1. Getting started: is it possible for you to buy a property in Greece?
Yes, EU nationals can buy property freely in Greece and are treated as citizens, the restrictions imposed for security purposes on foreigners owning property were lifted in 1992. Purchasing property near military bases or national borders requires special permission from the Local Council. These restrictions go way back and are often a mere formality. Recent laws have made it easier for non-EU citizens to purchase properties.
2. Legalities - should you use a lawyer when buying a property in Greece?
Getting a lawyer involved in your property purchase in Greece is a must, and anyone who says differently does not have your best interests at heart.
I think it's safe to say that buyers now realize that it's not only imperative to get a lawyer, but it's essential to get a really good lawyer. News stories about property buyers finding out that they don't own the land or can't get a title deed to their property appear daily in newspapers around the world, and it would be a foolish buyer who didn't take note of this.
Having your own trusted lawyer will mean that the chances of having problems later on will be vastly reduced. We can introduce you to excellent English speaking lawyers who specialize in property law.
3. Is the purchase of property difficult in Greece?
No. In summary, having selected your property you appoint your English speaking Greek lawyer to act on your behalf by giving him/her Power of Attorney (this is arranged through a Public Notary for a fee of approximately €80). Your lawyer will obtain your local tax number, required by law here to be able to purchase. He will open a bank account on your behalf, check the property you wish to purchase, ensure the correct building permits are in place, check there is no loan or mortgage owed on the property, make the payments.
According to new laws, the sellers have to provide a certificate stating the property is legal, an energy sufficiency (green) certificate and a new topography. This is at the sellers' expense and only then the lawyer can give the ok the property is 100% legal.
Once the lawyer has given the ok, a 10% deposit is paid to secure the purchase and a pre-contract agreement is signed. The remaining 90% and all the additional expenses are to be paid on completion when the contracts are being signed.
Completion normally takes about 6-8 weeks dependent on the readiness of the property sale documentation. If you prefer you can instruct the lawyer to sign the final contract on your behalf in front of the Public Notary (Government appointed lawyer) who approves and records the transaction. Alternatively, you may wish to return to Crete to sign the contract yourself. In this case, the contract is translated word by word for you (in accordance with Greek Law).
4. Is there Land Registry?
Yes. In addition to a very precise set of deeds, which establishes your ownership of the land and hence by Greek law any property built on it thereafter, there is now Land Registry in Greece.
5. What are the taxes/expenses involved in property purchase?
Here is a brief list of what you may expect in the way of purchase costs:
Purchase or Transfer Tax: This is based on the 'assessed tax value'. The new tax provisions of January 2014 stipulated this as 3%.This is not applicable when VAT comes into play - see below:
Value Added Tax: 24% VAT is paid instead of transfer tax. New constructions with a building license issued from January 2006 are subject to VAT at the rate of 24%. New constructions with building licenses issued before January 2006 aren't subject to VAT, regardless of when building work was/is completed.
Lawyer's fees: Legal fees for the conveyance involved in a sale are up to 2% - 2,5% of the agreed purchase value.
Notary fees: These are usually between 1,5 - 2% of a property's 'assessed tax value'. Fees also include small set charges for each sheet and document included in the contract.
Land registry: Land registry fees are from 0.3 to 0.5% of the 'assessed tax value' plus a small sum for stamp duties and certificates.
Union fees: 1% of the taxable price of the property up to €44,000 is payable and then 0.5% on the remaining taxable property price.
The Estate Agent's fees: Estate agent's fee is 2-5% of the agreed purchase price, including 24% VAT.
6. What other taxes/expenses apply if I live in Greece?
If you are not working, your only costs will be utilities - electricity and water (including public sewage if you have it). There is a Council tax in Greece, this amount depends on the area you live and is about € 3 - 4 per m2 of building. Don't forget you are obliged to make a yearly tax declaration, even if you have no income. Best use an accountant to help you out with this formality.
7. 'Golden Visa' Program
Greece's "Golden Visa" program is the cheapest way for a non-EU property buyer to gain access to the Schengen area.
In May 2013, Greece passed a law allowing the granting of residence permits to non-EU citizens that wish to acquire a Greek (and EU Schengen) residence permit after they decide to invest in Greece. In this light, they have three options:
a) Residency permit for property owners: Non-EU citizens may take advantage of the newly adopted Law 4146/2013 and the Ministerial Decision 23195/2013. According to that law, they may apply for residency permit if they buy property in Greece with a minimum value of 250.000 euro. The residency permit is granted for five (5) years and it is renewable for as long as the property remains in the possession of the initial owner. The residence permit may be extended to the members of the family of the owner, so that they can all benefit from the advantage of residing freely in Greece. The family residence permit may be renewed and / or expires together with the sponsor's residence permit.
b) Residency permit for business investment: Non-EU citizens that wish to invest in Greece above 300.000 euro can apply for residency permit for 3 years. This permit may be prolonged if the investment continues to exist. The permit is also valid for the members of the family of the investor. The residence permit ensures the right to re-enter Greece, providing the holder with a right to free movement within the Schengen area for a period of 90 days during any half-year.
c) Residency permit for economic activity: Non-EU citizens that wish to practice independent economic activity, which contributes to the growth of the economy of Greece, can apply for a residency permit for 3 years if they have sufficient funds to practice the activity (at least 60.000 euro), which shall be deposited in a Greek bank account. This permit may be prolonged if the activity continues to exist. The permit is also valid for the members of the family of the investor. The residence permit ensures the right to re-enter Greece, providing the holder with a right to free movement within the Schengen area for a period of 90 days during any half-year.