Greek Real Estate Agents – Not Like Your N. American Agents

I wrote last October about my experiences with a Greek real estate agent in Artemida (Loutsa) and now as of May 2021, have experiences with a total of four different real estate agencies in Greece.

Let me tell you that it’s been a very frustrating experience, to say the least. In my first post on the subject, I wrote about some of the frustrations that include the fact that you can’t really engage a real estate agent for an area that you are interested in. There is no “association” like the Canadian Real Estate Association where members have access to all listings, even those from competing realtors.

For any Greeks that may be interested and are not aware of how real estate ‘works’ in modern countries, briefly if you are in the market for a new home or property, you can select a real estate agent that you trust – and for the most part, that person will have access to all the listings in their area. They may have their own listings that they are actively involved in selling, but will also be able to help you see homes for sale of other real estate agents.

If you purchase a house with the real estate agent you’ve selected, but the property is listed with another agent, they split the commission fees.

In Greece, it does not work this way at all. There is in fact, so many differences between real estate agents here compared to those in Canada, and it truly is a bit bizarre.

If you want to see houses for sale in an area in Greece, basically you go online (https://www.spitogatos.gr/ seems to be the largest real estate website), look for properties in your price range, and then note the real estate agency office(s) that has the home(s) listed that you are interested in. Sometimes, you will discover that one property may actually have more than one “agent” listing the house. There is no exclusivity here – just which ever one that shows the house, and a sale results, gets paid.

I’ve seen some properties that have had 4 separate listings, each one with a different agent.

For a buyer, this is really frustrating. If there are multiple properties you want to see that are for sale in an area, you have to make an appointment with the listing agent of the house (of course, if there are more than one, you can just pick one). What this means that if you want to see five properties, and each one has a different agent, you need to make an appointment with the five agents!

Hopefully you can find five properties you’re interested in that one agent has. Or you’re going to be spending a lot of time on the phone (email doesn’t always work here in Greece) – and trying to balance your appointments and the time you have available.

Greek Real Estate Agent Fees

So far, I’ve come across two different fee structures from real estate agents. One is as would be expected, a percentage of the selling price. The other is a flat fee. One real estate agent I had experience with has a flat fee of 1,500.00 Euros if you purchase a property he has shown you. Another wanted 3% of the sale price.

But these fees are completely borne by the purchaser and are added on to the sale price of the house. For example, if you purchase a property for 100,000.00 Euros, you will need to budget additional costs for the real estate agent that showed you the house. They are not, like most often is the case in North America, deducted from the final selling price.

The other fee you will need to be aware of are lawyer’s fees, which as far as I can tell, are calculated as a percent of the final sale price as well. Makes no sense to me – but that’s the way its done in Greece. Then, there is a required Notary fee – for someone to write up the contract. Finally, a land transfer tax.

And all this takes time. It seems a bit absurd really to be required to have a Notary write up the contract, then also have a lawyer – in Canada, there are standard and legally binding “Agreement To Purchase/Sell” contracts, that can be modified depending on the situation and any conditions that have been attached by either the buyer or seller, and agreed to by both parties during the purchase process.

Total Lack of Professionalism

I’ve now as mentioned, had experiences with four different agents. The first one I wrote about as mentioned, back in October. I really thought he was a bit off – but have now realized that he pretty much did things as any other agent here might do. Or perhaps I’ve been cursed and have had poor luck.

They do not really act like an agent might back in Canada. The last time I purchased a house in Canada, I selected an agent, let them know my budget, what I was hoping for in a new home, and went from there. She would call me if something new came on the market, would provide me advice on making an offer, and seemed to be looking out for my best interests.

Here in Greece, not a single agent has really offered advice or help, and they honestly don’t even seem to know what they are talking about sometimes.

The second agent was perhaps the most “professional” of all, but even then, we’re pretty sure he lied to us and we don’t even know if he actually presented our offer on a particular house we were very interested in.

