You would have recently noticed that prices of beautiful homes and other properties in Greece you may have been eyeing for the last few years have dramatically dropped. Therefore you may sense that the time to buy a nice property in one of the most magnificent countries in the world perhaps has come. What do you do next?

Firstly, you try to pick the property you wish to buy, through the numerous sites on the internet, or by instructing a local real estate agent to show you what is offered according to your preferences, or by visiting prospective properties, which you have heard about through agents, relatives or friends in Greece.

Your obligation towards the agent will be to pay no more than two per cent of the purchase price if you buy something they have shown you. You can engage more than one agent and you do not have to pay anyone except the agency who showed you the property you are going to buy.

Once you have made up your mind on which property to buy and you have reached an agreement with the seller on the price, you must retain an attorney in Greece, who will review the various deeds and other legal documents related to the titles of the property, and will undertake the title search at the local land registry to make sure there are no legal burdens on the property and that there are no legal obstacles to the acquisition.

In Greece the title search is significant since the legal description, the boundaries, and the other characteristics of the property are not always clear, nor properly outlined in previous deeds, and clarification may be needed to make sure that what you believe you are buying will be the actual property you buy.

If you purchase a plot or a lot – defined as a piece of land within the city, town or village limits – or a land – a piece of property outside these limits – and you intend to build upon it you may also need the advice of a local civil engineer to make sure the plot or land is able to be built upon according to the local building regulations, and the dimensions of the structure you intend to build.

Once the legal due diligence has been concluded, you choose a notary to draft the purchase deed with advice of your lawyer(s).

As the buyer, you will pay the notary at the end of the transaction. The purchase deed can only be signed at the notary’s office by both parties (seller and buyer) at the same time.

Either of the two parties can sign in person or by proxy with a power of attorney. Right before the deed is executed, the seller must pay acquisition tax, which in most cases is three per cent of the purchase price.

The money is paid to the seller either by certified bank cheque(s) from a Greek bank, or by transferring money to the seller’s bank account anywhere in the world, in which case more details and terms must be added to the sale/purchase deed, to safeguard the rights of seller and buyer.

Finally, the deed, once signed/executed at the notary’s office by both parties, must be properly registered at the local land registry, without which the legal transfer of the property to the ownership of the buyer will not take place.

It must be noted that this is just a general outline of the basic steps in the process of the purchase of a real estate property in Greece. However, in each specific case more action may need to be taken and more checks may have to be done in relation to forest regulations, environmental directives – Natura 2000 legislation and related articles – and other particularities of Greek administrative and legal practice.

* Christos Iliopoulos is an attorney at the Supreme Court of Greece, LLM.
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