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Buying property in Greece and the Greek Islands – top tips

Greece and its beautiful islands continue to be a popular choice for holiday makers and homebuyers alike, despite not being in a great economic state. In fact, the economic downturn offers those considering buying property on mainland Greece and the Greek islands – including Corfu, Zante, Kefalonia, Lefkas, Rhodes and more – a great opportunity to bag a bargain. The property market is still recovering slowly from the 2008 crash, which means property prices are at all-time low, making buying a Greek holiday home a cheaper option than many other European countries.

With the option to grab a piece of land in Crete for as little as €7,000 to build your own home, bag a renovation project in Corfu for just €40,000 or splurge on a new-build villa with communal pool for a mere €125,000 in Zante, it’s easy to see why buying property in Greece is appealing if you’re looking for your very own place in the sun.

Before getting too excited though, when buying property in Greece you should always do your research and weigh up the pros and cons before you commit to a property purchase. Here are our top tips for things to consider when buying a property in Greece or on the Greek Islands.

Buy to enjoy, not to invest!

While Greece currently offers a fantastic opportunity to buy property relatively cheaply, if you’re looking for a short-term investment opportunity to make a quick buck it may be wise to consider investing elsewhere as Greece’s housing market is uncertain. If, however, you’re looking for a place away from home to enjoy the weather, food and culture, Greece could be the perfect choice.

That said, with more than 30 million tourists per year flocking to the Greek Islands and Greece, there’s certainly money to be made renting out your property to holiday makers. Just make sure that the property is not subject to any holiday rental restrictions before committing to a property purchase if you intend to rent your property in Greece out as a holiday let.

Research the different regions 

Although, there are many reasonably priced properties in Greece there are of course areas that are more expensive. A luxury city-centre apartment in Athens or swanky pad in Mykonos is likely to set you back £1 million plus, so don’t assume that all of Greece is cheap.

Scouring the online listings is a great place to start to get a feel for what you’re after from a property purchase in Greece (and what you can afford) but nothing compares to actually visiting the property. Pictures can be deceptive and won’t show you what the surrounding area is like. If your serious about buying a property on the Greek Islands or mainland Greece schedule a property viewing trip and get organised beforehand by contacting property professionals (such as a recommended Greek lawyer and currency exchange specialist) in advance, who will be able to offer guidance while you’re out there!

Top tip: Ask the seller/estate agent for an up-to-date property inspection and when viewing a property have the inspection document to hand.

Understand your position as a foreign buyer

Foreign buyers are very welcome in Greece as the country is keen for investment from EU and non-EU property purchasers. Currently there are very few restrictions for EU residents purchasing property in Greece and on the Greek islands. It can be slightly more complicated for non-EU residents who will need to make an application to the Ministry of National Defence to prove their connection to the country and what their intentions are for the use of the property. With the deadline for Brexit set for the 29 March 2019 (with an additional transition period of two years), depending on what your budget is and whether you intend to become a permanent Greek resident it might be worth buying before the Brexit deadline. The reason for this is that under the current negotiations both sides have agreed to maintain existing residency rights. However, this could change after Brexit!

On the other hand, if you have €250,000 or more to spend you could be entitled to a Greek ‘golden visa’, giving you all the same rights as a resident of EU-member states. Greece’s ‘golden visa’ scheme is the most affordable program in Europe, however, ‘golden visas’ are only available for non-EU citizens. So, if you’re considering investing in a property in Greece and are interested in applying for a ‘golden visa’, it may be advisable to wait until the UK is no longer in the EU.

Top tip: Double check your rights regarding the property and whether there are any restrictions. Properties that are designated ‘Alpha’ by the Greek Government (a historic home) are often subject to planning constraints meaning you may not be able to make updates or changes to the property.

