How to Buy A House in Greece
Steps in fulfilling the dream of buying a house in the Greek islands or mainland
Buying a house in Greece seems to be climbing to the top of many people's 'things-to-do-before-I-die' list. This has to do with a number of factors. First and foremost is that the whole world seems like it is falling apart and Greece seems like a good place to get away from the chaos which will inevitably occur. Maybe true but don't count on things being fine in Greece if everywhere else goes to hell. The next reason is that you have a love affair with Greece that won't be fulfilled until you own a small piece of it. (It may end it). Another reason is that you are tired of staying in hotels and want a place you can call your own that you can go to and all your stuff is there. A surprising number of people saw Greece on TV and it looked nice so they want to retire there. There are plenty of reasons to want to buy a house in Greece. Whatever the reason, and whether I think it is a good idea or not, here is a step-by-step guide to buying a house in Greece.
Step 1. Where in Greece to buy a house.
To sit at home in your country and look at Greek real estate web-sites is a great way to see what is out there and what they are charging foreigners and I recommend it. What I don't recommend is buying it sight-unseen, no matter how great it looks. I see using the real-estate web-sites like window-shopping at Christmas. You go there and see where houses are being sold and get to know the market. To really buy a house what I suggest is finding the place before you find the house. So if you know you want to live in the Cyclades islands you choose an island that suits you and spend some time there and if you can find a local misitis (real estate broker) that will show you what is available. It does not hurt to make friends and let people know you are in the market. Once you do that people start coming out of the woodwork (if they want you for a neighbor). Be prepared for disappointment. You may find the perfect house and the owner may be happy to sell to you at a price you can afford, only to come back and tell you that his granddaughter wants it for a prika (dowery) and won't let him sell it. Whether it is true or not the fact is that in Greece sellers get cold feet, or decide that if they can sell it so easily maybe they are asking for too little. Keep in mind that houses by the sea are more expensive than those in the upper village. So property in super-undeveloped Gavatha in Lesvos will cost more than a house in Antissa or Vatousa because even though they are convenient to everything else they are still a twenty minute drive to the beach. In the old days before tourism the beach property was considered useless and given to the bad sons while the good sons got the valuable farmland and town property. Then this turned upside down and the bad sons with the useless land suddenly became wealthy and powerful by selling property or building hotels. (This explains some of the weaknesses in the Greek tourist industry).
Another way to find property is to check the real estate pages in the classifieds of the Greek newspapers or the Chrisis Efkeria. If you don't speak Greek that is a problem but you can hire someone to look for you and the money you save on buying a house that is meant for Greeks, rather than one whose owner is targeting foreigners, will more than pay for this service. (See Dorian Kokas) Real estate brokers charge 2% and generally work with the buyer and the seller. For this reason having some kind of advisor on your side is not a bad idea.
Nowdays home financing is more available than in the old days when people would buy property with suitcases full of cash so if you are living in Greece get details from a bank.
Some areas of Greece are designated border areas (paramethoria periohi) and foreigners need permission to buy land here, though some people by-pass this law by buying with a Greek partner. (This can be risky for obvious reasons). If you are buying land in Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Skyros, Santorini and some of the islands off the coast of Turkey you may want to check this out.
Step 2. Getting Assistance: Protecting Yourself in Greece
The law in Greece says you need an attorney if the property you are buying costs over 12,000 euros in the country and 30,000 euros in Attica. Since it is unlikely that you will find or want to live in or on property that will cost less, this means you will need a lawyer. This is important because someone could sell you a house and not tell you that it comes with 20 crazy relatives spread out all over the globe, or that the house is designated Alpha Catagory by the Ministry of Archaeology and you can't do anything to it without their permission, or the land does not belong to the guy selling it , the house is illegal or a number of other factors. A lawyer will research the titles and make sure there are no problems and you can indeed buy the property. The cost of an attorney varies and is between you and him.
You will also need a civil engineer to make sure the land that comes with the property really does come with the property, zoning laws which tell you what you are allowed to do with the property and a number of other things.
Step 3. The Symvoliographo: Notary
According to my friend Dorian who helped me with my property the Symvoliographo is the most important person in the whole process. Notaries in Greece are actually lawyers and go through the paperwork to make sure the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed. They can make or break a sale. One they give you the OK and the house is sold the documents are sent (or taken there in person) to the relevant land registry so you can get the title. The Notary and land registration fees are about 2%.
Step 4. Paying Taxes and Fees
In Greece the buyer pays the transfer of property taxes which are between 9 and 11%. The seller pays no taxes and in fact pays nothing. You will also need a Greek tax number known as an AFM or as they say ah-fee-me. It is the rquivelant of a social security number and it is yours for life. To get this you need to fill out an M1 and M7 tax form. Non Greek residents have to designate a Greek resident to receive all communication while you are out of the country. The easiest way to do this is to issue a power-of-attorney to someone who knows how to do all this. I did mine through Dorian Kokas who basically badgered and pestered the staff in the tax office relentlessly while I just stood by like I was deaf and dumb. It took a few days but after awhile the officials were so sick of arguing with Dorian that they gave us everything we wanted. (Civil servants in Greece don't like to work so sometimes you have to use extreme measures... like Dorian).
You also need to provide within a year proof that the funds used to buy your house were legal which if you are a foreigner can be done by showing the receipts for wire-transfer. You also need to declare the property on your income tax the following year though not in all cases. You may want to check with the people you are working with to see if it applies to you since there is no point in filing if you don't have to. Property that is valued over 243,600 euro for a single person or 487,200 euro for a married couple have to file the large property holding tax called the FMAP.
So as you can see buying a house in Greece is within the realm of the possible though I don't recommend going at it alone.
As noted earlier for doing things that have to do with getting tax forms, and papers and dealing with civil servants or even checking the classifieds for you contact Dorian Kokas at www.athensguide.com/dorian