You’ve bought the land, had your home designed and been approved for planning permission. Now you just need to get it built! Diana from Corfu Home Finders explains how to go about the third and most important phase in creating your own special Greek home, finding Greek builders.
Most people bold enough (or picky enough!) to build their own have in mind the sort of design they want for their new home. Hopefully they were able to buy th plot of land to reflect this. The next step is to find an engineer or architect to turn their ideas into an application to submit to the planning department (polydomeia). You must have a planning permit in place before commencement of any work.
Developer and project manager
For the next phase, many engineers have their own building teams. For a seamless process it might be easier to work with one of these. You will have the ear of your engineer throughout the process, and he or she may also act as project manager. This could add to the costs of the build but may well be worth it for peace of mind.
Away from the big cities there are no really large building chains. It’s more common to find smaller building teams, put together by local developers and concentrating on one area. Your agent can usually recommend several of these companies and it’s worth having initial discussions with more than one.
A developer will give you a detailed specification right down to the number of power points/light fittings and keep you updated throughout
In general, a good builder who takes pride in his work will be like that in all of his projects. So the development team should arrange to show you previous completed projects as well as current projects under way. They should also introduce you to previous clients. They will want to demonstrate both the quality of work and the satisfaction of clients.
A good development team will give you a detailed specification right down to the number of power points/light fittings. They will also keep you updated throughout the build process. They should keep in close contact with you regarding any changes to the build, either at your request or due to any change in circumstance. You should expect to be consulted on ‘finishes’ including kitchen and bathroom fixtures, tiles, etc.
You will be able to get a general idea of costings from early meetings, but detailed estimates will usually require a payment. If you go ahead, the developer’s project manager will coordinate the work. All the various works should dovetail with each other for a speedier build.
If you prefer not to use a developer, that is possible. Moreover it may be more economic to complete a build with local workmen. The obvious disadvantages are, firstly, that they may not all speak English. Communication can be harder, especially when you are trying to explain precisely how you want things done. Secondly, it is harder to co-ordinate individual workers, particularly in the summer months when they will probably be busy with works related to tourism. Thirdly, you won’t have access to bulk supplies at lower prices that your developer will be able to find.
It may be more economic to complete a build with local workmen
If you are planning to spend ‘hands on’ time on your project, particularly in the later stages, it is perfectly possible to be your own project manager. You will need persistence and patience, however!
Whilst there are many skilled Greek workers there are also many Europeans here. Indeed we’ve been on building sites where there is a complete mix of languages but not a word of Greek or English! So long as the foreman pulls everyone together it should be fine.
It’s easy to feel out of your depth when negotiating for overseas property. To stay in control, read our Negotiation Guide, “Buying your overseas property at the best price”.
Protecting your investment
It is imperative that your building team adhere EXACTLY to the approved plans. And not just because that’s what they’re being paid for! It is the engineers’ responsibility to ‘sign off’ on the completed build prior to application for electricity, and he or she is liable for faults or omissions. The engineer is responsible for checking this, during the process and at the end. There is a ‘technical’ chamber of commerce within each local authority who can be consulted should problems arise. However, the best safeguard is to be sure that your builder has a good reputation. In smaller communities such as on the islands their reputation is their primary concern.
Bear in mind that this limits your ability to change your mind halfway through the build.
There are no bank guarantees available to be held against development companies, unlike in some countries. However, your safeguard is stage payments. Although you will have to make an initial deposit payment to cover planning application expenses, and then the first stage of excavation and basic structure, from that point on you should have a stage payment agreement. You pay as each stage of the project is satisfactorily completed.
When making stage payments over a long period of time you will be exposed to serious currency risks unless you lock in your exchange rate. Read the Property Buyer’s Guide to Currency to see how to protect your money.
Check the spec
The specification should show whether this really is a ‘turnkey’ project where ALL costs including initial permit applications/electricity water connections/IKA (builder’s social security fund) and VAT are included in the quote, or whether these will be invoiced separately. This can make a huge difference in costs. While one company might seem to be more economical it may well be that they do not include all costs.
When to build
Depending on when you obtain your planning permission, building can commence, with site clearing, and application for ‘building’ electricity. Heavy construction cannot be started in the summer months where it would be disruptive to local residents and visitors. That includes the afternoon siesta time too, it’s against the law to make any kind of noise. So each day, work will normally commence around 07.30/08.00 and finish by 3pm.
Heavy construction cannot start in the summer months where it would be disruptive to local residents and visitors. That includes the afternoon siesta time too.
It can all sound quite daunting, but it needn’t be. In the last few years we have many clients who bought land and had homes built. These have ranged from small rural houses to glamorous villas with stunning views. I don’t think any of them have regretted their decisions to have their dream homes built instead of opting for an existing property.
Yes, you wait a bit longer – but in the end you should be able to get the home you want without having to make concessions that you might have to consider on an existing property which, although you might like it, isn’t ‘exactly’ what you were looking for. Consider it seriously if you haven’t yet found your ideal home!
See part one of our guide: Building a home in Greece, part 1: Buying the Land
See part two of our guide: Building a home in Greece, part 2: The Design
Diana from Corfu Home Finders