It’s common for foreigners in many countries, particularly the UK, to use an agent in their own country who works in co-operation with a foreign agent or developer. Most agents in popular areas of Greece now have staff who speak English and other foreign languages, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t speak Greek.
Most agents offer after-sales services and will help you arrange legal advice, insurance, utilities, and interior decorators and builders. Some offer help and advice on obtaining planning permission and permits for new buildings or restoration projects.
Many agents, particularly on popular islands, provide construction and restoration services, including the supervision of building projects on your behalf. They may even offer a full management and rental service for non-resident owners. Note, however, that agents often receive commissions for referrals and therefore you may not receive independent advice.
Estate agents in Greece are regulated by law and must be professionally qualified and licensed. If possible, you should choose an agent who’s a member of a professional association such as the Hellenic Association of Realtors (Tel. 2108-232 931, www.sek.gr), whose members must follow a code of ethics, or the Federation of Greek Real Estate Agents (Tel. 2104-933 001, www.e-mesites.gr). You may be afforded extra protection if an agent is a member of an international organisation, such as the European Confederation of Estate Agents (CEI).
If you pay a deposit to an agent, you must ensure that it’s deposited in a separate bonded account.
There are no government controls on agents’ fees in Greece, where an agent’s commission (generally 2 to 5 per cent plus 18 per cent VAT) is paid by the vendor and buyer, and is usually included in the purchase price.
Foreign agents located abroad often work with local agents and share the standard commission, so buyers usually pay no more by using them. However, check in advance whether this is the case and how much you’re required to pay. When buying, also check whether you need to pay commission or any extras in addition to the sale price (apart from the normal fees and taxes associated with buying a property).
If possible, you should decide where you want to live, what sort of property you want and your budget before visiting Greece. Obtain details of as many properties as possible in your chosen area and price range, and make a shortlist of those you wish to view. Usually the details provided by estate agents are sparse and few agents provide detailed descriptions of properties. Often there’s no photograph, although many agents now post photographs on their websites. However, photographs don’t usually do a property justice (on the other hand they may give a false impression!).
Note that there are no national property listings in Greece, where agents jealously guard their list of properties, although many work with overseas agents in areas popular with foreign buyers. Agents who advertise in foreign journals or who work closely with overseas agents usually provide coloured photographs and a full description, particularly for the more expensive properties.
Agents vary enormously in their efficiency, enthusiasm and professionalism, and the best agents provide an abundance of information.
If an agent shows little interest in finding out exactly what you want, you should go elsewhere.
If you’re using a foreign agent, confirm (and reconfirm) that a particular property is still for sale and the price, before travelling abroad to view it.
Many estate agents have websites, so you can check what’s on offer from the comfort of your home, although sites rarely show all properties for sale or the latest properties on their books.
An agent may ask you to sign a document before showing you any properties, which is simply to protect his commission should you obtain details from another source or try to do a deal directly with the owner.
You’re usually shown properties personally by agents and won’t be given the keys (especially to furnished properties) or be expected to deal with tenants or vendors directly. You should make an appointment with an agent rather than simply turn up and ask him to show you a property. If you make an appointment and cannot keep it, you should call and cancel it.
If you happen to be on holiday, it’s acceptable to drop in unannounced to have a look at what’s on offer, but don’t expect an agent to show you properties without an appointment. If you view properties during a holiday, it’s best to do so at the beginning so that you can return later to inspect any you particularly like a second or third time. Note that local agents don’t usually work during lunch hours or on Saturdays and Sundays.
You should try to view as many properties as possible during the time available, but allow sufficient time to view each property thoroughly, to travel between properties and take breaks for sustenance. Although it’s important to see a sufficient number of properties to form an accurate opinion of price and quality, don’t try to see too many properties in one day, as it’s easy to become confused over the merits of each property.
If you’re shown properties that don’t meet your specifications, tell the agent immediately. You can also help the agent narrow the field by telling him exactly what’s wrong with the properties you reject.
It’s sensible to make notes of both the good and bad features and take lots of photographs of the properties you like, so that you’re able to compare them later at your leisure (but keep a record of which photos are of which house!). It’s also wise to mark each property on a map so that you can return later on your own if you wish without getting lost. The more a property appeals to you, the more you should look for faults and negative points – if you still like it after stressing the negative points, it must have special appeal.
Many agents and developers arrange viewing trips and may provide inexpensive accommodation for prospective buyers – some may even refund the cost of a viewing trip if you buy a property. By all means take advantage of inspection flight offers, but don’t allow yourself to be pressured into buying on a viewing trip.
Always allow yourself sufficient time to view and compare properties offered by a number of agents and developers. A long weekend isn’t enough time to have a good look around, unless you already know exactly what you want to buy and where, or are coming to view just a few properties.
Never allow yourself to be pressurised into a purchase and always take independent expert legal advice. Some agents pressurise clients into signing contracts and paying deposits quickly, alleging there are queues of other clients waiting to buy the property (which may be true!). Some property owners also try to pressurise clients into a purchase claiming legal advice isn’t necessary.
Your chances of solving any problems are greater if you take legal advice and all lawyers should have professional indemnity insurance. However, there are many reputable estate agents in Greece, particularly those on small islands or remote areas who have a local reputation to maintain.