Should you buy property in Greece?
For anyone seeking a new life abroad, Greece delivers on every front, including your money, health and lifestyle. With more than 6,000 sun-kissed islands, ancient architecture, and a culture ingrained with a long and fascinating history, it’s no wonder why tourists flock to Greece each year. But visiting a country is one thing and living there is a very different story. To help you decide if Greece is as great a choice to reside in, we’re exploring five compelling reasons for moving to Greece.
Irresistible culture and language
English speakers have little difficulty settling in, as English is widely spoken in Greece. However, as one long-time expat there says: “while many people, especially younger people speak English, it is important to learn the basic phrases and use them to open any conversation”. Patricia Hajifotiou, moved here from America 18 years ago and is now owner of tourism business The Olive Odyssey.
The simplest of phrases, she says, such as: “hello, goodbye, please and thank you, can work magic in any language”. To truly integrate into the culture and feel more at home, it’s always beneficial to learn the local language. You won’t need to be fluent right away, just pick up as many phrases as you can to help you communicate with the locals. Besides, the Greek language is simply beautiful and is an integral part of the country’s literary culture.
Language, however, is only one aspect of Greek culture. Moving to Greece, you’re sure to enjoy the rich, immersive culture that the country has to offer. Home to ancient architecture, religious festivals and cultural events, food, wine and music unique to the land, it’s no wonder the Greek culture is so well-loved by locals, tourists and expats alike.
Greeks are known for their friendly and welcoming nature, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to make friends. For Patricia, “Greeks are generally very friendly and outgoing”. She notes that “it is especially important to have eye contact and say ‘good morning’ when passing someone when you have established yourself in a neighbourhood”. You can even try it in the big cities!
Another thing to keep in mind is that: “people may sometimes ask you very pointed questions – ‘are you married’, ‘how much does your job pay’, etc. This is ordinary for Greeks, but sometimes intrusive for other cultures. Answer what you feel comfortable with,” advises Patricia.
Affordable cost of living
The cost of living varies depending on where you choose to settle in Greece. However, even the country’s major cities are quite affordable, especially when compared to other European cities. For example, the overall cost of living in Athens is considerably lower than in Rome or Paris, especially when it comes to rent. And when you come to buy a property, Greek homes prices are only starting to recover from a decade of falls, so you could easily see a significant profit over the next few years.
While the overall cost of living in Greece is much lower than other parts of Europe, note that average local salaries are also lower. The public healthcare system also suffers from a lack of funding and lengthy waiting times, which is why many expats and locals choose to use the country’s private medical facilities instead.
That said, you’ll still be able to achieve a high standard of living in Greece. The food, for example, is as affordable as it is fresh and delicious, especially in Rhodes, where there are no import duties.
Rather than eating to live, Greeks tend to live to eat. As such, food is a large part of Greek culture. Every meal is seen as a social occasion, meaning lunch or dinner can last for hours, and the more people gathered at the table the better. Above all, authentic Greek cuisine is utterly delicious and traditionally consists of fresh local ingredients including Mediterranean vegetables, olive oil, lemon juice, fish, meat and grains.
It’s never difficult to find fresh fruits and vegetables in local supermarkets for cheap, and eating out is just as delightful, with a variety of authentic local and international eateries on offer. In particular, major cities like Athens are home to a large array of international restaurants, where you’ll find Thai, Vietnamese, Korean and Indian cuisine, among many others.
Moussaka, fasolatha, koulouri, loukoumades and souvlaki, to name a few, are some of the most popular Greek dishes, but it doesn’t end there. Be sure to try local wines and cheeses which are particularly delectable.
Glorious Greek weather
To put it simply, the weather in Greece is glorious. With luxuriously long, stretched out days and warm evenings, there’s no disputing the fact that Greece has a climate attractive to expats. While the weather can vary from place to plan, no matter where you choose to settle you’ll always enjoy scorching summers and relatively warm winters. In fact, Athens is known as Europe’s hottest city, with average high temperatures of 30°C.
|Average sunshine hours||1,500||2,700|
|Annual precipitation (mm)||855||416|
|Average winter sea temperature (ºC)||6||15|
|Average winter sea temperature (ºC)||14||25|
Greece is well known for its laidback lifestyle, which can be a blessing for those looking to enjoy a more relaxed approach to life. “Greeks are not all that rushed,” says Patricia.
“You can still impromptu, call up a friend and meet. I have a group of friends that I usually meet for ‘coffee’ and it turns into a six-hour visit! When I lived in the US, you would have to make a date weeks in advance for a short coffee, because everyone is so busy”, expresses Patricia.
As well as putting an emphasis on taking the time to enjoy life, Greeks value family above all else. So if you’re moving to Greece with children in tow, you’ll be delighted to know that family time is a core part of the Greek way of life.
With a laidback lifestyle, a low cost of living, and year-round glorious weather, it’s easy to see why Greece is great for expats.
