Who wouldn’t love to own an apartment at the Athens Riviera, or a summer house in an Aegean island?! Paradise!
Indeed. BUT what about all the legal, tax, banking, administrative, and other bureaucratic procedures that a potential buyer might encounter.
So, brace yourself for a different journey, through which I will try to guide you, pinpointing some 'red flags.'
- The lawyer
Retain a fully trusted and specialised lawyer, experienced in assisting Greeks of the Diaspora or Foreign Citizens.
Demand all your communications, title search and progression reports to be in writing.
Agree on his fees and out of pocket expenses; demand a detailed Cost Disclosure Agreement before the work starts
Be extremely cautious with conflict-of-interest issues. In small and closed societies/cities in Greece, many local professionals could be acquainted with or related to your seller.
- The tax accountant
In order to buy property in Greece, you must first obtain a Greek Tax File Number. Since you are tax residents of abroad, you need to appoint a local tax agent. The Greek Tax Authority will never communicate with you, they need a name and address in Greece to correspond.
My suggestion to our clients is to always appoint a qualified, computer savvy and English spoken tax accountant in Greece as your tax agent.
This same person will provide you with your tax internet access codes and can file your tax return on your behalf when due.
- The civil engineer
Hire an independent civil engineer to closely inspect the property you are purchasing and review all technical documentation to be produced by the seller and his civil engineer.
Greece has lots of earthquakes. If there is a crack on the structure of the building, conveniently painted and camouflaged, I may not pick it up. Maybe you will not either. The civil engineer will.
When buying land, your engineer/topographer must closely inspect its archaeological/forest or other restricted building regulations.
- The Bank
Although you do not need to have a Greek bank account in order to buy property, it will be required at some stage soon, in order to set up direct credit for your utilities bills, pay the body corporate fees, taxes, etc
Opening a bank account is not an easy or fast project. Greek banks require a lot of documentation from your end, extending to your foreign Notice of Assessment, Tax Residency Certificate, confirmation of address, utilities and telephone bills, etc.
Ask the Bank to provide you with internet banking and (activated) cash cards.
- The property
Try to buy a structure that was built after 1985 when the static building regulations became stricter, hence the buildings sturdier.
Be informed about the monthly body corporate fees, utilities connections, pending and owed amounts, etc.
The Don'ts of Buying a Property in Greece
- The real estate agent
The buyer usually pays the agent a fee of approx. 2% - plus V.A.T. 24% on top of this - on the value of the property.
Be cautious with the local real estate agents. Do not sign anything to them, or entrust them with money, before you get your lawyer’s specific approval/legal advice in writing.
- Purchase price
Do not immediately accept asking prices. Since Greek banks are very careful when approving house loans, cash is a strong leverage for bargaining.
Make counter offers. It might be politically incorrect in e.g., Australia, to make a counter offer lower by 25%, in Greece it is not.
- Funds for the purchase
Funds for the purchase need to originate from your foreign to your Greek bank account, or to the seller’s account, or to your proxy’s account. Keep copies of the relevant bank transactions evidencing same. You will need to attach them to your first tax return in Greece.
Anything that is outside the above origin, is considered as imputed or assessed income and you will be heavily taxed for this. Cash, or money from third parties’ accounts cannot be used.
- Third parties assistance
Don’t trust your (non-professionally qualified) relatives to do the legal, tax or other professional work, just because it is “for free”. Stick to the competent persons and make sure everything is in writing. Legal and tax practitioners have professional competence, knowledge and liability, your relatives don’t.
- Fees and expenses
The purchaser is burdened with the conveyance tax and the fees for the Land Registry/Land Registry Bureau, the Public Notary (and relevant expenses), the lawyer, the tax accountant, the civil engineer, the realtor and other professionals he retains. Don’t pay anything over and above that, unless specifically approved by your lawyer. Ask for an estimate/quote of everything, before you proceed.
Final point: All the above procedures can be implemented in Greece through a limited Power of Attorney to your trusted and competent Greek lawyer. Our office has assisted thousands of clients in similar purchases, without their physical presence in Greece being required.
By John Tripidakis LL.B.(Athens), LL.M. (London)
Greek Law Practice
John Tripidakis & Associates
For all your legal matters, ranging from Greek Passports, Inheritances, Estates and Real Estate in Greece:
Email: [email protected]
Images: Glyfada Athens. Credit: sunnyland.gr