Buying Real Estate In Greece

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abandoned house in loutsa greece
Abandoned House In Loutsa, Attica, Greece

I woke up a bit grumpy. Then we headed to the real estate agent’s office in Loutsa, Greece. I ended up becoming even more grumpy after driving almost an hour to look at some houses for sale.

“He’s only going to show us one house,” my companion said to me, as we sat in front of the real estate agent’s desk. He apparently knew English, but did not speak with me in English. Only in Greek to my companion.

“Just one house?” I asked quite loudly. “We drove all this way to just seen one house??”

Looking at real estate is not quite the same as in North America. There, you select a real estate agent for an area, and if you like and trust him or her, you stick with them, after explaining what you are interested in. That apparently does not happen this way in Greece.

The appointment with the agent had been made a week before, and my companion had related to the agent what we were interested in, and had even emailed him links of houses for sale that we had found on a real estate website. We were given no indication that we were only going to get to see one house.

The agent heard my question and apparently understood it. I then heard him replying to my companion in a loud and angry sounding voice, although I’m not often sure if someone is angry when I hear Greek being spoken. Sometimes, I think there is a disagreement going on, when in fact it’s apparently just a normal conversation.

I asked my companion if the real estate agent was arguing with her. She replied “No,” but I later found out she was not telling the truth; she did not want me to know that indeed he was being difficult in case I just walked out of the office. I actually felt pretty close to doing just that.

We ended up though, looking at four houses.

Real Estate Agents Only Show Their Own Listings

What I would later discover is that real estate agents in Greece will only show their own listings. In other words, if you want to look at several houses, you must call each listing agent to make arrangements. I was dumbfounded when I heard this. Why this wasn’t told to us earlier, I have no idea, but perhaps it was just expected of them, and expected we would know that.

So, when we showed up at the office of the agent, although we had prepared to spend the entire day, looking at up to ten houses, we only saw four. Not only that, the agent didn’t really seem to have much interest in knowing what we were looking for, and not once did he ask us what we might have liked, or what we didn’t like about the houses we did see. And it was like pulling teeth for him to even consider showing us more than one house.

The one he wanted to show us was pathetic as well, and nothing close to what we had told him we were interested in.

Followed The Agent As He Rode His Motorbike

After the situation at his office, and finally agreeing to show us more than one house, we ended up following the real estate agent around the town while he rode his motorbike. We were in our own vehicle.

In the past, when I’ve been in the market for houses in Ontario, the real estate agent offers their own car to drive to the various properties and you have conversations in the car about what you are looking at, or what you have seen. I found it extremely weird that we were following the guy around as he lead the way on his bike.

Yes, There Are Inexpensive Properties In Greece – But…

There is much said about the inexpensive real estate available in Greece. And for sure, if you are in a big city in North America, or perhaps other parts of Europe, you can definitely get homes that are comparatively inexpensive. But, back in Canada, in other areas, for example Nova Scotia or New Brunswick, you can get a heck of a lot more for your dollars or euros than in Greece.

For around $100,000.00 Canadian equivalent, we saw homes that did not even have a shower inside the house, were pretty tiny overall, and not something I’d want to live in. Perhaps they could be fixed up and made into a nice vacation home to stay at for a period of time, but to live in full time?

Another thing one needs to watch out for is that there are quite a few properties for sale, and they appear to have a great asking price, but they are not “legal” houses. What that means is that you could plunk down the money, but next year, the municipality could, apparently from what I was told, order it removed for some reason. There are a lot of houses in Greece that were not built according to the Municipal “plan” and therefore are not actually legal.

Abandoned Houses

There are also a lot of abandoned houses in Greece. One has to wonder about the real estate market when there are actually so many that have been abandoned and no one wants them. Many of these abandoned houses are for sale, and you can get them pretty cheap, but expect to do an awful lot of work both inside and out to make it anything close to livable.

