Expat Guide to Buying Property in Greece

Expat property home in Greece

Buying a property in Greece is an incredible way to experience the country as a local and set down roots to enjoy your new lifestyle in the sun. However, British expats often report concerns due to lack of language skills, the challenge of currency fluctuation, and unfamiliarity with overseas property markets.

Understanding the legal system and how the home buying process works are essential before you start searching for that perfect villa or beachside apartment in your favourite part of Greece.

There are so many reasons to consider a permanent relocation to Southern Europe, with the sparkling clear waters of the Mediterranean on your doorstep:

  • Beautiful weather, with double the annual sunshine in the UK
  • Island living, fresh food, vibrant nightlife and incredible landscapes
  • Heritage architecture and a wide range of homes and styles
  • Low-cost properties, with homes costing less than most of Europe

Whether a rental investment property, holiday home, or permanent place for your family to enjoy, the Greek property market offers a wealth of opportunities to make the most of these compelling advantages.

Let’s work through the process, and ensure you’re in the best possible position to make excellent property purchase decisions.

Expat Property Purchase Rules In Greece

Greece does not have any limits on foreign nationals buying property, but you’ll need a visa if you plan to permanently live in your new home. 

As a non-European Union national, British expats must consider their visa options:

  • The Greek Golden Visa Program: grants residency for five years on a renewable basis with a property investment of €250,000 or more. Applicants can bring their family and apply for a passport after living in Grece for seven years.
  • Expats with employment visas need a job with a Greek business, minimum income levels and tax contributions deducted at source from salaries.
  • Self-Employment Visas are available to expats looking to work in Greece or start a business. You’ll need to apply for a business license and provide a six-month financial history
  • Retirement Visas: provided you are financially independent and have sufficient medical insurance, you can move to Greece with evidence of your pension income for the last six months.

The good news is that it isn’t difficult to apply for a Greek residence visa. 

Still, you must figure out which permit is applicable so you can get the ball rolling before you start planning a property purchase.

For Greek citizens looking to get permanent residency in the UK, take a look at the Tier 1 Investor Visa.

Property Prices In Greece

The most popular tourist destinations are inevitably far more expensive than quiet Greek villages, but all told homes offer substantial value for money compared to similar properties in Britain.

It’s also vital to think about what your essentials are to filter through the listings:

  • Is there a particular island, town or city where you want to live?
  • Do you have specific requirements due to work or children’s schools?
  • How many bedrooms do you need, and should you consider factors such as outdoor space, closeness to the beach, or parking?

This table shows some of the most sought-after places, with a range of property types and the average listing price to give you a rough idea of how much a home would cost.

LocationType of PropertyAverage Price €Average Price £
AthensFamily home with four bedrooms and four bathroom€1 million£856,000
MykonosBeachfront house with a pool, four bedrooms and four bathrooms€750,000£642,000
CorfuVilla property with five bedrooms and four bedrooms€700,000£599,000
ThessalonikiHouse with three bedrooms and two bathrooms€250,000£214,000
AthensApartment with two bedrooms and one bathroom€250,000£214,000
CorfuModern Apartment with three bedrooms and one bathroom€95,000£81,300

Overall, properties in Greece are around 70 per cent cheaper in city centres and 63 per cent lower in rural areas than in the UK. 

The average price of a square metre is between €1,313 and €1,545 (£1,123 – £1,321) compared to £3,055 – £4,330 in Britain.

Many expats that are looking to buy property in Portugal turn and look at Greece property prices due to the sometimes large differences.

Taxes, Duties And Costs

Buying a property in Greece isn’t just the cost of the property. In addition, you need to know about taxes, legal fees, charges, and other costs rolled up into the total budget.

In Greece, this depends on:

  • If you’re buying a pre-owned property or a new-build
  • If you are paying cash or taking out a mortgage

Generally, you’ll need to add around ten to fifteen per cent to the property’s price to cover taxes and fees and be aware professional charges are subject to VAT at 24 per cent.

Don’t forget not all taxes and charges on a property purchase relate to the purchase price.

Instead, each home has an assessed tax value, and it’s that figure which dictates the exact costs. The local authority calculates the assessed value in the same way as councils in the UK set Council Tax bandings.

Here’s a rundown of the property purchase costs and how they are calculated.

Greek property purchase tax

Property tax is around seven per cent of the initial €15,000 of the assessed value of your new Greek home, and nine per cent on the balance.

For example, a property valued at €120,000 will attract purchase taxes of €10,500, worked out as:

€15,000 x 7% =€1,050
€105,000 x 9% =€9,450
 €10,500

VAT on new homes 

VAT is charged on a newly built property, with some exemptions:

  • Homes on Aegean Sea Islands have a reduced VAT rate, from 24 per cent down to 17 per cent
  • Some developments are exempt from VAT, providing the sale completes before December 31, 2022.

