Buying a home anywhere involves a complex set of legal processes. When it comes to buying a property in Greece there are extra complications. So before making the final payment on your new home, make a few checks on the property.
The list of things that can go wrong with a property purchase abroad anywhere is long and worrying. You can add to those particularly Greek factors. These include the Greek language, which few of us can speak (although we really should try harder!). Then there is the complex relationship between the average Greek and his or her government, which might mean that documents are missing, or tax unpaid. Thirdly, austerity, which has left government departments underfunded and the Greek tax office on the hunt for those missing payments.
Perhaps most importantly, the wheels of Greek justice revolve extremely slowly. So it is vital to avoid legal problems from the outset as redress through the courts can take, literally, decades. So we recommend two things before buying a property in Greece. Firstly, ensure you have a good lawyer. Secondly, ensure that you and your lawyer have the following bases covered.
The last thing you need is your home-warming party being gatecrashed by people who have already booked and paid for your property on Airbnb!
- That the property has a legal deed of sale and is it registered.
- Is the seller the sole owner of the property? All owners need to agree to the sale and sign on the dotted line. Yet in many countries, especially where many people have left the country, as is the case in Greece, it can be hard to track down everyone who has a legal right to agree the sale.
- Check that there are no debts – called encumbrances or liens – against the property. Mortgages or loans taken out against the property, local property taxes, utility bills, all may become your responsibility. Moreover, the lender or local authority may have first claim on the property.
- Check the property is vacant. Not only should tenants have moved out – unless you’re taking it on as a buy-to-let, of course – but it’s worth taking a look on rental websites too. The last thing you need is your home-warming party being gatecrashed by people who have already booked and paid for your property on Airbnb!
- Make a detailed search of planning permissions granted nearby. This is especially vital if you have empty land or derelict property between you and your sea view. As Greece recovers economically, we can expect to see a building boom and all manner of defunct planning permissions could be resurrected.
- Check that utilities will be connected, especially plumbing. This is the kind of area where life in Greece can be more stressful, but rest assured that it will be worth it in the end.
- Do a final check on boundaries. The property register should include an accurate physical description of the property, and should include a map.
- Building licences are a vexed issue in Greece. It’s illegal to sell, buy, rent or mortgage a property without a “certificate of legality”. This has to b issued by certified architects or engineers. If you have a property that isn’t legalised you can only transfer ownership to your heirs.
- Check who owns your olive trees. It’s true, people can buy and sell olive trees without selling the land they’re growing on.
- And lastly, before you pop along to the notary, check that nothing has been changed, lost or damaged since you last viewed. Check for storm damage, water ingress, or original features being removed. Check that appliances have not been substituted for cheaper models. Gardeners beware; one of our readers found that all the plants in the garden had been removed!
If you find that anything is missing or damaged, act immediately, before the final payment is made. If needs be, get your lawyer to delay the signing of the deed until you are completely happy.