Among the most sought-after property destinations in Europe, Greece is near the top. Buying property in Greece takes any real estate portfolio to the next level. For first-time buyers of international real estate, seasoned investors, or residency, Greece is a sound choice.
Greece is one of the oldest civilizations and cultures in the world, but its real estate options are very modern. From coastal luxury to high-end urban, Greece has something to offer everyone at virtually any price point.
For those considering a move to Europe, gaining European Union residency, improving their tax situation, or simply looking to invest in dual citizenship, then Greece needs to be on your list.
Here is Astons’ comprehensive guide to buying real estate in Greece as well as leveraging the Greek property market for Greece’s residency by investment program.
Why buy property in Greece?
Whether beginning your international property portfolio, expanding your existing real estate portfolio, looking for a holiday property, or adding a revenue stream to your life, Greek real estate is a great asset.
Greece, as a country and a culture, offers numerous benefits for property owners, including the potential of owning a part of the history of the modern world. Financially though, Greece offers a favorable tax environment for property owners, residents, and Greek citizens as well.
The Greek real estate market is unique in a variety of aspects when compared with the markets of most countries – including other European Union nations.
Property in Greece tends to be more affordable, even for luxury high-end real estate. The country offers a vibrant rental market that is undergoing historic and unprecedented demand, a resurgence in its economy, the ability to satisfy any lifestyle, and options for near-immediate ROI.
Additionally, investors who are considering purchasing Greek real estate also have the option to buy through the residency by investment program, gaining both property and residency in the EU and Greece.
However, it needs to be mentioned that navigating the Greek real estate market can be difficult without a seasoned expert on your side.
Navigating the Greek real estate market
It is important to note from the start, that while non-EU citizens are legally permitted to purchase and own property in Greece, two conditions must be met:
- Non-EU citizens are not permitted to purchase or own property within federally protected zones – specifically near military installations or national borders
- Though not commonly invoked, the Greek government retains the right to demand non-EU citizens to establish their relationship with the country, culture, or heritage; or make a formal validation of their reasoning and purpose for the purchase
Typically, non-EU citizens must only be concerned with the first condition, however, when purchasing property in Greece through Astons, our experts are experienced in addressing both conditions, so the only concern for our clients is deciding which property they like.
It is also worth noting that there are no such conditions for EU citizens when purchasing real estate in Greece.
Regardless of nationality, navigating the Greek system requires specialized experience and knowledge. Every investor considering purchasing property in Greece should rely upon an expert who knows the system, historically and currently, to represent their interests.
Greece is a very large country and thus possesses a very diverse property market. Though best known for its history, beaches, and islands, the Greek landscape is equally forested, mountainous, and modernly urban.
So, the ‘why’ you are interested in buying Greek property greatly impacts the ‘where’ your search should be focused.
Additional factors, such as budget, can then be best used to filter your property options.
The advantages of Greek property ownership is enough reason to consider buying real estate in the country. However, the most common reason for real estate-based foreign investment into the Greek market is Greece’s popular residency by investment program.
Greek real estate and the residency by investment program
While residency is not required for buying and owning property in Greece, not having Greek residency will greatly impact the ability to access and use the property.
This is especially certain once ETIAS – the European Union’s e-Visa – comes online, which is currently scheduled to occur in early 2024.
The EU’s e-Visa will require all non-EU citizens without legal residency status in any EU country to be approved for entry via the ETIAS system – including to enter Greece, regardless of property ownership.
The ETIAS approval will last 3 years, at which time the applicant is required to restart the approval process from the beginning.
Greek residency, on the other hand, is valid for 5 years and will be automatically renewed providing the individual still owns the property and the value still equals or exceeds the program requirements.
Further, Greek residency can lead to Greek citizenship after 7 years, whereas ETIAS approval will never be counted toward or lead to EU citizenship in any way.
Thus, everyone buying property in Greece should, at least, consider the Greek Golden Visa program. And the time to buy into Greece’s residency by investment program is now – as the investment is scheduled to double on 31 July 2023.
