So you found your dream home under the Greek sun?
And have agreed on a price with the seller?
Great! Now the waiting game begins.
Property transfers in Greece normally take anywhere between four to twelve months before the deal is done, sometimes longer, says Yannis Daskalakis, co-founder and managing director of real estate company Daskalakis and Associates.
Preparing an asset for transfer is often a long legal process.
After decades of poor state oversight of property laws, Greece has tightened regulations in recent years and this means that owners have several new hurdles to jump over than in the past.
The asset needs to be checked by an engineer for building law violations, its energy performance needs to be determined, land registry checks need to be conducted, along with a scan on whether the seller owes any money to the state, among other requirements.
How does this compare with other parts of Europe?
Data from the World Bank’s Doing Business archive show that 11 procedures need to be completed for a property to be transferred in Greece, versus the European average of 5.5 steps.
Also, investors in Greece need 26 days to complete the procedure while in countries like Spain and Italy 13 and 16 days are needed respectively. In Cyprus, just 9 days are needed.
Keep in mind though that the above estimates are for assets where no irregularities have been spotted and the transfer is a straightforward process.
In Greece, experts say, decades of flouting or ignoring planning laws have created a stock of homes where most have some form of violation that now needs to be settled before the asset can be transferred.
Sorting out these irregularities requires visits to public services and increases the work civil engineers and notaries need to complete, translating into more money and time being needed.
Going digital in real estate
In an attempt to speed things up, the Greek government announced last week that all real estate transfers can be completed online in a switch set to take place in November.
Market insiders welcome the move but point out that this is applicable in the event that everything is in order and no previous problems need to be ironed out.
This could be the case for properties that have already been transferred since 2011, when Greece introduced the requirement that all property sales are accompanied by an engineer’s certificate that the building is legal.
But even on these files, further paperwork is sometimes needed.
“And for the rest you still have to wait to get the plans from town planners, conduct a technical inspection, spot the problems involved, pay the fines, prepare new plans and then at some point you will be ready for the transfer,” adds Daskalakis.
What market participants say would really speed up the process is to digitalise all the individual steps rather than just the final step of handing over the fully prepared file, which requires little time anyway.