It’s important to understand that in Greece, unlike Canada, putting an offer on a property is not a formal process that becomes part of the Agreement Of Sale/Purchase. There seem to be no such concept of conditions, such as conditional on financing, or even an idea of putting an expiry on the offer.

It just doesn’t happen that way. And it seems to be only about price. More on that shortly.

Real Estate Agent #2 Experience

After the experience with the first agent in Artemida, the second agent was like a breath of fresh air in a way. He did come across much more ‘professional’ in his presentation and readiness to show us houses. I was actually quite impressed at first, but later my opinion of him would drop quite a bit.

He is based in downtown Athens, but has offices in various municipalities apparently, including Oropos, where we met with him. We have actually had three in total appointments, each on a different Saturday. The first appointment was not too bad, but most of the houses he showed us really weren’t what we were looking for. Either too small, or “plots” that just weren’t to my liking. One house had an amazing view, but other than that was really small (although you could probably build under it) and the entire plot had been covered in marble (or something similar) tile. So there was no place to even have a garden. I’m really not into the Greek way of concreting over your entire plot in some cases. As an aside on this subject, I recently visited on house for sale; the plot size was listed as 750 metres squared – yet practically ALL of it but for a small corner had been tiled over.

No wonder flooding events are increasing… but onto the experience with the second real estate agent:

We saw perhaps five houses during that first appointment – but we really had to urge him to see another one we were interested in. He didn’t want to show it to us, claiming it was in need of too much repairs. But we insisted so he finally relented.

When we arrived, the house did not seem to be in any state of needing major repairs, but at first, we thought it was too small. The agent was agreeing with us that it was smaller than what we were looking at, and was ready to leave. I thought to take an extra look at the back of the house, and that’s when I discovered it was significantly larger! It had another door, with two rooms in what they call a “basement” – similar to what we might have as a basement walkout.

It was weird that the agent didn’t seem to want us to see it.

Why? Well, we’d later discover that the house had not been “legalized” and therefore couldn’t really be sold until it was. I have no clue why the agent would have the house listed, if it could not be sold; perhaps to make his inventory of available houses appear larger?

We actually became interested in this house (not realizing it was not legal, and the agent never offered us this information – which is one of the reasons my opinion of him began to sink).

This was the last house we’d see through this agent for the day, but we had another appointment set up for later in the afternoon with another in the same area….

Real Estate Agent #3 Experience

All I can say about this one – absolutely pathetic and bizarre experience.

We had called this agency the week before wanting to see some of the houses they had listed and thought to “kill two birds” on the same day. This was another agency in Oropos – and we had made the appointment for mid-afternoon, which would give us time to grab a bite to eat and digest what we had seen in the morning with the first agent. We had to wait about 2 hours after seeing the last house with the first one. So we hung around, walked a bit, spending time before the time of our scheduled appointment.

As our appointment time approached, we walked toward where we thought the office us, and gave them a call. We had originally been dealing with a female but a man answered the phone. He then had a very long conversation – my companion could not get a word in edgewise for much of it, and in the end, he basically told us to not even bother planning on seeing an properties with him! It was crazy.

He apparently claimed that he knew what houses we had seen with the first agent in the morning and translated to English, said, “If you didn’t like any of the houses you’ve seen, I have nothing better to show you.”

“Whaaaat??”

It turned out that this guy was sitting in his vehicle, across the road from his office, having a coffee with a friend or something – and he just couldn’t be bothered to show us houses. If I had a house listed with this guy, I’d be pretty livid. Especially with the system the way it is in Greece. I wonder if perhaps one of those houses would have been to our liking, but the poor seller will never get an offer from us simply because he couldn’t be bothered that afternoon to show us, even though we had an appointment.

I was pretty livid myself at such a poor response from this person. We had spent our time, waiting around Oropos to meet with him – but he had basically wasted our entire afternoon – we could have made other plans. I will say that I see this with other things in Greece; it seems that often people don’t really care much about someone’s time being wasted. I’m not going to say it is a “Greek” thing, but it does happen frequently and a lack of respect for another person’s time.