Under the current Greek Golden Visa program, the criteria are:
- The applicant must be at least 18 years of age
- The ability to pass a criminal background check for every country the applicant has legally resided in [as well as all family members over the age of 14]
- The applicant has taken out health insurance in Greece
- A minimum real estate purchase of either €250,000 or €500,000 depending upon location
- Funds must pass Greece’s due diligence investigation
- A valid Schengen Visa: if the applicant requires one
As stated, depending upon location, the required minimum investment for many regions in Greece is only €250,000. However, the minimum investment rises to €500,000 for the 36 most popular areas, including:
The best locations for buying property in Greece
When purchasing property in Greece, you simply cannot choose a bad region. With that said, some regions are better than others, especially when you are buying with an agenda in mind.
Astons has researched the entire Greek market thoroughly – both current and historical – with varying perspectives in mind: including lifestyle, residency by investment, return on investment, and the viability of a long-term revenue stream.
In our expert opinion, these are the areas in Greece that investors should consider when purchasing real estate –
The capital city is always a great place to live and invest. Among the most popular destinations in Greece, Athens is among the most popular investment hubs for the Greek residency by investment program as well.
Athens is a dynamic market that offers properties for every taste and lifestyle along with prices to fit any budget – or when the budget is not a factor at all. The city offers an eclectic variety of dining and entertainment that makes anyone feel at home.
Athens can best be defined as the triad of tourism in Greece – cultural, archaeological, and business travel all converge here. And the market historically experiences a steady and stable incline. Thus, the opportunity for ROI and revenue from any real estate investment is year-round.
Average cost – Due to the size of Athens, property prices can vary significantly due to many variables but all areas within the capital city enjoy a steady and reliable increase year over year, with prices per sq. meter averaging between 1300 – 2300 euros / $1400 – $2500.
Greece is best known for its islands, and Crete is one of its crown jewels. The largest Greek island [fifth largest of all Mediterranean islands], Crete is typically associated with its amazing climate, picturesque villages, and unparalleled beaches.
Its real estate market is equally unmatched – offering the most diverse range of properties in the Mediterranean Sea. Whether you prefer a beach house, traditional Cretan white stone, or a multi-million-euro luxury new build, it is all available.
Though Crete is an island, it is not isolated. Crete is connected to the Greek mainland by ferry [passenger and vehicle] and to neighboring islands, including Rhodes and Santorini.
Crete also hosts three airports – domestic and international: Chania Airport, Heraklion Airport, and Sitia Airport.
Heraklion Airport is the country’s second-largest airport – only Athens International Airport is larger. These airports offer access from Athens, Thessaloniki, and numerous European destinations.
Average cost – Crete’s market is diverse, and property prices can vary due to the degree of luxury and location, with prices steadily increasing annually; per sq. meter averages between 1300 – 1900 euros / $1400 – $2100.
Another one of the crown jewels of the Greek Isles, and one of Greece’s highest-demand real estate markets – Santorini.
The real estate market in Santorini is best summed up as a market of scarcity – but when a property is available to buy, it will be extremely high-end with both value and competition to match.
Santorini is home to some of the most exclusive and luxurious real estate Greece has to offer, and those who can lay claim as property owners on the island are members of a very elite club.
Santorini is a high investment – high return market reserved for those who have an intimate appreciation for real estate and superior insight into investment.
Average cost – As stated, Santorini is among Greece’s most valuable markets due to its standard of luxury, location, and scarcity with prices consistently and reliably increasing year over year; per sq. meter averaging between 3200 – 4900 euros / $3500 – $5400.
A Greek hub for luxury tourism – thanks to its lavish lifestyle, vibrant nightlife, and diverse culture, complimented by its easy accessibility from the mainland. Mykonos’ luxury tourism also equates to one of Greece’s highest rental yields.
While Mykonos is a quintessential Greek island with picturesque beaches, scenic beauty, and a cosmopolitan atmosphere, the island’s investment side fuels the real estate market.