How to buy property in Greece: The process
Working out your timetable is a fantastic way to make sure everything stays on track when you’re planning to buy a property in Greece. Once you’ve got that end date fixed in your mind, you can work backwards and set key markers in the process. Use the following as a checklist — simply tick off each point as you accomplish it as you progress.
Six months from buying in Greece…
- Think about why you want to move, where you want to move, and what type of home you’re looking to buy. Draw up that list of ‘must-haves’ and ‘nice-to-haves’.
- Begin assembling your team of Greek property specialists to make your move easier. You’ll need an estate agent, lawyer, currency specialist, and a mortgage/financial adviser.
- Review your finances and set your budget.
Five months from buying in Greece…
- Start your detailed property search and communicate with your estate agent.
- Think about how you are going to structure the finances for any purchase — speak to your lawyer and financial adviser, if necessary.
Four months from buying in Greece…
- Run through your broad list of properties with your estate agent to find ones you realistically want to see on a viewing trip, and book that trip.
- Have detailed discussions with your lawyer and currency specialist to set up a structure to finance your purchase. That way, you’ll be in position to act immediately if needed.
Three months from buying in Greece…
- Attend property exhibitions relevant to your area and continue going on any extra viewing trips, if necessary.
- Meet with specialists to help you with the more complicated areas of your move, such as inheritance laws and property taxes, as well as removals.
- Get your AFM number and begin the process of opening a Greek bank account.
- Make your offer on your chosen property.
- Protect your budget with the help of a currency specialist. Consider a forward contract.
- It’s a good idea now in your timescale for buying in Greece to book a survey.
Two months from buying in Greece…
- Sign your reservation contract, if the seller requires it.
- Sign your deposit contract (and pay the deposit).
- Contract your notary and make final payment when needed.
- Plan removals and decoration and make sure utilities are connected.
- Get the keys, move in and start your new life in Greece!
What should you consider before buying property in Greece?
So, how do you get started planning your move to Greece? The first thing to do is to sit down with a pen and paper (or computer) and start working out what you’re looking for, as well as where you want to buy and what type of property suits you best. This way, you’ll be able to start your search in a much more targeted way.
Things to consider
To identify your needs, start by asking yourself these five key questions:
Why are you buying?
You know you want to live in Greece — it could even have been a long-held dream. But articulating and analysing why exactly this is the case can help direct you (and you could even find you end up understanding your own motivations better by doing this).
These reasons could be:
- “Our pension will go further”
- “We want a place to have great holidays with the family”
- “Property investment could be a sound idea”
- “We want more space, sunnier weather and warmer temperatures”
- “I don’t want to look back with regret in later life that I didn’t make the move”
What will your property be for?
This is a key question to really drill down into what your dream home needs — so you’re not distracted by nicely packaged and marketed properties that you later regret. If you want somewhere as a holiday home, for instance, you might want to be close to an airport. For a permanent home, however, you might want to take advantage of lower prices by being slightly further away.
How much can you afford?
You could buy with family to share costs, or use other ways to raise more money, but you still need to work out a realistic idea of your budget. Include around 10% for buying costs.
Above all, remember that the exchange rate is always moving, and the interbank rate shown on the news isn’t available to the general public. You will get a rate that is likely to be at least a percentage point below, so this needs to be factored into your initial budget. It may also be possible to reduce a property price by knowing the local market — read our Greece finance guides and Smart’s Property Buyer’s Guide to Currency for more insight.
What are the “must-haves”?
Think about what is absolutely crucial in your Greece property. Do you want a pool you can enjoy every day? Or would a beach and a sea view be preferrable? Do you need easy access to amenities like shops and restaurants? How many bedrooms? Open-plan or separate rooms? It’s also important to decide which of these criteria are “must-haves” and which are just “would-be-nices”.
What are your “no-no’s”?
You should also work out what you don’t want in your property — this will help your estate agent to eliminate ones that will be unsuitable. Perhaps, after all, you don’t want the maintenance of a pool, or you’re not interested in a large home. Perhaps you don’t want a turnkey property, but would rather have one to do up yourself?
The best places to live in Greece: Where will you buy?
Greece offers overseas buyers an amazing range of geographies, climates and lifestyles to choose from. For a start, it has well over 200 inhabited islands — and each is different. Even within the same island groups, the geography can be strikingly varied.
While it’s a only a medium-sized country, three quarters of it is mountainous and barely inhabited. It has a total area just over half the size of the UK, yet with just a sixth of the population. And, all those islands provide a Mediterranean coastline five times longer than Spain’s and twice as long as Italy’s.
Greece is also relatively undeveloped. Although at the height of summer as many as 150,000 tourists can arrive each day, it still doesn’t have the highly developed mass tourist facilities of Spain. You can still find your own unspoiled island paradise here!
A good start is to divide your options into mainland and island groups. Come with us as we take a tour of the country to find where to buy in Greece: