(Editor’s note: This is Pt. 2 of a two-part series by Christina Hudson, drawn from Christina’s real-life experiences house hunting in Athens. See Pt. 1 here.)
If you have read Pt. 1 of this series, you might now be asking yourself: How do I start?
Keep an eye on the classifieds but be aware that most are placed by agencies. Scour the websites of agencies for new ads and call them if you see a listing that you like which they haven’t mentioned to you.
Remember—the squeaky wheel really does get the oil here!
Get recommendations from people you trust for agents, lawyers and so on to help you in the process. Talk to a lot of people who have gone through the process of house hunting in Athens themselves and try to get an agent who will systematically comb the listings for you and set up (on a regular basis) viewings which aren’t a waste of your time.
Some might ask for a payment to do what they will do elsewhere for free, but they should subtract it from the final fees if they do find a house for you. Until I did that, I was not getting many calls and the ones I was getting were often for places which only met a couple of my criteria.
Some ‘fun’ facts about the Greek market
Have you ever wondered what “housing cost overburden” is?
Let me tell you anyway.
The term refers to the segment of the population currently residing in households which spend upwards of 40 percent of their income on housing costs such as mortgage payments or rent plus bills and expenses.
More than 33 percent of Greek residents are encumbered with this stress!
This is the highest rate in the European Union. Bulgaria comes in second, but at less than half that percentage (approximately 14 percent). One of the reasons for the Greek phenomenon is that wages are so low in Greece, as mentioned in Pt. 1. However, if you look at other countries with similar wages, such as Slovakia and Croatia, their overburden rates are minuscule by comparison (3.2 percent and 4.2 percent, respectively).
Experts cite various reasons for this unfortunate trend, but, more importantly than those theories is the widely-held belief that the situation is not going to improve anytime soon, perhaps not even in the medium or long term.
Be prepared to spend a lot more than you would imagine if you are earning a Greek income. If you really want to live here, it will be worth it. Hopefully!
A newish phenomenon
Athens, along with much of the rest of Greece, is being looked at as an investment opportunity for many global investors (including those who wish to acquire the Golden Visa), as it slowly but surely becomes more gentrified and a more popular destination for digital nomads, an Airbnb hub and a desirable location for well-to-do pensioners from abroad to retire.
There are literally people from around the world house hunting in Athens, snapping up properties after viewing a video and talking to a specialized agent. Some are renovating and flipping them to bigger investors and others are using their investments to get the aforementioned Golden Visa and thus be able to obtain a residence permit.
The minimum investment requirement – 250,000 euros – is set to go up soon so there is also a rush to get into the market before then. All these phenomena are driving up prices and driving locals out of preciously affordable markets.
Some say this bubble will pop soon. Others aren’t so sure.
My advice? Do your research and listen to your gut ….
Quality, or lack thereof
Due to the fact that the quality and cost of rental properties are currently low and high, respectively, it makes sense to consider buying as an option, for those who can, anyway. Current fixed-rate loans are at about 4 percent (they went up at the end of 2022) but you won’t mind so much when you realize you are spending the same monthly amount to buy as you would to rent and getting equity in your house.
Truth be told, some (Greek and non-Greek) are leaving the country due to the fact that things are so out of whack on so many fronts here right now. Even those who own land and want to build are having problems because building material costs are way up and there are supply shortages.
Buying a built property makes a lot of sense now if Greece is going to be your home for the foreseeable future.
Regarding properties for purchase, I cannot say I have been super impressed by a lot of what I am seeing, to be honest. The economic downturn of the last decade is showing very clearly in terms of property maintenance (both indoor and outdoor). It is abysmally low in a too many cases, even in the more upscale neighborhoods. You might need to budget for new windows, paint jobs, plumbing and so on.
It doesn’t help that many homes and apartment buildings here are concrete based and climate change has meant less dry cold (as used to be the norm in Greek winter) and more precipitation. So, the issue of mould is rearing its ugly head both inside and on the exterior of many properties and owners are not always taking the proper steps to deal with it.
Not only is mould unsightly but it can also lead to health issues, of course. Some owners try to use the “out of sight, out of mind” method and literally try to cover up mold issues with a fresh coat of paint. Make sure to inspect carefully and investigate any suspicious spots.
Don’t take anyone’s word for it if they try to reassure you without proof.
Get ready and go
No way to do it but to do it!
Prepare to spend time and money and know that there will be bumps but if your dream home is out there, you will get it eventually.
Be sure to:
• check and double check before signing anything.
• talk with a good accountant about how to safeguard any payments you make directly to the owner because procedures are different here compared to other parts of Europe.Sometimes agents or other moderators have to hold payments until things are in place.
• proceed with caution. Ask a million and one questions— “better safe than sorry” is the motto to live by in the case of buying a home in Greece.
Καλορίζικο (may your home have good roots!) is the classic Greek wish to offer someone who is starting life in a new home.
Read more about Greece here in Dispatches’s archives.
Read more of Christina’s work here.
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.