A Guide to Buying Property in Crete & The Pitfalls to Avoid
1. Always choose a well established and licensed Estate Agent, with an office in Crete. Many so called “estate agents” are merely people who have had no previous experience either of property buying and selling, building or of the Greek regulations regarding building (or know but do not mention them, for fear of losing a sale). The Estate Agent, according to the last Law for Real Estate Agents (4072/2012) has responsibility for the sale and their name and commission paid should be mentioned on your purchase contract. The company should also be registered with the local Chamber of Commerce and have their license visible in their office.
If the representative you are dealing with is not affiliated to a proper professional body then hire yourself an independent Architect, to ensure that with the property or upon land that you wish to buy, you are legally allowed to make the adaptations you wish or that you will be able to receive a Building Permit if this is required, especially if you wish to expand the property and build more.
2. A local English speaking Lawyer (or a Lawyer that can provide a translator in your mother tongue) is essential.
3. If you are considering the purchase of an older property to renovate or a plot upon which to build, then do bear in mind that Building Permits are more expensive in Greece than many other EU countries and both the Building Permit costs and Architect’s fees are set by the Greek Government. A Building Permit will not be issued without confirmation that both the Permit fees and the Architect’s fees are paid into the Architect’s bank account. These fees should always be quoted to you.
Without guidance of a professionally registered person, the strict planning laws could be your downfall. For instance, some properties may not only require a Building Permit, but also official approval from the Ministry of Environment, E.O.T. office, local urban administration and so on. Plots will need a Certificate issued by the Forestal Authority and in same cases, the Archaeological Authority to ensure that you can legally build upon them.
4. By law now, the Seller must have a Certificate of Legality, which is attached to the Purchase Contract, together with the Topographic Survey that shows boundaries, sizes, location etc..
5. Crete is an island and all building materials, fixtures and fittings have to be imported and sometimes can be expensive. Transport costs can be higher when a remote (and initially cheap) property is involved.
6. There are three kinds of property in Crete:
i) The ready to live in property where you are buying what you see. This also applies to houses requiring basic renovation and refurbishment. The choice can be include studios and apartments, renovated properties, existing village houses in good condition and family houses usually with land.
ii) The property that requires renovation or extensive refurbishment.
iii) A new build house on a development, either ready or off-plan.
iv) A building plot on which you can design and build your own house together with an Architect. For those with sufficient income, this is perfect because the house you build will be your ideal and tailor made to suit your personal needs and requirements.
7. Whatever your choice, you will need the services of a good and locally based Lawyer who can communicate with you in your mother tongue (or arrange a translator who can) as well as a Notary Public. Both are there to protect your title rights.
8. Buying property or land in Crete need not be much more complicated than buying in your own home country, provided you use the same commonsense, apply the same methods and make the same normal legal checks.
Crete Homes, established since 1990 as land and property consultants, advises and assists you in all matters relating to the purchase of property or land and our Architect Division can supply a full design and architectural service.
Some essential advice for people buying, renovating or building a property in Greece
Tip 1. You want to buy a ruin or old property and want to refurbish it, adding on extra rooms or enclosing existing terraces:
BE CAREFUL: Ask an Architect if the size of the plot legally has the potential to accept extra building volume.
If you just proceed on your own without advice, YOU RISK:
a. Not being able to get a Building Permit for works.
b. High fines if you do proceed to build illegally without a Building Permit.
c. Not being able to re-sell your house if you do the works illegally.
Seek advice from a competent Architect. Lawyers are not always experts on the subject.
Tip 2. If you already are the owner of a house or ruin and want to refurbish it or do some repair works without building anything extra:
BE CAREFUL: Ask an Architect if you have to obtain a Building Permit or not.
Tip 3. If you have a house or ruin in Greece and want to refurbish or do some repair works yourself:
BE CAREFUL: You might have to declare these works to I.K.A and pay the necessary contributions. Ask an Architect for advice as you risk very high fines if a representative from the very powerful I.K.A. authority carries out a check on the completed or works in progress. (See I.K.A. Obligations link).
Tip 4. If you buy an old house with which the owner has carried out extended refurbishment works before selling it to you:
BE CAREFUL: If the vendor has not paid the corresponding I.K.A for the works done, YOU risk paying it after the purchase should there be an I.K.A control. Ask if the I.K.A payments have been made and take receipts. If in doubt, check with an Architect and a Lawyer.
YOU RISK paying that I.K.A plus fines and or have difficulties in re-selling the property. (See I.K.A. Obligations link)
Tip 5. Having inspected many plots and found THE ONE that fits you because the view is just right and the price reasonable, do not rush:
BE CAREFUL: Check with an Architect to verify it can legally accept a building. You will need to see a recent Topographic Survey to confirm the boundaries and size of the plot and to know the following:
– Is the final forestry clearance available?
– Is there the need for a final archeological authority clearance?
– Is the size of the plot large enough to legally build the size of house you want?
– Is the date of issue of the particular plot in combination with its size, correct according to what the law demands, in order for the plot to be able to accept a house?
– Is the size, shape, and orientation for views, privacy etc. of the plot suitable to build the kind of house you want?
If you are not sure about all these points, YOU RISK not being able to build the house you want.
Tip 6. You have discovered a nice small development, perhaps on a 4500 m2 plot outside the limits of any town or village plan. Four fully detached small houses (without any material connection between them) have been constructed upon this plot and they are put on sale independently:
BE CAFEFUL: Check on the title validity of each detached house. Ask a Lawyer, an Architect and a Public Notary. The Greek law is rather contradictory in these cases. Be sure that you are not going to exchange a contract, which is going to be invalidated in the future.
Tip 7. You bought a 4600 m2 plot outside any town or village plan with sea view. It is a long strip descending upon a hill, its road access is good, electricity is very close and the view is just fantastic with no chance another house being built in front to disturb it:
The width of the plot is 23 metres. You dream of a house as wide as possible towards the sea view. When your Architect starts designing your house, you will see in his sketches that your house is only 9 metres wide towards the sea view, which you point out is too small. If you ask your Architect why he does not make it a bit wider he will reply that he has to keep 7.5 metres minimum obligatory distance from the boundaries. For wider plots the normal distance from boundaries is 15 metres.
This is just an illustration of a difficult situation that could have been avoided if the correct advice was sought beforehand.
Tip 8. You want to insure your property but your policy does not include cover against earthquake. Why?
Only newly built properties and concrete shells built after 1976 with a Building Permit can have earthquake insurance. Older properties which have been renovated would have needed a Building Permit showing that the proper reinforced concrete columns were in place and that this work was done by a professional and approved by the relevant Authority.
Tip 9. Buying a house through an Estate Agent:
It is always recommended that you use a licensed and well established Estate Agent through which to buy your property, plot of business. The recent couple of years has seen an remarkable increase in new Estate Agents, some of which are web based, having neither an office in Crete but working from home, a license nor are affiliated to the relevant associations.
Unless time and distance prohibits it, always have your first appointment with the Estate Agent or their representative at their office.
Ask for the details of the Estate Agent to put onto the purchase contract as the Greek Law requests. This way, the Estate Agent is obliged to share responsibility, by law, in case something goes wrong.
BE CAREFUL: If the Agent refuses, is it because they want to proceed to a sale without taking on responsibility for the sale? Or to pay relevant taxes on their commission?
SO ALWAYS: BE CAREFUL ….. AVOID RISKS…..
SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE
AND ENJOY YOUR NEW PROPERTY IN CRETE!