By Lynn Roulo

More and more people are considering buying real estate in Greece, as evidenced by Rightmove Overseas highlighting Greece in the five most-searched countries for overseas investment in June 2020. Whether or not you plan to live in Greece, real estate in this Mediterranean country can be an amazing investment.

Greek real estate offers:

  • Passive Income: Tourism makes up about 20% of the Greek economy, and the Airbnb business model works remarkably well. Prior to the pandemic, I earned a solid, steady revenue stream from my two Airbnb apartments. With the pandemic, I changed my strategy to long term rentals and have maintained a stable, albeit lower, rental income stream despite the drop in tourism.
  • “Golden Visa” Residency: Greece offers a “golden visa” long-term residency option for people who purchase real estate costing over $300,000. This is the lowest golden visa cost in Europe, as Portugal and Italy offer similar visas with a $600,000 threshold.
  • Retirement in a Low-Cost Country: Because the cost of living is relatively low, retiring in Greece can make a lot of financial sense. You can leave your big mortgage behind and enjoy a comfortable life for less.
  • Real Estate Appreciation: I purchased my apartments in 2016 and 2017. One apartment has tripled in value, and the other has appreciated 20%. This is in addition to the rental income I earn from both apartments. Even today there is room for real estate appreciation in some markets. For example, the Peloponnese can offer you some attractive deals.

Do you need to be a Greek resident or citizen to purchase property? No, you do not.  However, you do need a Greek AFM (tax number). You can get a non-resident AFM number through a fairly simple procedure.

Can you purchase property without being in Greece? You need to visit Greece in person at least once to sign power of attorney over to someone local to sign documents on your behalf. Most people give power of attorney to their lawyer or a trusted friend.

If you want to explore foreign real estate investing, I’ve outlined the basic steps to purchase property in Greece.

1. Find a Property You Want to Purchase

The first hurdle is to find a property you would like to purchase. This isn’t as straightforward as you might expect. Because Greece is so relationship-based, even high-worth financial transactions run significantly more smoothly if you have an inside “friendly” contact. During my search, I met with two different real estate agencies and emailed five online real estate listings directly to set up appointments. I never heard back from any of them. Frustrated, I bemoaned my situation to a Greek friend who immediately called his real estate agent buddy and within a week, I had bid on a property. If you work through someone’s personal network, things go more smoothly. That said, if you want to get a feel for the markets or maybe even get lucky and find your place online, the portals Spitogatos and Xrisi Efkeria are in English and are a good place to start.

Some of the best real estate deals are under the radar. My housecleaner has brought me several great, unlisted opportunities. Why? A lot of the older Greek generation don’t want to do business online and do not want to use a real estate agent. Word of mouth is often the way to find the best deals if you can find a local, knowledgeable resource.

2. Agree on a Price

Markets are constantly changing, but when I bought properties in 2016 and 2017, there was still some room to negotiate the price. A real estate agent can advise you about market prices, the seller’s situation, and how much room there might be for negotiation.

3. Leave a Deposit With the Seller

A good rule of thumb for the deposit amount is 10% of the purchase price. As in all business transactions, sign a legally binding document that shows you gave the seller a deposit.

4. Start the Due Diligence Process.

You need a lawyer and a notary to complete a real estate transaction. Documents are in Greek, and the notary does a lot of the administrative work on the transaction.

  1. The lawyer checks the title of the property with the Land Registry to confirm it is available for sale.
  2. It is the seller’s obligation to get the majority of the documentation including engineering certificates, tax bills, certifications of electricity from the municipality, and so forth.
  3. Your notary and lawyer perform their due diligence and a buyer/seller agreement is drafted by the notary. This document is signed by both parties, and the transaction goes to the final stages.

5. Go to the Tax Office to Pay the Transfer Tax.

Payment of the transfer tax requires a visit to the tax office. This transaction takes several steps and several days to complete.

6. Final Signing, Funding, and Key Exchange

When the transfer tax process is complete, the transaction is ready to close with a series of closing procedures. As a final step, the contract must be registered in the Land Registry and the Ktimatologio (public registry).

How much are the fees and taxes for real estate in Greece? This varies but general guidelines are:

  • Real estate agent fees: 2% of the purchase price.
  • Notary fees: 2% of the purchase price.
  • Lawyer fees: The range can be $600 or as high a 1.5% of the purchase price for each of these fees.
  • Property taxes: The tax rate ranges from 0.1 to 1% of the assessed value. Property taxes in Greece are relatively low compared to the rest of Europe.
  • Transfer tax: As of January 2020, the transfer tax is typically 3.09% of the purchase price for the property.

While it can seem daunting to buy property in Greece, if you are working with trusted, local professionals, the transaction is likely to go quite smoothly. And if you have any general questions, I’m always happy to hear from you.

Kaloriziko—good luck in your new home!