The Greek government launched the VAT suspension scheme in 2020 to combat the number of unsold new developments, so it’s well worth checking if any new properties you’re interested in have opted into the initiative.

Land Registry fees 

Land Registry charges depend on the assessed value but are usually around 0.3 to 0.5 per cent of the property valuation.

Notary charges

Expats buying a home in Greece will need to instruct a notary. Their primary task is to draw up the final purchase contract and ensure all the paperwork is filed correctly.

Average notary costs for property purchases are up to around two per cent of the assessed tax value.

You’ll also need a solicitor, lawyer or conveyancer, which is a legal requirement in Greece. Conveyancing services, including running checks on the land, property and title deeds, can cost up to around one per cent of the property assessed value.

It’s worth agreeing on the total charge before work begins and to have written confirmation.

Greek community fees

Community fees pay for local services, such as road maintenance. Community tax is calculated at three per cent.

Estate agent’s fees 

Most UK expats will work with a local estate agent in Greece. The agent will offer advice about different areas, search for properties within your budget, and provide information about listings.

Agent’s charges are usually around two to five per cent of the property sale price, often split between the buyer and seller.

In some cases, the property price includes the seller’s estate agent’s fees, so the total costs are rolled up in the sale value.

Exchange rate costs

Keep a close eye on the Euro / Sterling exchange rates. You will need to pay for your property and the associated costs in Euros.

With exchange rate fluctuations sometimes making a substantial impact on the overall budget, converting the pound into Euros at an optimal time can save money.

It’s usually more cost-effective to transfer your cash into euros and pay directly from a local account. International transfers are expensive, as you’re paying a spot exchange rate and transactional charges for every cross border payment.

How to purchase a Property in Greece

Register for a tax registry number

All property buyers in Greece must have an AFM number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service. 

You can find your local tax office (Eforia) through the Ermis system in the area you wish to buy.

That applies to every party involved, so both individuals will need a tax number if you buy as a couple.

You’ll also require a Greek bank account. Again, the application can take some time, so apply early so the account is ready to go.

Make an offer and reserve the property

Next, you need to agree to a price – or instruct your agent to negotiate on your behalf.

Once you’ve reached an agreed price, the agent will usually request a reservation agreement. That means the home is removed from the market and fixed at the agreed price for between 15 and 30 days.

Most reservations require a down payment of €10,000 or more, although it’ll be at least €3,000.

In some cases, the deposit is refundable, but check the terms, as that isn’t always the case.
 
Should the preliminary legal checks or survey return problems, you should get your reservation payment back.  

Sign a preliminary contract

The legal aspects start with a preliminary contract. This agreement is private between you and the seller and outlines:
 
– The agreed price.
– The payment method.
– Conditions of the sale.
 
Note that a preliminary contract is legally binding and usually requires a deposit of around 10 per cent of the sale value.
 
At this stage, your lawyer will verify that the property meets the rather strict Greek planning laws. For example, they will check any extensions or swimming pools to ensure the appropriate permissions are in place.

Commission a property survey

Greece does suffer earthquakes, so your lawyer will check that the home complies with the Earthquake Planning and Protection Organisations (EPPO) Seismic Code rules.
 
A complete survey is usually the best option, and you can search for an accredited surveyor through the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Surveyors in Greece service.

Complete the purchase contract

Finally, you’ll need a notary (simvoliographo) to prepare the sales contract and witness the signatures.
 
Notaries primarily check the Greek documents and ensure all the paperwork meets the legal requirements.
 
They represent the government rather than the individual, so they won’t offer advice or protect the interests of either the seller or buyer, which is why you need a lawyer to protect your interests.
 
Your notary will also collect the taxes, and you’ll need to pay the property transfer tax before the contract is formally signed.
 
Once everything is complete, the notary registers the property ownership transfer with the Greek Land Registry (National Cadastre).

Mortgaging A Greek Property As An Expat

Properties in Greece are affordable, but you can take out a mortgage if you don’t have savings to cover the cost.

Interest rates are low, making the Greek property market an accessible prospect.

To apply for a mortgage in Greece, you will need:

  • Income tax statements for the last two years
  • Bank statements going back a year
  • Proof of income for the previous six months
  • Details of any other loans or mortgages you have
  • A statement of assets and liabilities, verified by an independent accountant
  • Your passport

There are regulations in Greece around residential mortgages as in the UK, and it’s worth asking your lawyer for advice to ensure you’re choosing a bank or lender with the appropriate consumer protection.

