Greece has a total area in excess of 130,000 square kilometres and consists of mainland and islands, which occupy approximately 20 per cent of the total area and contribute to Greece's severely indented coastline of over 15,000 kilometres. Greece borders on the north with Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria and in the north east with Turkey. It is Europe's closest link to the Middle East. With the European Union operating as a single market, Greece is ideally situated as an entry port to the EU from the Middle East, North Africa and most of the north-east Balkan countries. Greece is surrounded on three sides by sea: the Aegean in the east, the Ionian in the west and the Sea of Crete in the south.

Greece in the EU including links to Greek government sites and Tourist Information.

Foreigners may now purchase property in Greece. Recent changes in Greek law now permit foreign ownership of property in previously sensitive areas such as Crete and Corfu. There are no restrictions on non residents acquiring property in other areas of Greece even in the border areas. However, both EU and non EU residents must obtain permission from the appropriate authorities before purchasing property in border areas. Once you have purchased your property, you become the freehold owner in perpetuity.

Purchasing system: Buyer beware! This can be a very complex legal process which should not be undertaken lightly. Expert legal advice should always be sought before entering into contractual terms. However, the whole operation can work remarkably smoothly once you know the procedures.

The first stage in the conveyance is to sign a Sales Agreement and pay a deposit which is usually 10 per cent. This agreement will contain the names of the vendor and the buyer, a description of the property, the price, the method of payment and any special conditions that are negotiable in the purchase process.

The vendor will then be instructed to take the property off the market whilst your appointed lawyer completes the purchase transaction. Under Greek law, no contract is enforceable unless it is in writing, It is important therefore that once an offer has been made and accepted all purchase documents are checked by a lawyer before signing to ensure that the vendor has rightful title to the property.

If you do not go ahead with buying the property after you have paid your deposit, you will forfeit it and face potential legal action from the vendor. However, if the vendor pulls out of the deal after receiving your deposit, you are entitled to claim a return of double the deposit in compensation. The compensation will not affect your statutory rights to legal action against the vendor for breach of contract.

Legal procedures: Before anyone, a citizen of Greece, the EU or any another foreign national can purchase property in Greece, that person must first obtain a tax role number, known in Greece as AFM. This number is fairly easy to obtain from any tax office in the country. The tax number can be obtained from these offices on the spot. Citizens of Greece or another EU nation need only show their government issued ID card. Citizens of the UK or other countries must show a passport to obtain the AFM.

You will need to appoint a bi-lingual solicitor and a notary public. A good, English speaking, well-qualified conveyance solicitor is absolutely essential. The solicitor will draw up the Contract of Sale on your behalf, in Greek, and arrange the signing ceremony with the vendors, normally at the office of the local notary public, and also negotiate the purchase tax with the local taxation office. You should allow 1to 1.5% of the purchase price for this.

If you have bought through an estate agent they will continue to liaise with you and the vendor. You will undoubtedly need a good team and a fair amount of patience.

The agent will normally barter the purchase consideration on your behalf. The agent, in coordinating the purchase process, is also likely to establish via your lawyer who the owners are of the adjoining properties. The boundaries of the property are then fixed by topographical survey. Such a survey carried out by an expert could cost in the region of 150 to 200€.

The Notary Public who is an independent official oversees the property purchase process. You will visit this official with your agent to sign your Sale Agreement using the Greek bible as the swearing oath. The notary public will work with your lawyer to ensure that the contracts are drawn up in the correct manner and presented to the taxation authorities on time. Before any transaction takes place, your lawyer will carry out searches with the Land Registry. The notary public will not proceed with a contract concerning a property which does not have a clean title, free of mortgage obligations, etc. You will normally be expected to pay a fee of up to 1.6 per cent of the 'notional value' of the property as recorded in the Contract of Sale. The final contract has to be signed before the public notary and in accordance with Greek law, the estate agent or agents who have been involved in effecting the sale must also be present for the signing of the final contract.

Financing your purchase: The vendor will almost certainly require payment in euros. You will have to a euro account in preparation at either a private or national bank. Normally, your chosen bank will arrange to pay the vendor a ten per cent deposit at the point of signing contracts and allow a further 30 days for the remaining to be settled, although the settlement period can vary per transaction. Your choice of banker will depend on day to day considerations such as charges, location, connection with UK banks, opening hours, availability of internet banking etc.

You need to consider if raising finance on your existing property in your own country to cover the whole cost of your purchase abroad is the best option. This can be a good idea if the interest rate in Greece is higher than it is in your own country. You may pay a lot less in monthly repayments and there is the saving in exchange rates and fees to consider.

Do you secure a mortgage against the property from a local bank in Greece? This can be a wise option especially if the interest rate is lower than interest rate in your own country. Most overseas mortgage / bank lenders will require up to 30% deposit on mortgages. However, you will need to give some thought to how you will service your mortgage payments each month especially if you are not living or earning in that country as you may well lose out on exchanging money each time to cover monthly expenses.

Taxes: Below is a list of known taxes which is subject to change. As usual it is recommended that you take professional advice.

·    Property transfer Tax; The rate of tax on the transfer of property of up to 15.000€ is 7% and 9% for any amount beyond 15.000€ of the 'objective value'. These rates increase by 2% when the property is situated in an area covered by a public fire brigade.

·    Annual Property Tax; The first 243.600 Euros of the 'objective value' of the property is not subject to tax. Any value of the property beyond 243.600 Euros is subject to 7% tax. These rates can vary for individual’s dependant upon individual circumstances. Exemptions from annual property tax apply in the case of certain businesses.

·    Municipal Property Tax: Property ownership is also subject to a municipal real estate duty, currently calculated at a range of 0.25‰ to 0.35‰ on the objective value of the real estate property; which is incorporated in the electricity bill payable every second month.

·    Capital Gains; Tax is payable upon the eventual sale of the property.

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Disclaimer: This guide is for information only and should not be relied upon as definitive. Details have been obtained from various sources and although we have done everything possible to ensure that it is correct, we cannot accept responsibility for it or guarantee its accuracy. This is because processes and laws change frequently, and may also vary dependant upon personal circumstances. You are welcome to use the information provided, but should always obtain confirmation of specific details and get independent specialist and legal advice in the country that the information refers to.

26-10-2009