Expat Essentials

A market on fire, Pt. 2: Navigating the murky waters of Greek real estate

(Editor’s note: This is Pt. 2 of a two-part series on Greek real estate.)

In Pt. 1 of this series, I outlined some of the background of the Greek housing market and offered some basic tips for transplants or potential transplants looking to buy or rent here in Greece.

Below, you will find more recommendations on how to navigate the sometimes deep and murky waters of Greek real estate.

Do:

Leave yourself a decent amount of time to view a good number of houses/apartments regardless of whether you are buying or renting.

Many agents have a tendency to start by showing you their harder to move stock first and they can really put on the pressure.

Sometimes this stock is harder to move because it is overpriced, has major flaws, is in a less desirable area, has hidden costs, etc. You really have to see a good number of places in order to get a sense of what’s out there.

Do:

Check for any signs of damp/mold/leaks, etc. Greek homes contain a lot of concrete and this is a common and very unpleasant (and unhealthy) problem. If there is an issue (mold or any other issue), insist that it is fixed before you sign any paperwork. Check after any work is done as sometimes professionals are not held accountable by property owners wanting to move along a deal.

If you decide to accept any housing with an issue, make sure that the problem is mentioned in the contract. This will help to prevent an owner trying to get you to pay for the problem down the line.

(It can happen and it can get ugly. Prevention is the best cure in this case.)

Do:

In a country with low wages and disproportionately high taxes, the phenomenon of “under the table” money is not at all uncommon. You might well be asked to sign a rental contract which states a lower monthly rental rate and be asked to give the rest in cash. You might even be asked to forego a contract altogether.

I would definitely demand an official contract and make sure it is put online for you to “accept” via your tax number so that it becomes legally binding for both parties.

This will offer you some protection as a tenant, such as that of the current law which states that you have the right to rent a property for no less than three years if you so choose.

Do:

Go through the house with the owner before signing a rental contract. Note any damage you see so that you won’t be charged for it later.

Many landlords consider your security deposit to be an investment in preparing the property for the next tenant. You might have to insist very strongly to get it back.

Make a clear video before you sign in order to show any problematic areas or natural wear and tear and keep the video until you dissolve your contract. Hopefully you won’t need it but you should have it as a safeguard.

Move-in checklists are not often used here but they are starting to gain traction and for good reason. If you are looking to buy a home, it is crucial that you hire both a reputable notary (who will draw up most of the paperwork) as well as a good property lawyer. Each will take a percentage of the house price – 2 percent and 1 percent respectively – in most cases.

Do note however that you can negotiate these fees at the start. You can also haggle with Greek real estate agents a bit. It should be noted that agents typically take a cut from both buyer and seller, both for rental as well as for purchase transactions.

It can be hard to find anything without an agent but if you do manage to make a private arrangement, you will save yourself a decent amount.

Ask these questions when looking at a potential home:

• What kind of heating/cooling systems are in place? Are they autonomous? If not, get the details. Also, if you are looking at an apartment/flat in a building, be sure to get specific information on how heating oil or natural gas/etc bills are calculated and split. There is no one way to do this; some buildings use inaccurate and/or complicated methods and this can become a bone of contention for many, especially if the system in place is flawed.

• What are the shared expenses (such as cleaner of common areas, gardener, elevator maintenance, etc)?

DON’T!

Don’t use online communities in which locals offer “great deals” to expats asking for housing advice or leads.

I have seen insanely elevated prices offered in these forums. Of course, a new transplant who is just getting to grips with a new language, culture, climate and so on is more likely to fall prey to scammers.

Don’t let yourself be talked into anything.

Some Greek real estate agents can be very pushy and they are also known to make verbal claims that aren’t necessarily true.

Don’t sign anything until you have read it thoroughly, no matter what any agent or current owner tells you.

Official translations are easy to obtain if necessary.

Don’t be afraid to use your Greek connections.

People everywhere like to be useful. If you have any Greek contacts, be sure to respectfully ask for advice or if they might accompany you to an important viewing or contract signing, both for moral support and translation assistance.

If you do receive any help, it is customary to buy that person a very nice gift or take them out for a meal at a very good restaurant, or something like that. Offering money might offend so, I would say, don’t do that either!

The right house is out there waiting for you!

Good luck.

___________

Read more about Greece here in Dispatches’ archives.

See more from Christina here.

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A Pittsburgher by birth, Christina T. Hudson is also half Greek and has – so far – spent most of her life in Athens, the chaotic but captivating capital city of Greece.

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