The only downside – an investment for revenue in Mykonos relies heavily upon the summer tourist season, so it is not the best location for investors looking for year-round ROI. With that said, a fully booked summer rental can generate more revenue than a year’s rental income in most European cities.
Average cost – Mykonos is another of Greece’s high-end luxury markets with prices that show a historically strong increase year over year; per sq. meter averaging between 4500 – 6450 euros / $4900 – $7100.
If you can’t decide between island life or the mainland, the Peloponnese region is for you. The Peloponnese region is a peninsula due west of Athens.
A region for archaeological and history lovers, its expansive coastline spans hundreds of miles across two seas, the Ionian and the Aegean – providing a variety of beaches to satisfy any preference.
Two aspects of the Peloponnese peninsula that make it distinctive from most Greek regions are its affordability and laid-back lifestyle. Thus, it is perfect for either year-round living or vacation-generating income.
The Peloponnese region also offers a high concentration of properties eligible for Greece’s residency by investment program.
Some of the best cities to consider in the region are Kalamata, Corinth, Nafplio, Port Heli, and Plyos.
Average cost – Among the most affordable markets in Greece, Peloponnese still enjoys a historically steady year-over-year increase; per sq. meter ranging between 1300 – 1700 euros / $1400 – $1850.
The nation’s second-largest city, whether your primary concern is residency by investment through real estate or a family home, Thessaloniki is a definite location to consider.
Thessaloniki is strategically located within the country and region and offers a vibrant Greek and Mediterranean experience. The city is a critical hub for tourism and business, and its growing economy fuels a rental market with strong demand.
When compared to other large European cities, property prices in Thessaloniki are among the most affordable, making it a great choice for urban real estate investment.
Average cost – As with Athens, Thessaloniki is a large city offering a market with diverse property options. Among Greece’s most affordable areas with a strong record for year-over-year increase; per sq. meter averaging around 1300 euros / $1500.
Also known as Chalkidik, is a region in northern Greece and home to Greece’s iconic fingers – three peninsulas that jut off from the mainland and host some of Europe’s most pristine natural beauty.
The region has a lot of unique elements to offer, and one of the most important is the value it provides for real estate. Thus, the region is prime with properties eligible and sought-after for the Greek residency by investment program.
This is due to the region possessing some of Greece’s highest tourism demand and is extremely suitable for residential living – due to its availability of amenities [golf courses, marinas, etc.] and well-developed infrastructure.
Halkidiki’s accessibility to Thessaloniki makes it a perfect weekend getaway for city dwellers. All of which nurtures its strong rental environment. A premium choice for long-term revenue and ROI.
Average cost – Halkidiki offers lifestyle, nature, and luxury all in one of Greece’s more affordable markets, which includes the bonus of a historically strong record for year-over-year increase; per sq. meter ranging between 1300 – 1700 euros / $1400 – $1850.
The legal process for buying Greek property
Buying into Greece’s real estate market can be somewhat confusing for foreign investors. Greece possesses a legal infrastructure that is unique within the European environment.
A fundamental understanding of the legal process is essential for every property buyer – but nothing can replace having an experienced expert in the Greek market and system on your side.
Astons has a staff of seasoned property specialists with years of experience in Greece and can help anyone seeking to invest in Greek real estate for any reason – especially residency by investment.
The Greek legal system
Greece operates via the ancient Roman Civil Law system, as most of Europe does. This is worth noting, due to its significant differences from that of the UK or the US, which operate via the British Common Law system.
Under common law systems, interpretation of the law and court precedence is paramount. However, under the civil law system – as in Greece, the written word of the law, defined using everyday meaning, is the controlling factor.
Thus, having an expert in Greek law is critically vital to any business transactions in the country.
Property ownership in Greece
The Greek legal system recognizes two forms of property ownership:
- Freehold – permanent ownership
- Leasehold – temporary ownership
The most common form of ownership in Greece is freehold. However, since a temporary form of ownership does legally exist, without a legal expert on your side, you can very easily end up in a property dispute that you did not plan for.
So, having an expert in the Greek property system on your side representing your interests cannot be understated.