However, banks in Greece have been subject to scandals due to mis-selling home loans, so it isn’t always easy to find a mortgage as a foreign national.

Many lenders have stopped offering new products, but another option is to look at British mortgage lenders with an EU presence or banks that provide expat mortgages designed to help UK nationals invest in overseas property.

When looking at becoming an expat or just buying a home abroad, questions pile up. Here is a list of the most common questions when considering buying a property or home in Greece.

Where are the best places to buy property in Greece?

Greece offers an astonishing range of places to live, with over 200 inhabited islands dotted around the mainland – each with a unique feel and character.

The Greek countryside is uninhabited mainly if you want to live somewhere away from neighbours.

Athens 

Athens is the oldest capital city in the western world, with direct flights from the UK. The city is warm and friendly, there is a large expat community, and many people speak English. 

You can buy apartments in contemporary blocks in the centre or opt for a villa in leafy residential neighbourhoods like Kolonaki or Plaka. 

Attica is another great option just outside Athens, with gorgeous coastal properties.

Mainland Greece

The mainland is less touristy and authentic rustic Greece, with miles upon miles of orchards, forests, fields and cattle farms.

Properties on the mainland are very affordable, usually timber-framed with local red stone structures.

Ionian Islands

Islands like Corfu and Kefalonia have long been expat hotspots. Corfu has UNESCO heritage status in the old town and offers secluded sandy peaches and beautiful groves of olive and pine.

North west Corfu is expensive, with properties selling for up to €5 million, but you can find affordable townhouses and cottages nearby in Kassiopi.

Crete

The largest Greek island is another hugely attractive place to buy a home in Greece. The island has international airports for easy travel, and foreign nationals often choose Chania in the north, Lasithi to the east, or Rethymno in central Crete.

The Sporades 

Made famous by the Mamma Mia movie, Skopelos is unspoiled and reasonably traditional. Skiathos is a peaceful spot for residents, often classed as one of the most beautiful Greek islands. 

The Argo-Saronic Islands

These islands are the closest to Athens, resulting in moderately high property prices, although convenient for professionals looking for a weekend home away from the city.

Is it worth giving power of attorney when buying a Greek Home?

Potentially, expats could consider assigning Power of Attorney to their lawyer if they aren’t expecting to be physically present in Greece throughout the property-purchase process.

That means your lawyer can sign documents on your behalf.

However, you need to ensure the Power of Attorney only applies to the property transaction and doesn’t apply to any Greek legal affairs.

What sort of property can I buy in Greece?

Most British expats buying a Greek home look for a traditional villa, but there are many options out there.

Apartments often provide the best views of the beaches and sweeping ocean landscapes and cost significantly less to maintain.

You’ll find modern developments, historic villas, city centre townhouses and empty plots of land all available for sale throughout Greece.

To get some ideas, you can search through several online property sale sites to see what’s available in your preferred area – try:

  • Tospitimou
  • Hellenic Realty
  • A Property in Greece
  • Home Greek Home

Are there property scams to watch out for in Greece?

Any property market has potential for scams, and there are a few golden rules to ensure you don’t fall foul of any fraudsters during your property search.

Expats should always meet the seller, visit the property in person or have a working set of keys before transferring any deposit payments.

The seller should provide an up to date property inspection, and you should visit the residence for a walkthrough with your real estate agent and the inspection report.

Your lawyer will verify that the vendor is the actual owner, has the legal right to sell the property, and double-check your rights.

What is the Property Market like for Expats in Greece?

It isn’t a secret that the Greek economy suffered badly after the 2009 crash. However, things are starting to recover, albeit gradually.

However, the housing market remains on a very slow growth trajectory, meaning that properties that fell in value by 50 per cent back in 2008 are still selling for less than 12 years ago.

Sales of homes are still down by 72 per cent, hence the government VAT suspension in 2020 to encourage more foreign investors to benefit from buying a Greek home at 24 per cent lower tax costs.

The market in Greece is likely to recover, looking longer-term, although it’s currently moving at around 0.6 per cent a year. Therefore, you can buy a luxurious home in a beautiful part of Greece for a fraction of a similar property’s price in the UK.

As an investment prospect, perhaps not a sure-fire win, but for a permanent residence, it’s an opportunity unlikely to arise again once the market recovers full strength.

2 thoughts on “Expat Guide to Buying Property in Greece”

  1. You need to adjust the property purchase tax to the current rate of 3.04%. Also it is compulsory to have a translator at both the preliminary and final contracts. The translator can be anyone who speaks both languages well, but can also be ones lawyer or other professional if they are fluent in English. 15/09/21

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