures the property and binds both vendor and buyer to the contract.
Using your funds, the lawyer pays the property transfer tax. The following day the conveyance is heard, read by the notary and attended by lawyers for the vendor and buyer, and the contract is signed, whereupon the balance of the purchase price is immediately paid.
With off-plan, however, you normally pay a deposit to the builder and then a series of stage payments. Only when the house is completed, and the final payment made, is the contract signed before the Government notary.
The main purchase costs are property transfer tax, which varies according to location and type of land, but is around 8 per cent for the first €20,000 and 10 per cent thereafter. For new build properties you pay VAT of 23 per cent instead of purchase tax.
The Government notary charges 2 per cent, your lawyer around 1 per cent, and the 2 per cent estate agent’s fees are paid by the buyer. The Land Registration fee is 0.475 per cent, plus €15.
Only ever transfer money from the UK into your own Greek bank account, before paying a third party in Greece. Pay someone direct from the UK and it will be assumed the money was earned in Greece and is liable for tax.
A lawyer won’t normally visit a property, so when buying a resale check that the property conforms to the original building licence and no changes have been made, such as a swimming pool, extension, or an open veranda closed in to create another room. Otherwise you could be liable for a fine.
New-builds now attract 23 per cent VAT. Some builders include this within the asking price – others don’t!
There is a new "council tax" for property owners of around €400 - 500 a year, collected in installments via owners' electricity accounts.