Three of the houses we eventually saw were not lived in, but were not exactly in an abandoned condition. One house was being rented, and at first, we were told we could only view the outside of it – how we were supposed to make a serious consideration of a house by only looking at the outside was beyond me, but apparently this was pretty normal. We did however, get to view the inside when the tenants saw us looking – it was nice of them to invite us in.

Most Houses Have Not Much Of A Yard

If you’re used to a nice private backyard, expect to pay a great deal in Greece. The vast majority of houses that I have seen have very little “plot” as they call it. The largest “plot” size we saw was 250 square metres, and that was gigantic compared to the others. While some of the houses are listed as having a “garden,” basically it’s about the size of a few plants. The rest of the plot is concrete or stone. No grass.

And you won’t have much privacy from your neighbours. At least if you buy in a town.

What You Need If You’re Not A Greek Resident

Somehow, you will need to acquire a “Tax Number” in Greece. My research indicated that because I am a citizen of another EU nation, it should have been pretty simple to get this as long as I presented an EU passport. But you have to understand the bureaucracy in Greece – and be prepared for that. The Tax Office in Nea Ionia does not have great hours for one thing; it’s only open until 2:30pm Monday to Friday.

The Covid pandemic has probably made things worse – we actually went to the Nea Ionia tax office and were met by two women and a man staffing the office – who simply pointed me to a sign on the wall outside of the office door that had an email address on it. They wouldn’t discuss my inquiry with me (or the three people in front of me).

When I returned from the tax office, I sent an email to the address on the sign and received an auto-reply that my message had been received. More than two weeks later, I’m still waiting to hear back.

But we don’t even know for sure that this is the process as an accountant in Greece had told me that I also needed to get some kind of residency status before I could get the tax number. But I think he was incorrect on this point.

Following up with the government in Greece is pretty much impossible. They don’t even answer their phones.

Cheap Real Estate – Wrong Area

As mentioned, you have to be aware of real estate that appears very cheap and affordable, but the house is not “legal.” Another thing you have to watch out for is being in “the wrong area.” I actually did see a house that I was very interested in – it was quite large and on an extremely large plot of land, outside of a municipal area, but when I inquired about it, was told, “No – that area is full of gypsies. That’s why it is so inexpensive.”

My experience thus far has been pretty discouraging. Perhaps yours might be different if you’re looking for a home to purchase in Greece. You’ll find some prices that are strange as well – sometimes there does not seem to be rhyme or reason for how a property has been valued – and from what I’ve read, real estate agents in Greece don’t really work together. Instead, they ask the owner of a house that wants to sell, what price they are looking for – and list it for that.

Be prepared for pretty tiny homes – compared to what you might find elsewhere. Whereas you can get an 1800 square foot house that needs no work, and on an acre or more of land in Nova Scotia for less than $100,000.00 Canadian, the same price in Greece will get you something about 700 square feet on a tiny plot. And probably will need a great deal of work.

The agent that we met with as well would not see us during an evening of the week. We had to go during the day on Saturday. The reason? The houses (except for the one being rented) had no electricity turned on – so we needed to see the house during daylight hours. That of course made it pretty hard to actually see everything.

Real Estate Agent Commissions In Greece

I don’t know if this stands for all real estate agents in Greece, but we were told by the one we met with that the commission was in addition to the sale price of the house. In other words, 3% was payable to him by the buyer upon sale of the house. He also asked my companion to sign a form that apparently states that if we purchased a house he had shown us, he was entitled to the commission.

Oddly enough, you will probably find houses for sale that are listed with more than one real estate agent. Sometimes, they will even have a different asking price. We saw quite a few houses on real estate websites that had as many as three different listings, each with a different price and different agent.

If you’re interested in the so-called “inexpensive” real estate that Greece has to offer, be prepared for a long and frustrating search. It won’t be the same type of process as it is in North America and understand that you might actually have to visit with many different agents, even in the same area, to find what you are looking for.

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