Question: When you buy in Greece, what’s the best way to pay? Can you open a Sterling account in Greece? And how do you achieve the best exchange rate?
Answer: You can open a bank account in Sterling in Greece, but if you are buying a property in Greece and the currency here is Euros, so you must pay for the property in Euros. At the time of purchase, you may have to accept whatever the exchange rate is at the time. There are currency exchange companies, which advertise via the Internet or the property trade magazines, but you must always ensure that when they send the money to your or the lawyer’s account, that it is in YOUR names and that the reason for sending is for the purchase of a property in Greece.
Question: How much more value will a swimming pool add to a property? And how much will it cost to have one installed, either on a new property or an existing one? We would also love a heated pool so we could use it in the winter. I was wondering if these are very common in Greece, and again how expensive.
Answer: Certainly a swimming pool will add value to a property. However, it can also be viewed in a negative light (cost of maintenance, water etc.). Outdoor heated pools are not common in Greece, but of course if you want this, you can, probably using an oil fired system. Pools vary in price according to size, technicalities, whether the system is skimmer or overflow etc. from 10,000 to 30,000 Euros depending on the size. (Also, if adding to an existing property, you need to check if you need a building permit and if the land is large enough to accept a pool).
Question: We would love a property with a roof terrace, where we could site a small roof garden. Is this something you could have planned in on a new property? What kind of plants would be most suitable? Will a roof terrace also add investment value?
Answer: A roof terrace is a lovely idea, especially if for a village house or one that does not have outside land. You could have a pergola for shade, or even a simple umbrella with tables and chairs. It can be planned in for a new property, particularly if you want it tiled and any other extras, such as taps. Most populated areas in Greece will have a garden centre or shops supplying plants and the owners should be able to advise you on which plants would be suitable for the particular time of year. If you are not living there full time, then you should give a neighbour a key for them to water the plants in your absence. Or, you can install a small battery operated irrigation system to water the plants. Roof terraces will most definitely add investment value.
Question: We’ve both worked as estate agents, on the sales side, in the UK. I was wondering what potential there was in Greece for getting these kinds of jobs, in areas where most houses are bought by English speakers. We both have a little Greek but not fluent. We are both used to driving in Greece, which I would imagine is an asset. Also what might be typical salary or commission? Does the way houses are bought and sold differ much from the UK?
Answer: The market here in Greece is totally different to that of the UK. In the last few years there has been a huge increase in non-Greeks buying property in Greece, leading to a large increase in prices and also the amount of people wanting to cash in and set themselves up as agents. To legally be an agent, you should go to a local lawyer and found out what papers you will need and how to set the business up through the Chamber of Commerce and also get a license. To have your own business can be a fairly bureaucratic affair and you will have many outgoings, including the national insurance contributions (TEVE) you must pay as a business owner and the same (IKA) for an employee. Then there will the rent on your shop, electric and telephone etc., an accountant to do your books and so on. In most areas of Greece now, there will be already established licensed agents who know the areas and local laws very well and have contacts in the various authorities. With the rise in the number of Agents, competition can be fierce and the older, more established Agents have the advantage in terms of experience and contacts. You will also need enough Greek to be able to converse with the vendors, especially the older village people who do not speak English.
If you go to work for an established Estate Agent, your salary will depend on the hours you work and may be commission only. The minimum salary in Greek law for a 40 hour week (or 8 hours a day, often split shift mornings and evenings) is 600 Euros a month, plus they should pay your IKA.
Question: Is there much chance in Greece of buying say a wing of a historic house? Or an old mansion, with a generous garden and possibly a pool and tennis court. A couple of us, both early retired, would be interested to find somewhere like this.
Answer: There are plenty of old houses with history in Greece and provided it is not owned by the Church or State and can be sold, there is no reason why you could not buy one. But do not expect properties like old English stately homes. The nearest you will get is perhaps an old Venetian or Turkish house with land, or perhaps an olive press, to renovate. Many of these houses were within a village and so you will not get vast acres of land with them. If the villages are ‘listed’ then you will not be able to change the face of the building, only the inside. To get a property with a pool and tennis court, you will be more advised to buy a piece of land and create what you want, fitting your own needs and requirements.
Question: I am looking for a small business to buy in Greece, possibly Crete. I would like either a bookshop, or a small vegetarian cafe, or even combine both. Are there many possibilities here? Someone told me that they thought it was tricky to combine books and a food business in Greece.
Answer: You need to find a business premises and check with a local lawyer to see if you would be able to have a license for a retail shop combined with a catering business. There are many different laws and even they differ from area to area. The best advice for any person thinking of running a business in Greece is to come and TALK to other businesses owners, Greek and non-Greek, to get an idea of the difficulties involved in running a business here. It is often not so simple and straightforward as it can be in the UK. Additionally, a lot of businesses are either directly involved with tourists, or related to the tourist industry and if there is a bad season, there are too many of the same businesses chasing too small a number of customers, especially in the catering.