Seek independent legal advice

It’s crucial that you seek independent legal advice in Greece when buying a property in Greece or on the Greek Islands from a reputable qualified Greek property lawyer. You will need to be advised as to whether there are any debts attached to the property, whether building regulations have been complied with to ensure that the property is legal, whether any restrictions or advantages for foreign property purchasers apply and much more!

It’s strongly advisable that you do not instruct a Greek lawyer that is connected to the estate agent, seller or developer as this can create a conflict of interest. An independent Greek property lawyer will protect your position and interests. Don’t sign any paperwork or pay a deposit before seeking independent legal advice from a specialist property lawyer in Greece!

Top tip: Ensure that the seller has the legal right to sell the property. It may seem obvious, but your lawyer will need to ensure that the seller is in fact the genuine property owner.

Worldwide Lawyers can put you in touch with an English-speaking independent property lawyer in Greece to assist with your property purchase. Call us on 01244 470339 or email us info@worldwidelawyers.co.uk for more information. 

Don’t lose out on currency exchange

When buying property in Greece, the purchase price will be payable in Euros, so if you’re a UK buyer the chances are your money will be held in Pounds Sterling. Therefore, the funds for the property purchase will need to be converted into Euros.

Many people assume that their high street bank will handle the payment at no charge, however, while there may not be any transfer fees, high street banks do not offer a very competitive currency exchange rate. In fact, offering poor commission rates are one of the ways banks make a lot of money at the expense of their customers!

Therefore, it is highly advisable to make the transfer through a recommended currency specialist rather than transferring the funds through your bank, as they offer a much more competitive exchange rate. Typically, using a currency specialist can save around 3-5 per cent of the transfer value when compared to the banks – which could save you thousands of pounds!

Top tip:  You should ensure you use a recommended currency specialist who is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority. 

For details of a recommended and regulated currency specialist and to discuss how they can assist you, please get in touch with Worldwide Lawyers on 01244 470339 or email us at info@worldwidelawyers.co.uk.

Do your maths

Before committing to a property purchase it’s important that you fully understand all the associated costs, so you can manage your finances accordingly. In addition to the purchase price you should budget for the following:

Estate agent fees – 1-2 per cent plus 24% VAT

In Greece it is common for the estate agent fees to be split between the buyer and the seller. Sometimes this is factored into the agreed sale price, which in effect means the buyer pays these fees.

Notary fees –  0.65-1 per cent plus 24% VAT

To complete a property purchase in Greece it must be notarised by a Greek notary public, who acts as an independent, impartial and objective advisor to all parties involved in a property purchase in Greece and ensures the legality of the contract.

Legal fees – 1-2 per cent plus 24% VAT

Lawyer’s fees are charged as a percentage of the purchase price. Greek law sets a minimum charge that your lawyer has to make for acting in a property transfer but there is no maximum.
There may be an additional cost if Power of Attorney is required and/or you need legal assistance applying for your tax number (AFM), for instance, which is mandatory when buying a property in Greece.

Transfer tax – 3.09-24 per cent

Transfer tax in Greece is charged at 3.09 per cent of the of the property value (or value of the property as calculated by the Tax Authorities, whichever is higher). However, when buying a “new build” property you pay VAT at 24 per cent instead of transfer tax. Sometimes this is included in the purchase price, when buying a new build property, so it is worth checking before making a formal offer.

Land registry fees – 0.3-0.5 per cent

Land registry fees area based on the assessed value of the property. There will also be a small additional charge for stamp duties (which is different to Stamp Duty in the UK) and certificates.

If you’re considering buying a property on mainland Greece, Worldwide Lawyers can put you in touch with reputable independent English-speaking Greek lawyers covering Athens, Thessaloniki Corfu, Zante, Kefalonia, Lefkas, Paxos, Ithaka, Kythira, Rhodes, Symi, Halki, Karpathos, Kasos, Tilos and Kastellorizo. Contact our friendly team on 01244 470339 or email info@worldwidelawyers.co.uk.

You can also download our full Buying Property in Greece Guide for more information!