Foreign Assistance in Greece

Buying Property in Greece

Ourhouse is a very very very fine house
With paperwork so grand 
And taxmen on our land……..

By now you’ve made a fortune and are thinking of buying an apartment or land in Greece which you’ve fallen in love with. Your fiance or wife is thrilled with the idea and even King Cobra and Arnold have made friends. What now? Looking for something to buy is much the same as looking to rent; however there are many more pitfalls and quite serious ones if you’re not careful. By law, Anyone of any nationality can by property in Greece providing it’s not on any “sensitive” areas, as the Greek govt. refers to them. For EU citizens this does not apply but for the rest of the world these areas are: eastern Aegean, Dodecanese islands, northern Greece, Crete, Rhodes, and Dorian’s home in Athens. Of course these restrictions are old and take it all with a grain of sea salt. Notice that these areas are bordering Greece’s mortal enemies: the Albanians, communists, and Tito’s malevolent empire. No one has taken these laws off the books mainly because the govt. can’t afford to hire anyone to find them. One has to “slither” through dusty, yellow old books in some forgotten cellar of some ministry. Now here’s a job for our old friend King Cobra.

Below are the following things you should know.

Step 1)  Fos, nero,telephono. That means light (electricity) water and telephone. So many people, I for one, have been maliciously misled by agents selling property (land) where you can’t, by law, have any of these emenities. That is because it is outside the town planning zone.  That means it’s too far from the village or town for the local authorities to bother bringing any elec. Or water or telephone there. The landowner, this time the male, not female as is the case with renting, takes you to see it. He thinks selling it is worth one day off from bringing the bacon home. (Arnold breathed a sigh of relief) You see the majesty of the scenery, the quietness, the occasional ringing clank from a goat, and buy it. Twenty years later that’s all you have; the quietness. The goat died long ago together with your dreamhouse. How do you protect yourself? First find out if it’s in the town planning zone or just look around and see if others, if there are any others, have elec. Water and telephone. This could be misleading, though, as is usually the case the almighty “fakelaki” or small envelope containing bribe money goes over the law. Just make sure the agent or “mesiti” in Greek is honest.

Note: DEH is the electric company. It stands for Den Echo Electriki. (I don't have electricity.) The phone company is called OTE. It stands for Oute Telefono Echo (Nor Telephone I have).

Step 2)  AFM   or Ah-Fi-Me. This is the Greek tax roll number and every foreigner and Greek must have one for any kind of transaction. Contrary to what many believe and have the audacity to write, you don’t need to be living in Greece or to have a residence permit to have one. For foreigners living abroad there is one place in central Athens belonging to the ministry which issues it. It’s fast and painless.

Step 3)  Pothen esches.  This means; where the devil did you get the money from? This is a very contemporary problem in Greece and is talked about every day from street corners to t.v. news. In short, how can you be driving a Mercedes and have a beautiful villa on the beach in Rhodes when you’re only a pig farmer? (sorry Arnold)  So what do you do? First is you must have proof of  where you got the money. This can be  by showing the tax people “pink slips” ( not the ones women wear or the ones you get when you’re fired) which are the receipts you get from transfering money from one currency to another. Airports do this too. An other proof is bank statements showing transfers from your bank to a bank here. An other way is a sworn statement from your local Mafia boss stating you are fully employed as a hitman and have made “so much” in the last few years.

Step 4)  Taxes.  The buyer has to pay the transfer tax which is paid before the purchase. You also have to make a tax declaration for property tax. This varies according to the value of the property. Who assess the value is an entirely different story. What the law says and what the ntrue value is could be as far apart as a lobster meal and a pork chp. Oh no, here I go again. The law also stipulates you “may” have to pay annual tax. The word “may” is interesting as no one seems to know completely what this entails. The law goes on to say you “may” be exempt if it is your first home. Yeah right, so where were you living before, in a tent? I think they meant in Greece, but don’t be too sure.

Step 5)  Notary public or Simvoliographo.  By law a contract is needed and only a notary is authorized to do it, making this position among the most powerful in all of Greece. The notary will not authorize any sale if he/she, (it’s back to women again as most notaries are women and indeed better informed and more able than lawyers), sees something “funny” going on with the title. This 'who owns what' mischief is rampant in Greece. (I’ll tell you what happened to a very close friend and me in the next part.) Of course you pay the notary, not the seller. It is usually about 1-2% of the amount listed in the deed of the sale. This probably, once again, has nothing to do with the real value.

Step 5)  Lawyer.  Yes, Yes. The more the better.  There is no other aspect of Greek life more serious to Greeks than Property. More than any other issue, property ownership or “it’s mine not your” syndrome has resulted in the majority of  family wars, divorces, murders, arsons, manslaughter, and yes, even minor disagreements. Now to the story of my friend. I was asked to assist in the paperwork, which later turned out to be actually “creating” a title for a small house with a collapsed roof in the beautiful town in the Peloponese. He had been going there every summer for the last 12 years checking it out, cleaning a bit here and there for it was well known that he was the sole heir to the title as his father was known to have owned it. The only proof we had was a small, old wrinkled piece of paper that a former hippy out of work, former convict lawyer had kept for years. This read that my friend’s grandfather left it to his son who in turn left it to my friend. The trouble was that there were other names on that paper as well. These “other” people either were dead, or no one knew their whereabouts , and maybe don’t even know where Greece is on the map, let alone knowing about the house. With this and some smiles and “fakelakia” I proceeded to get it legalized under my friend’s name. This meant getting papers from town hall, paying the taxes, getting the ok. From the contractors, blue prints of the land and assesment of value. This done all that was left was the notary who already drew up the contract waiting for my friend to sign. A two month battle and only a minute and signature away. That minute could have been a century as it was one minute before we arrived at her office (yes the notary was a her) she received a phone call from America telling her to stop the transaction as the mysterious caller claimed the property as his. He turned out to be an uncle of my friend’s. The story spread like wildfire and soon enough another uncle and about 320 cousins sprouted out of nowhere. The end result? The house on the beach with a collapsed roof still stands today as is. Believe me my dear readers, this case is not the exception; it’s almost the rule. So Yes to a lawyer, preferably not just out of jail, to make sure the title is clean.

Step 6)  Civil engineer.  He (always a man this time) will make sure the house is structurally sound.  This is very important as Greece is prone to earthquakes, sometimes strong enough to rattle your window slightly for a second. Some old structures are so weak that even the sound of a motorbike or a car horn or some guy shouting at his cousin over land ownership, can make it collapse. He will also make sure the land is ecologically friendly to animals including Arnold and the King. They need friends too, don’t they? I mean how would they feel if they invited their friends to a house warming and they only warmth they get is from a leaky gas pipe which decided to explode. Yes, a contractor!

I sincerely hope this short guide will help somewhat with the confusion that may occur with renting and buying land in Greece.  Be sure to read Matt Barrett's article on Building or Restoring a House in Greece.  See also Real Estate in Greece.     

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