Property in Greece
In his autobiography My Family and Other Animals, Gerald Durrell and his family are sitting squabbling in a dingy, overcrowded house in south London as the rain falls outside. “Right,” says the mother suddenly, “We are going to live in Greece.” And off they go, to the sunshine, warmth, Mediterranean passions and wildlife of Corfu, which changes all their lives.
Greece is sunny, welcoming and the property is inexpensive – fancy following Mrs Durrell?
It has a population of only 11 million spread across land the size of England, with a large mainland around which are hundreds of islands. It has a coastline of 17,000 kilometres – that’s four times longer than Spain’s – all lapped by the gentle, crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean, so there’s plenty of room for you.
The image of Greece has taken a knock in recent years, with thousands of migrants landing on its beaches and the country’s public finances in ruin. Don’t let that put you off! The migrant crisis is mainly limited to a few islands closest to Turkey and there are another 220 inhabited islands, many miles away, where life goes on as normal.
Secondly, the economic crisis may be severe, but tourist numbers have actually increased, reaching a new record of 26 million in 2015, which means that the places where most of us buy are thriving. Best of all, the thing that many of us notice first about Greece is the friendliness of its people – and they remain as warm and welcoming as ever.
When buying in Greece, think hard about when and how you will be using your property. There is a great variation in islands between those, for example, close to Athens, which tend to be expensive boltholes for Athenians, or those far away such as Corfu, which are more popular with British buyers. The British have a great affinity with Crete too, with large expat communities in the Chania and Rethymno areas.
Greece has escaped the overdevelopment that blights other countries. It doesn’t really do gated developments either, though there are modern developments if that’s what you like.
Travel out of season however, and you will need to change planes in Athens as the Greeks, despite government efforts, tend to close up their seaside resorts in October and head back to their villages and families – maybe that’s why they’re so friendly when the season starts again.
Where to Buy Property in Greece
In terms of market volumes, Crete rules because large and diverse, it appeals to all price ranges. Further south than most other islands, it’s got the climate but also – on the north coast – the sort of infrastructure and amenities that appeal to retirees. Crucially, it is also well-supplied by airlines too.
Fancy a village fiver-upper? You can have change out of €60,000. Or a house with a pool, that will be €150,000; or a lovely three-bed home in trendy Elounda, you are looking at nearer €400,000.
The accessible Peloponnese – connected to the mainland by the Corinth Canal - is also growing in popularity. Historically popular with Athenians, this large archipelago south-west of Athens is spectacularly unspoilt and offers some great beaches.
Whilst villas at Greece’s most expensive new development, there, Amanzoe at Porto Heli, are an eye-watering €3 million, you can get a three-bedroom townhouse for around €150,000 at a less stellar location. Across the bay from Porto Heli, the chic island of Spetses has remained (relatively) pricy.
Better-known with most European tourists are the Aegean islands, including the favourite honeymoon location of Santorini, and the party island of Mykonos. These aren’t the cheapest islands for holiday homes but look away from the tourist hubs and you can get that traditional white sugar-cube house with beautiful blue shutters (and a cat lazing nearby), for around €150,000. Mykonos is well known for its luxury contemporary glass villas that go for a couple of million euros if they have sea views.
Check out the Athenians’ “secret” island of Kea for new-build villas for €250,000.
For yachties, the Ionians will always be king. Corfu has a fashionable edge – the chi-chi north-east coast where they have been several sales over €5 million in the past year; but it is not high-end villas, and you can get a three-bed cottage for €100,000 near Kassiopi, down by nearly 50 per cent from the 2008 peak. Nicely renovated townhouses might cost around €250,000.
There’s also Kefalonia - still remembered fondly from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, with apartments from under €100,000 but equally some stylish villas for and even some new-build developments. From summer of 2016 where will be some new flights from East Midlands airport.
It’s Rhodes in the Dodecanese that’s been, dare we say it, slightly booming again in 2014, with a strong demand for international buyers of high-end properties. Lindos is a hotspot but you can get a modest three-bed villa for around €250,000, or a detached one with a bit more space for nearer €400,000.
How to Buy Property in Greece
For most purchases, the notary prepares the contract and your lawyer checks for encumbrances and documents such as the build license. 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. Only when the house is completed, and the final payment made, is the contract signed before the Government notary.
To stimulate the market the Greek government reduced property transfer tax (on resale properties) from 8-10 per cent to 3 per cent of the value of the property. For new build properties you pay VAT of 23 per cent instead of purchase tax (some builders include this within the asking price – others don’t! – check this).
The Government notary charges 2 per cent, your lawyer around 1 per cent, and the 2-3 per cent estate agent’s fees are paid by the buyer (along with 2 per cent from the vendor) – but some agents may charge less to entice custom. The Land Registration fee of 0.3 per cent is charged, with VAT of 23 per cent on top.
To summarise, allow total purchase costs of around 10 per cent for a resale property, 8 per cent for a new-build.
Roger Collins and Elizabeth Andrew fell in love with Crete on their second visit to the island in 2011. They talk to us about having a home built 2,500 miles away from the UK and life on the island.
In the final part of our Greek island series we explore the property market in Crete, Kefalonia and the Peloponnese.
Few destinations have Greece’s appeal and especially the country’s sumptuous islands. When it comes to the islands, accessibility is key, but will economy-driven changes affecting Greece’s transport links help or hinder buyers?