Accommodation in Greece
For all the damage caused by the economic crisis, finding accommodation in Greece has never been easier for expats. The state of the country’s finances has significantly reduced the price of real estate, making it more affordable for expatriates looking to buy or rent property.
Whether considering a white-washed Santorini blockhouse, with blue shutters that match the sky; an Italian-style townhouse in Corfu’s rolling, green hills; or a luxury villa in the northern suburbs of Athens, expats who can weather the country’s fiscal tempest have a unique opportunity.
Finding accommodation in Greece
In the search for accommodation in Greece, hiring a local real estate agent or mesitis will likely be a good idea. Many Greek sellers target foreign buyers and a better deal can often be found with the help of someone who speaks the language. That said, many Greeks avoid agents because of their commission which, for real estate purchases, can be as much as three percent of the property's value. Rentals can cost as much as a month's rent which is split between the owner and the lessee.
Exploring the areas one is interested in is always a good idea. Expats should look out for “for sale” signs, and ask locals if they know of any properties available. Places available for rent may also have signage up on the property, which is often a white or yellow sticker with the word enoikiazetai (for rent) written in red.
Many people in Greece prefer posting their properties online and in local newspapers as opposed to estate agents. While most ads are in Greek, there are some in English.
Factors to consider for house-hunting in Greece
The current buyer’s market makes for great bargains, but also means that expats have to carefully evaluate their reasons for buying real estate in Greece. The conventional wisdom that property is a good way of making a profit no longer necessarily holds true. Expats moving to Greece should buy a home because they want to live there, not because they want to make money off of it.
While the price of buying property has fallen, so has the cost of renting in Greece. This means that, should expats want to rent their homes out at some point, they may only see a return on their investment in the distant future. At the same time, it also means that it's a good time to find affordable property to rent. However, affordability is relative, and prices fluctuate depending on the area in which the property is located. It is also worth noting that different regions may have their own regulations regarding real estate.
Some of the most expensive real estate in Greece is located in Athens suburbs such as Kolonaki, and on islands frequented by tourists such as Santorini, Crete and Mykonos.
While everybody’s real estate priorities are different, choosing a respectable area within one’s budget is a good start. Especially when buying, expats should consider the general condition and age of the property they are considering, particularly as this affects property tax.
Expats looking to stay in Greece for a short period might want to consider renting. On the other hand, expats who can afford to purchase property that is of a certain value may be attracted by the prospect of getting a resident’s permit in return.
Renting property in Greece
For long-term rentals in Greece, expats should be prepared to pay a deposit of between two and three months’ rent. This should be returned when the lease has expired, as long as there is no damage to the property. As a result, doing an inventory of any damages upon arrival might save a tenant’s deposit.
According to law, residential lease agreements have to cover a minimum of three years, although, if a shorter period is negotiated, this will apply to the landlord and not the tenant. Generally speaking the longer the lease, the lower the monthly cost.
It is important that expats fully understand their contracts and should hire someone to independently translate any agreements written in Greek before they sign.
Utilities in Greece
Expats wanting to buy property in Greece need to get a tax identification number, known as an AFM, which also enables access to basic amenities such as water, gas and electricity.
For short-term rentals, utility accounts are most often billed to the landlord. For long-term rentals, the tenant may be held accountable for their own utilities. In these cases, Greek landowners may require non-Greeks to pay a deposit to cover future usage.
Buying property in Greece
Buying property in Greece can be painfully complicated. Historically, property boundaries have been poorly laid out and ownership records have been poorly administered. There may be several contending claims to ownership of a property, or a part of it. Legal wrangling over a tree, for example, is not unheard of. Hopefully, as the Greek National Land Registry becomes digitised, this will improve, but as with so much in Greece this is likely to take time.
Greek law generally requires the purchaser of a property to hire a lawyer to oversee proceedings. A civil engineer is also hired to ensure that the house is entitled to electricity and water connections, and that the land being sold is actually part of the property. The price of a public notary (known as a simvoleagrafos) should also be included in any calculations when buying real estate, which usually costs around two percent of the purchase price.
This is a good idea in any case, and avoids potential complications, such as not having legal access to amenities or having the government build a road through one’s property. Expats may also want to get a Greek friend to talk to neighbours about land disputes in the area.
Property tax in Greece
Almost everybody owning property in Greece has to pay real estate taxes to the government, regardless of nationality. The amount of tax depends on where the property is located, how big it is and how old it is. Newer homes in Greece are subject to more property tax than older homes.
Add-ons to a house also increase the amount of property tax one has to pay, and non-Greek citizens have to pay a swimming pool luxury tax, based on the pool’s size. Although, many people declare their pools as "water collecting deposits" to avoid paying. Lastly, it is highly recommended that expatriates in Greece hire a tax expert to assist with their tax returns.