Real Estate Agency #4 Experiences

We actually met with the Agent #2 again, and more on that later. But we did meet with yet another agency in Oropos – and again, the total lack of professionalism was astounding to me. But at least we got to see some houses, unlike the #3 guy.

But there were several problems. First, we had spoken with a woman and had advised her of the houses she had listed that we were interested in. She told us she would also show us more that she had not even published yet, in the same price range. Sounds great!

But when we arrived at the office a week later on the Saturday morning, it was her husband and son that met with us at the office, and they had no clue what houses we had even discussed! We had to go back to the emails we had shared with his wife the week earlier, and show him.

He didn’t even know if he had keys to all the houses, and one house, they could not get a hold of the owner for permission to show the house. Turns out the owner is a singer or something and has an active night life, so they suspected she was sleeping…. but seriously, they had a whole week to set up the appointment with her.

On top of that, the husband apparently had no clue what other houses he could show us as had been discussed with his wife the week before.

Just completely unprepared and very disappointing.

So, that’s my experience with 4 different real estate agents/agencies in Greece.

If I could have spoken fluent Greek, I would have no problem letting these agents know just how displeased I was with their so-called “services” and how I felt they were wasting my time. My companion on the other hand, doesn’t see the point of letting them know and just goes along with it. But it is totally unacceptable. It’s not like we are trying to check out a 6 Euro hamburger. We have money to buy a house, and we’re dealing with many tens of thousands of Euros!

To be honest, I feel I can actually receive better attention and assistance at the Goody’s Hamburger joint, or the local bakery than from the real estate “agents” we’ve met with.

Agent #2 Follow Up Experience

As mentioned, we did see a house we were interested in with Agent #2 in the Oropos area. He advised us he had more houses he could show us, so we made another appointment with him.

The first house he took us to during the second appointment was pretty awesome and close to our budget. Roomy and with a “Strema” (1,000 sq metres) of land which is something I’m very interested in – a large enough plot to have a good size vegetable garden, and some “backyard privacy.” The house was described as being 120 sq metres. But, it was listed at 5,000.00 Euros more than our budget, but perhaps we could negotiate something.

We were so interested in it, we went back to see it a second time. But how to figure out what the owners might be willing to accept? This is Greece, and I’m told it’s all about negotiation – and when we asked for advice from the real estate agent, he told us that we should be in a low offer with the “hope” and expectation the owners would come down, and we could meet somewhere in the middle.

Now, our offer is cash. No bank loan would be needed. The real estate agent actually advised to put an offer in that was 15,000.00 Euros lower than the asking price, which personally, I thought was a bit too low.

But, it’s what he advised, so we told him to go ahead and do that.

We then called him back later, and he reported that the owner he spoke with was not happy with the offer (which is what I expected, but what do I know about real estate in Greece) as it was substantially lower than their asking price. The owner was going to consult with his siblings and then give an answer in “a few days.” As mentioned, there is no formal offer process with any conditions or expiry times on real estate in Greece. You put an offer of how much you want to give for the house, and it could take a week before you hear anything back.

This just does not happen elsewhere. Every offer is presented in writing, with any conditions attached that might include closing dates, house inspections, appliances that might stay or go, and all of this can be used to also negotiate price. Offers also generally have a condition of being required to respond within 48 hours, or the offer as provided, is off the table.

To be honest, I really have no clue if the real estate agent actually “presented” our offer. All I know is that we had to call him back to ask the next week, and he advised us that apparently, “a family member had decided” to put an offer on the house that was close to the asking price. Which we would later find out was partially bullshit. And a bit unbelievable. Imagine a house being on the market for a year – you put in an offer, and suddenly out of the blue, some family member wants to make their offer to buy the house, even bypassing the real estate agent.

