Greek Real Estate: Buying and Renting
renting we will go, a renting we will go
So youíre safely in your hotel room after an awful flight pondering how to find an apartment and stay for a while. There are very many suitable places to rent catering to all tastes and wallet sizes; however, the question remains: where do I start? One attempt would be to ask the receptionist if he/she knows anything and the answer you probably will get is something like,ĒOh yes, I have an uncle who knows a friend whose cousin has a neighbor who has some very nice apartments for rent. Is it just you or your wife as well?Ē Here donít be sassy and reply something like: ďJust me. Iím divorcing my wife tomorrow morning, but I do have four dogs, three cats, a King Cobra snake named Elvis, and of course Arnold.Ē (Heís the baby pig in that big suitcase the bell boys had so much trouble with getting it up the stairs this morning.) If you say that it will elicit a response such as,ĒNo apartments. available anywhere in Greece. High season you know.Ē Donít bother reminding him/her it is February. In other words if there is anything weird about you (like owning a snake, pig or any bird larger than your fist, don't mention it.)
The next option is the weekly newspaper in English called the Athens News. Here youíll find anything you want at 17 times more than the value, but the owners are flexible. Another way is to buy a Greek paper and have someone at the hotel who is bilingual help you through it. This is a good choice. Donít bother with the receptionist if youíd mentioned Arnold or Elvis. (You can also e-mail me and I can assist you. Yes I will charge you but I guarantee I can find you something for less than you can find on your own and maybe even negotiate the price down.)
So youíve done all this and with the help of someone, jotted down some addresses and names and are ready for the adventure. The following 7 steps and precautions will guide you through.
Step 1) Location. Like any major city, Athens has its high class areas and low, and that dictates the quality of life as well as the cost. For example, if money is not an issue, areas such as Kolonaki (must own a perfumed poodle with a bow to walk the streets here) Glyfada, Voula, Faliron, Kavouri, all in the southern suburbs by the sea (must own or rent a Mercedes or BMW 9000 turbo special edition, to drive there) or Kifissia, Ekali, northern suburbs, (they are easily recognizable as there is a sign before the town lines NO ENTRANCE IF WEARING WALLMART CLOTHES) then these areas are for you. By the way, Syntagma and Plaka are almost as expensive too, but you can get better deals. If you are like the rest of us youíll get a decent apartment for a fair price in all other areas like Pangrati, Thission, Koukaki, Makrianni, Ellisia, Goudi and Zougrafou. Stay as close to the center as you can , except for the areas mentioned above, as youíll need public transport. If they go on strike, which is quite often, then Arnold and King Cobra will be very annoyed. Walking on Greek sidewalks is not always a pleasant experience for pigs and snakes. Avoid at all costs low income areas such as Kolonos, Egaleo, all areas leading to Pireus, Peristeri, anything within 470 miles of Lenorman Street or any street beginning with an ďLĒ.
Step 2) Landlord/Landlady. 99% of the time itís a landlady. The men are out doing a real job like bringing home the bacon, (no offence Arnold), so dealing with her may be entertaining to say the least. Do not be offended if upon meeting she looks you over from your head to your shoes while sheís shaking your hand. Sheís just wondering if you need a haircut (she has a cousin who is a barber) or new shoes (her nephew just opened up a shoe store and business is lousy) In reality itís just her feeble way of getting a more complete or rounded picture of you. Itís really quite innocuous. You will find later on after she serves the tea or ouzo with some snacks that she, along with most Greeks, is very hospitable. She may even give a little treat to Arnold and The King. (Just kidding. Leave them at the hotel.) So after youídecided you like the place and she likes you whatís the next step?
Step 3) Money. The lease is usually and by law 3 years. However you can have it for a longer or shorter time with mutual consent as long as itís in writing. In the beginning you pay three rents. That is two rents for security and one rent for the month you will be staying effective immediately upon signing unless another agreement is reached. Warning: A short term lease will be much more expensive than a 3 year one. Also beware that a furnished apartmentis more expensive than an unfurnished one. Furnished usually means : washer, fridge, beds, tables, chairs. In some instances she could include a t.v. stereo, snake pit, etc.
Step 4) Responsibilities. By law, if you havenít paid your rent, she has the right to evict you after 3 consecutive non paying months. The security of two months that you have given her and supposed to get back when the lease is up, could be confiscated. She wonít take Arnold as a substitude for money. Now if it were a lamb and Easter was approaching, it would be a different story. The landladyís responsibilities include: fresh coat of paint; repair leaky faucets; fix windows that donít open; put window in if not there; cover hole in the wall where window should have been with the aid of a painting. The same applies for a leaky roof. In the case of no roof, do not accept her suggestion of giving you 52 umbrellas for the time being, unless it is stated in the lease. In other words, amendments to the lease overide the original lease. These changes are made only upon mutual agreement.
Step 5) Additional expenses. The electric and water bill is paid by the tenant. Even though the bills are under the landladyís name, you must pay for them. The more electricity you use the higher the bill. Donít worry about water, itís very cheap in Greece. Conversely telephone costs are very high and is a touchy subject with landladyís . See it her way; what if you make hundreds of calls to Australia and make a getaway during the night leaving her with a 2.000 euro phone bill? It is grounds for divorce from the landlord who works so hard bringing in the bacon. (Sorry again Arnold, no pun intended). So she may ask either you give her more deposit/security or put the bill under your name which is better for both parties. The landlady is responsible for heat, unless stated otherwise in the lease. Heating oil is expensive so this is added on to the common expenses that everyone in the apartment block must pay. The bigger your apartment, the more you pay. There are some apts. That donít have heat. In this case the expenses are low. Some have no elevator, lower yet. Some have no cleaning lady either. If you find an apartment like that then you pay no common expenses whatsoever; but who wants to live that way? King Cobra gets very irritable when heís cold and might do nasty things.
I hope this helped clear up a few things. Now read Section 2; Buying an Apartment or House/Land in Greece.
Dorian Kokas gives advice and helps foreigners cut through bureaucratic red-tape in Athens. See his website at www.athensguide.com/dorian