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Common Property Pitfalls

Maybe it’s the sun or just our ability to get carried away with the dream of a new life, but the fact is that some foreign buyers make some very silly and avoidable mistakes when buying property abroad. After all you would never hand over money to a stranger you met in a bar at home on the promise of a large piece of land, nor would you have your friend’s cousins son build your house without checking out his credentials as a competent builder. Thus it is imperative that you act sensibly to avoid future heartache and loss of funds. Read on to learn how you can avoid common buying pitfalls.

Research before you Buy

Do some research before you commit to buying on your Greek Island. Firstly consider that living or holidaying on an island is really what you want. Some of the islands are small and you may find it a little claustrophobic not being able to get over to the mainland whenever you fancy. Additionally, if you are making a permanent move, living on an island is vastly different to holidaying there. For a start there is the language difference and also differences in culture to take into account. Are you flexible enough to adapt? You also need to research the island and location you are buying in particularly with regard to the resale potential. Other points to consider are your personal requirements like schooling, ease of access and medical care.

Buying Land

You need to check out the status of any land you want to buy before you sign any contracts or hand over any money. Greek building laws are subject to change and also vary from island to island. In some places the plot size has to be over 4,000 sq m to qualify as building land, although in some areas building permission will be granted if the plot is 2,000 sq m in size and falls within the planning zone or they have frontage to a principle municipal road. If it is part of the town plan then the plot needn’t be so large to pass building regulations e.g. in Crete a plot size of 750 sq m is acceptable if it falls within the town planning zone. You must get a solicitor to determine the exact specifications of the land you are buying. He will check the title deeds, the size and the laws regarding building.

Buying a Property

If you are buying an old house or apartment you first need to engage a surveyor to make a detailed report on the fabric of the property. You may want to engage a surveyor if you are buying a new build too just to ensure that it complies with building regulations. You will also need a solicitor to check title deeds, obtain a tax number and other necessary documentation and to draw up legal contracts with the vendor. Under Greek law, your lawyer also needs to be with you at the notary’s office when the contracts are signed.

Get a Preliminary Contract

Your lawyer should draw up a preliminary contract stating your intention to buy so that the vendor takes the property off the market. The contract should allow a time period like 60 days for any outstanding legal matters to be resolved. A preliminary contract also means that you will have to make a deposit refundable if the seller cancels the contract. Ensure that the deposit is no bigger than 10% of the total sale price of the property. You can also add a clause stating that your purchase is subject to a satisfactory surveyor’s report should you not have already obtained one. If you are buying off plan make sure that there are clauses to cover delays and unforeseen eventualities like the builder going bust.

Don’t Overstretch Yourself

If you are taking out a mortgage on your land or property be realistic about what you can afford. Too many people have bought their Greek Island home only to have it repossessed by the bank because their circumstances changed. Seek independent advice from your bank at home as to whether you really have the funds to pay for a mortgage and consider worst case scenarios like what you would do if you lost your job or defaulted on the mortgage. International property markets are pretty stagnant at the moment so relying on a quick sale is not a sensible option. Make sure that you have a solid mortgage offer in writing for your lender before you sign any contracts to buy.

Get a Translator

Unless you are fluent in Greek and au fait with Greek law, then you will need a licenced translator to translate any documents in Greek into your native language. Never sign any document that you cannot read or fully understand.

Use Your Common Sense

It is so easy to get caught up in a dream of a new life or frequent holidays in your own home that all common sense flies out of the window. Take a step back and consider all aspects of what you are doing. Don’t cut corners, overstretch yourself or settle for the first property that comes along. Don’t forget that when you buy a Greek property there are all sorts of additional tax and sales costs that you need to budget for as well as fees for translators, lawyers and surveyors and most of all don’t let your heart rule your head.