Now this is a house that has been on the market for over a year, and we’d later find out, also unoccupied for about 20 years! Although, it was certainly in better shape than many of other unoccupied houses we’d seen.

To Greeks, this might seem pretty normal. In fact, there are lots of houses here that have been listed for sale for a year or more… I’ve seen some originally listed 4 and 5 years ago! And the asking prices have never been reduced.

About a month later after the agent telling us that there had been this out of the blue family member offer on the house, I noticed it was still apparently available and listed for sale, so I had my companion call the agent to inquire about the offer he had told us about – was the house still available? He advised us, “What a surprise! That original offer fell through. They could not get a bank loan.” He then went on to tell us that it was not really a family member, but in fact was a couple that had been shown the house the same time we were there the first time.

So right there, some bullshit from him.

I thought that maybe it would be best to see if we could meet with the present owners, forget about a long drawn out negotiation, and talk to them – and see if there was something we could with all expenses including the legal and real estate agent fees coming in at a total of 5,000.00 Euros under their asking price.

If the real estate agent had agreed to reduce his fee to help make this happen, they owners would have received perhaps about 7,000.00 Euros less than their original asking price.

The meeting was set up, I explained our position and that I wanted to see if there was anything we could do to make a deal happen. There was a flurry of Greek conversations going on which I could not understand, but in the end, there was no deal.

They claimed they needed to stick with their asking price. And that was that.

So here we have a house on the market and up for sale for about a year, and yet they would not budge in their price, even a little.

A couple of days later, as I wanted to send the listing link to my brother, I loaded the listing and was a bit stunned by what I saw – suddenly, this house “grew” 25 sq metres to 145 from 120, and the price had been increased 5,000.00 Euros!

I suppose the original size could have been a mistake, but after meeting the owners, and seeing how detailed one of them was, I really doubt she would have allowed the listing to have such a big mistake for over a year. Perhaps one should take their own measuring tape with them when they view houses for sale, in Greece.

Sale listings have no floor plans or drawings like many do in Canada. They also don’t provide an actual address – probably real estate agents fear that if they did that, potential buyers could find out who the owners are and bypass the agent.

Not Legalized Real Estate

I truly don’t understand this part, but so many houses in Greece are “not legalized” – something to do with being built “outside the city plan.” Yet they have been lived in, have water and electricity hooked up, and even appear to have land borders.

But they cannot be easily sold. I’ve heard stories where a tourist might find a house they love, for sale, and it seems very inexpensive, hand over money without getting legal advice, and then discover the house isn’t actually saleable as it has not been “legalized.”

Sometimes, the house is legalized, but the land it sits on is not. Apparently what this means is that if the municipality ever felt a need to build a road and needed the land a house was on, it could simply take that land. It’s a bit weird.

In many cases, the risk is pretty low of having the land taken.

I mention this, because I reported that during the first visit with agent #2, we saw a house that we had some interest in, that the agent seemed unwilling to show us. Recall he said it needed much in repair.

We did not know it at the time, that it was not legalized, and had asked to see it a second time. When we did, it was not with the first agent, but one of his associates, who did not even know this house existed! It was funny because, this associate was trying to point to us that it was “more solid” than the other house we were interested in…. so here we have the first one trying to tell us it needed costly repairs (which certainly were not visible to us), and this second one claiming something entirely different.

Greek Real Estate Is Very Messy

If you’ve made it this far, you might have a sense that real estate in Greece is very messy. In my conversations with some Greeks though, many of them don’t seem to realize it. Everything to my eyes and experience though, is just weird. Even how properties are valued; it is hard to understand why one property is priced the way it is, while a comparable property close by could be quite differently priced.

One might think that the owners simply have a figure in mind that they want, and are prepared to leave the property up for sale for years at the price they want, regardless of whether it will sell or not. Which is also bizarre to me.

The owners that we met with did explain to me in English that this had been their parents home, and they could have sold it 20 years ago for a significantly higher sum that today and admitted “that was not very clever of us.”

