One of the things I’ve observed here in Greece is that there is a great mistrust of people, businesses, and those involved in making deals. At first, I thought it was odd – while back in Canada, we’ll do things to protect ourselves from fraud or someone not acting in good faith, mistrust here in Greece is much deeper. When we ordered the heating fuel last year, several in the family showed up to make sure the oil company didn’t overcharge and to ensure every drop that was charged for was put into the oil tank.
I thought it was a bit of an over-reaction – and in fact, the oil company appeared to be very honest and even did a quick inspection at no charge of the heating system and made same recommendations regarding maintenance.
On the other hand, I’ve now had a number of experiences which show that there are good reasons for Greeks to mistrust other Greeks, and if you want to come to this country with the idea of purchasing land or a house, or do other business, you’d best think twice about it for many reasons. First, there is the insane bureaucracy you will have to go through. The really dumb regulations are a huge hindrance. Then there are the additional fees and taxes.
Real Estate is very strange here in Greece – and I’ve even experienced real estate agents outright lying to me. Now, a new major disappointment that shows behaviour that includes the utter disregard for one’s word, the concept of “good faith,” and may even include what we would see in other countries as a gross and unacceptable violation of ethical standards.
We Agree On A Price
I had my eye on a small plot of land near the town of Atalanti in Central Greece for quite some time, after I heard the owner had it up for sale. It took some time, but I found out the asking price. Inquiries I made indicated that it was at the high end of what someone might pay for such a piece of land, but I decided to accept the price and work on purchasing the land, about October 2020.
The seller was a relative to a family member here.
There were various things I had to do including obtaining a tax number from the Greek government. This in itself was not easy as no one would answer the phone or respond to emails at the tax office in Nea Ionia. Finally, when I was able to get to their office, the second COVID lockdown was beginning to be put into place, and the office staff simply waved me away and pointed at an email address.
When I sent an email to the email address, an official Greek government domain, the email bounced back with the message, “mailbox full.” It took about another month to finally get things figured out, get an appointment at an office downtown (I think it was) in Athens, to carry through with the process.
During this time, we were in touch with the seller and everything from their perspective was fine. However, the seller was fearful of the COVID pandemic and did not want to go through with the next phases to make the deal official until lockdowns had eased up.
Several times we were in touch with the seller. Nothing had changed as far as anything to do with the price, or the deal we had with them. In May, we were in touch to make arrangements for the next steps.
At that time when we were back in touch to try to finalize the deal, I agreed to pay for a land survey that apparently needed to be carried out. We made the appointment and drove the approximate 2 hours drive to the village the field is located near.
I paid the civil engineer the fees he required to carry out the survey. This would not normally be an expense of the purchaser, but for several reasons I agreed to do this including the fact the seller was elderly and did not want to make the drive to the village herself. I also thought that if this is what it would take to get the deal finalized, I’d be willing to do that.
We received the results of the land survey from the civil engineer in the second week of June. Contact was made with the seller, and there was one thing that she needed to do, and we could then go ahead and make an appointment with a “notary” (some weird thing here in Greece – they are not lawyers, but their job is to write contracts between buyers and sellers of real estate property).
Everything Is Good To Go
This past week, the seller contacted us to say that she was pretty sure everything was good to go as far as the sale and purchase of the land. The document she was required to obtain was at the post office and just needed to be picked up – we could probably make an appointment with any notary that we could find (the first one we had contacted said they could not do the needed service until September!).
At this point, I was getting pretty excited about the whole thing; it had been a long process, made more difficult by COVID regulations. But at least I could see some light a the end of the tunnel, especially after some very disappointing experiences in trying to get some things done with other goals in mind, in Greece.
The Price Goes Up 66%
This afternoon, my Greek companion came down the stairs and started speaking to me in a very agitated manner. I had no clue what she was talking about, and told her to slow down, start over… “what’s wrong?”
Finally she said to me, “Ian you are right. This country is f**ked up and so are too many Greeks. The bitch has now said we need to pay another 2,000 Euros for the land.”
My heart sunk. And under my breath, I muttered, “F**ken Greece…. this country will always be a big fat mess.”
No Concept Of Good Faith
I swear so many Greeks have absolutely no concept of what we call “Good Faith” in negotiations or business deals. There is so much fraud, dishonesty, and trying to “trick” people including with deceit. I’m not wanting to paint all Greeks like that, because they are not; the problem is however, there are far too many in Greece who seem to think this is normal and acceptable behavior.
But it gets worse in my opinion.
Major Ethical Breach
Remember I mentioned I paid the civil engineer in Atalanti to do the land survey? We drove up to the village, pointed out the land to him and paid him for his services. It was apparently him that later was in contact with the seller and advised her to ask for money. Or something. I don’t know the whole story yet, and I’m requesting clarification from the civil engineer in regard to his involvement with this, and why he would get involved when I paid him, and I am his client.
The whole thing is ridiculous – and utterly shameful that it exists in what appears to be a great many Greeks’ mind that this acceptable way of doing business. The price I agreed to pay was the seller’s asking price, and it is a more than fair price based on both other values in the area, and the opinion of others who buy and sell land.
But suddenly as we are about to sit down and make the deal come to reality, this happens. It’s pathetic, it’s pretty disgusting, and right now, I don’t want to even spend another dime in this country. I’ve had too many of these bloody stupid experiences that in any other 1st world country would be seen for what they are: Unethical and outright immoral.
In many ways, Greece is a pathetic and backward country that doesn’t even deserve the term “Armpit of Europe.” So often, when I’ve pointed out practices here that are just weird, or even corrupt, I get replies like, “well that’s the way things are done in Greece,” or “Well, the Greek sun makes it worthwhile.”
Neither excuse is acceptable for a country that thinks it should do better in the world, and where such horrible and unethical practices are not shamed outright.
My companion’s parents have gone “to bat” for me – which I appreciate. At the same time, if there is not a positive outcome, I will be naming names including the seller and the civil engineer in Atlanti, and am looking into whether the professional organization that governs his profession has a “Code of Ethics” that it requires its members to adhere to. But maybe they are corrupt as well.
It should be noted that this land was up for sale with the asking price that I agreed to pay in full, since before August 2019.
Recently, even one of the real estate agents I had been dealing with admitted to me that Greece is like a third world country when it comes to agreements, sales, purchases, and trust. He recounted his own recent experience with a seller who advised of a price they wanted for a commercial building in Athens. The agent apparently found a buyer. Then suddenly, the seller decided they wanted 300,000 Euros more for the property.
It’s honestly pathetic here. Such a waste of time and effort to try to make an honest deal, only to have this crappy and unethical ways that seem to be strong within Greek culture as “normal.”
Have you had poor experiences in Greece with either business, or trying to invest in property or real estate? Leave a comment below.
Update: A Family War In Greece?