Buying property in Greece as a foreigner

25.07.17
6 minute read
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If you’re looking for a land blessed by the gods, rumor has it Greece is the place. With an incredible Mediterranean landscape in conjunction with rich historic and cultural significance, Greece is a destination for many tourists, travelers and expats.

Whether you’re moving to Greece to enjoy life in Athens, Thessaloniki, Patrai or anywhere in between, you’ve probably considered buying property on the island nation. Property ownership in Greece is incredibly common-- some 80% of residents own their homes thanks to a strong culture of family and inherited property. Despite the large number of “taken” homes, however, there’s still plenty of opportunity to snap up a little piece of paradise as your own.

If you’re ready to take the plunge on Hellenic property, this guide will walk you through everything you need to know about buying a home or land in Greece.

What’s the property market like in Greece?

It’s no secret that the Greek economy is in a bad state-- after a major crash in 2009, the nation has struggled to regain footing. That being said, the economy is slowly growing; predictions show a 2.7% increase for 2017 and another 3.1% in 2018.

The housing market, however, is showing a significantly slower recovery. Property prices have dropped by nearly half since the market’s peak in 2008, though the ongoing downward trend seems to be slowing. According to the Bank of Greece, the reported .46% drop in prices was actually a .03% increase when adjusted for inflation. The number of real estate transactions, however, remains abysmal, maintaining a 72% decrease since 2008.

Through a wider lens, it’s clear that the housing market is on the uptick, though prices are expected to increase by just .6% per year. While the allure of cheap property may be tempting, it’s important to recognize that with the state of Greece’s economy property as an investment is still an incredibly risky move.

To enjoy the island life, however, it’s a great time to grab real estate at all-time low prices.

Can foreigners buy property in Greece?

Yes, however it’s easier for some than others. While EU residents will run into almost no restrictions purchasing property on the islands, non-EU residents will need to prove both their connections to the country and their intent for property use. This application is made to the Ministry of National Defense, and mostly involves submission of documents and proof of use intent.

What’s the approximate cost of different properties in Greece?

The cost of property in Greece is largely dependent on the type of property and where you’re looking to buy. This table will give you a general idea of prices in various areas.

Location Property Type Cost
Mykonos 4 BR 4 Bath Beachfront House w/ Pool €750,000
Thessaloniki 2 BR 2 Bath Apartment €20,000
Thessaloniki 3 BR 2 Bath House €250,000
Athens 2 BR 1 Bath Apartment €250,000
Athens 4 BR 4 Bath House €1,000,000
Corfu 5 BR 4 Bath House €700,000
Corfu 3 BR 1 Bath Apartment €95,000

How can I find a property in Greece?

Property agencies and agents

Because of the nature of finding homes across islands, most property-seekers choose to use a real estate agent in their search. Many do choose to use an agent in their home country, however, this agent often then works in cooperation with an agent in Greece.

Agents are so ubiquitous, in fact, that many will help you find legal advice, insurance, decorators, contractors and other “next-steps” after the sale. It’s also possible to find an agent who will deal with construction services on your behalf, including supervising the work.

All in all, if you’re looking for support as you make your purchase and get ready to move, contracting an agent is a good idea.

Avoiding scams

As is the case anywhere, you may run into real estate scammers in your Greek property search. While the exact scams change every day, there are a few things to keep in mind to help ensure you’re not taken for a ride:

  • Never send money or a deposit before you have met the seller, seen the property or have a working set of keys.
  • Ask for an up to date property inspection. The seller should provide this.
  • Do a thorough walk through with your real estate agent with your inspection document in hand.
  • Ensure that the seller has the legal right to sell the property, i.e. they’re the real property owner.
  • Double check on your rights to the property-- if it’s designated Alpha by the Greek Government (a historic home) you may have little to no ability to make updates or changes.

Property websites in Greece

If you’re hoping to skip the real estate agent fees, your first stop will probably be online listings. Some good sites to help you get started include:

How do I choose the right property?

Property types

The most desired type of property in Greece is villas, however it’s a good idea to remember there are other options that may serve you better or cost less in the long run.

Apartments, for instance, can have sweeping ocean views and beach access, but are significantly cheaper to maintain.

That being said, there’s no type of property you can’t find in Greece- modern homes, historic villas, townhouses, apartments and plots of land are all available, depending on where you look.

Condition of the property

Realistically, buying a home in Greece should come with a lot of caution. Because may properties are historic, they require a lot of rigorous upkeep and plenty of modernizations, but thanks to the failing Greek economy many of those important updates have been pushed aside.

As such, it’s a good idea to bring your own inspector and walk through the house with them, so you can get a real idea of any problems or necessary maintenance. It’s possible to find well-kept, up to date homes on the islands, but it’s always a good idea to do your research.

What are the steps to buying a property as a foreigner?

Buying property in Greece is a pretty straightforward process, even for a foreigner. These are the steps to keep in mind as you get started.

  1. Choose where to buy. While shopping online can give you a good idea of the property itself, it can be difficult to get a real feel for the area without being there. As such, it’s a good idea to take a trip to Greece to scout where you’d like to buy beforehand, if possible.
  2. Retain an agent. If you’d rather search yourself, begin looking online
  3. Pick your property and make an offer. After choosing a property and doing your due diligence, make an offer to the seller. If it’s accepted...
  4. Get a lawyer. In Greece, it’s mandatory to retain a lawyer if your home will cost more than €12000 in rural areas or €30,000 in urban areas. It’s unlikely that you’ll be purchasing a home for less, so it’s a good idea to take this step up front.
  5. Get a notary. The notary makes or breaks the property sale in Greece; make sure all your documents are in order so you can breeze through this process.
  6. Pay your taxes. The buyer pays for the property tax transfer in Greece, which is set at 3% since 2014. Watch out, though- you won’t be able to do so without an AFM, which is like a Greek social security number. You can get one by filling out M1 and M7 tax forms.
  7. Enjoy your new property!

How do deposits, down payments, mortgages and bank loans work?

Choosing a bank

If you’re looking for a mortgage or home loan, you may struggle to do so; banks in the country have largely halted real estate lending due to the numerous “bad” mortgages they’ve already been saddled with since the market crash.

While it’s technically possible for a foreigner to get a mortgage in Greece, you may be better off working with your local bank for a loan instead. If you’d prefer to try your luck with a Greek bank, you’ll be better off at an institution you’re already banking with. Learn how to open a bank account in Greece to bolster your chances.

Deposits / Down payments

Typically you’ll be asked to pay 10% of the property’s total value to “reserve” it. You can do so with your TransferWise borderless account, or move money via TransferWise to get the real exchange rate and cut down on international transfer fees.

What kind of taxes and fees will I need to pay?

As you’re setting your total budget, it’s a good idea to recognize what kinds of fees you’ll need to pay up front. While it’s important to do your own research, these fees are some standard ones to look out for:

  • Agency/Agent fees: 1.5-2.5%
  • Notary fees: .65-1% + 23% VAT
  • Lawyer fees: .40-1% + 23% VAT
  • Public Registration fees: .5% + 23% VAT
  • Exchange rate: While this varies from bank to bank, it should be based on the mid-market rate. If you’re not getting the best rate from your bank, paying via TransferWise can fix the problem.

With that, you’re ready to become a homeowner! Good luck buying property in Greece!

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