But I don’t see the cleverness of risking a house being on the market for yet another year (which is very possible here) over 7,000.00 Euros. It makes no financial sense to me. We’re offering cash, no requirements to be approved for a bank loan, and they could have their money in a month. Instead, they are sticking to their asking price, even though in this market, it could sit for another year or more. I don’t understand the psychology or the financial thinking behind this.

The fact that you need to visit with multiple agents if you are interested in a variety of houses is very inconvenient and inefficient. A big time waster, and combine that with the fact that in many cases, where houses are not occupied, you must visit them during daylight hours as their electricity is turned off. So right off the bat, your time is limited as to when you can actually visit houses you are interested in which is another issue that can extend the frustration and time it takes.

Many people suggest that house prices in Greece are cheap. I cannot compare them to other parts of Europe but I can compare to parts of North America, and in that regard, for what you actually get and compare asking prices, there are (or were) far better deals in many parts of N. America. Leave out the big metropolitan areas, of course.

As an investment, I’m not sure Greece real estate can be a serious place unless you’re looking at very high priced, and very fine properties, very close to desirable areas near the sea.

Consider the fact that there are many many unoccupied homes for sale – they are not even available for rent – and there are not many in the market to rent them. And consider many of these same houses have been listed for sale a year, and sometimes many years!

I realize that due to COVID, real estate prices in Canada have suddenly gone crazy – but in October, I was looking at many parts of Canada, and what I could get for $70,000.00 CAD (equivalent of 47,000 Euros) was pretty amazing on the East Coast, or other rural areas of the country, compared to similar prices in Greece. Much of it is just junky in Greece, yet in Canada, you could get a pretty decent home (1200 sq foot and up) and even with 2 acres of land in many parts of the country for between 70 and 100 thousand dollars, back in October.

Perhaps my comparisons are not “fair,” this is Europe of course, but I am comparing to what I could (or could have) get back in Canada for the same euro/dollar amount.

Abandoned Houses Galore

Another reason to be doubtful of Greek real estate as an “investment” is the number of outright abandoned properties. There are so many of these. If there are so many abandoned, and much of the current stock has been on the market for a very long time, thinking that you can buy a property here and that it might go up significantly in value is likely a far-fetched idea.

To buy in Greece at this point, you really have to like the property and want to live in it or have some ideas for it immediately. After seeing so many properties that have been available for not just some months, but some years in cases, being able to sell your Greek property if for some reason you need to, won’t be a guaranteed thing.

That’s something to really think hard about. If you purchase a property in Greece, you literally could be waiting years before anyone will come along and make an offer that is acceptable to you, if you want to sell. There are so many of these properties on the market that have been up for sale for literally multi-years.

You Can’t Really Choose A Real Estate Agent If You Are Buying

As those who have purchased real estate elsewhere, one can find an agent they trust and even purchase properties that the specific agent does not have listed, but is listed with someone else. This gives a sense of being able to choose who you want to work with and who you might trust when in the market for a property.

In Greece, this is not really possible. If there is a house that you are interested in, you pretty much must go through the agent that has the house listed even if you do not trust or like them. And certainly there were two agents out of the four that I’ve met with that have acted in such a way to cause me to totally mistrust them.

Which sucks for the owners of any the houses that have chosen either of those agents. Sucks for everyone, really.

You might be able to bypass the agent if you can find out who the sellers are – but in Canada, and other parts of the world, this would be seen as unethical – so hard for me to even think about – as it is simply against my values.

But ethics in real estate seem to be in short supply here in Greece. How to fix that? I have no clue. I don’t think it is through more government regulation; regulations often encourage other behaviours that were unintended.

There is just much weirdness here.

To end this with an observation of just how weird it can be: I recently saw an add for a olive tree for sale. I am not kidding – the olive tree was for sale but the land the olive tree was on, was not for sale! I would like to think it was a joke, but I don’t think it was.

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