Three steps to buying Greek property
Step 1: Property search
The first step in any real estate investment is to locate the property that you want to buy. This typically requires creating your specific criteria, such as:
- Reason for investment
Once you find the property you want to buy, you must hire an attorney to conduct all the background checks regarding the property, including liens and other possible legal issues.
Greek Land Registry Search
The buyer must obtain a current land registry search to establish that the seller has the legal right of ownership to sell the property.
While this can be done without an attorney’s assistance, unless an individual speaks fluent Greek and understands how to navigate Greek bureaucracy, an attorney is the best option to trust and use.
Step 2: Pre-contract agreement
The pre-contract agreement – called the synallagma – is the most important step in the legal process as it outlines and dictates the terms and conditions of the process and purchase to follow, including:
- Purchase price
- Closing date
- Payment terms
The pre-contract agreement must, without exception, be reviewed by an attorney that represents your interests, as agreement to the contract requires – on average – a 10% deposit of the property’s stipulated purchase price.
Once you sign the pre-contract agreement, there is no altering or modifying of the terms or conditions of the sale.
Step 3: Final purchase agreement
Once you have completed all the necessary legal examinations of the property and agreed to the terms, you now need to finalize the transfer of rights by signing the actual purchase contract– the apografos – and paying the balance of the agreed to purchase price.
All taxes and fees must also be paid in full at this stage.
There is a long list of legal documents that are central to purchasing and owning property in Greece, and the new property owner needs to be sure to receive them all.
These legal documents are:
- Certificate of ownership (πιστοποιητικό ιδιοκτησίας): confirms ownership status and is issued by the Land Registry Office
- Building permit (άδεια κατασκευής): These are historical documents that evidence the legality of development that the property has undergone and that it currently satisfies the relevant codes
- Energy Performance Certification (πιστοποιητικό ενεργειακής απόδοσης): Establishes the energy efficiency rating for the property
- Tax Clearance certificate (πιστοποιητικό φορολογικής ενημερότητας): confirms the seller has paid all taxes and the property is up-to-date and in good standing
- Tax ID number – both the buyer and the seller must possess a valid Greek tax identification number – AFM or TIN– to legally engage in any business transaction, including the transfer or sale of a property
- Certificate of no-debt – property buyers must acquire certification from the local tax office that the buyer does not owe any outstanding debts to the Greek government
- Greek bank account – depending upon whether you’re buying as part of the residency by investment program or as a stand-alone transaction – a Greek bank account may or may not be required. However, having one is highly recommended
Legal fees involved in purchasing Greek property
In addition to taxes, there are legal fees that must be paid with any form of property transfer or sale.
These legal fees include:
- Notary fees – notaries prepare, review, and register the final contract.
- Land Registry fees – the Land Registry Office charges a fee for registering the sale and change of ownership.
- Attorney fees – Though you are not required to hire and use an attorney, it is important to do so, and the associated cost will differ depending on the attorney and services you request.
- Agent fees – as with anywhere in the world, real estate agents and agencies charge a fee/commission for their service.
Residency requirements and fees for Greek property
It is important to note that non-EU citizens do not automatically receive a residency permit to legally reside in Greece simply by purchasing a property.
Therefore, non-EU citizens who purchase real estate in Greece will still be subject to the Schengen Zone’s 90-days in / 90-days out requirements – and thus access to the property.
Furthermore, once the European Union’s e-Visa, ETIAS, comes into force – expected in early 2024 – all non-EU citizens will require the ETIAS e-Visa to enter Greece, regardless of property ownership.
A Greek residency permit is valid for 5-years and is renewable throughout property ownership. The cost for the residency permit is €2,000 plus additional costs for spouses and family members.
Real estate purchased as an investment through the Greece residency by investment program already incorporates this into the process.
Tax considerations for property in Greece
Greece levies several distinctive taxes on the transfer and purchase of a property. These various tax liabilities can significantly increase the overall cost of the property you are purchasing so it is essential to be fully informed and aware of them from the start.
Property transfer tax
Also called the Transfer Tax on Property Rights, the transfer tax must be paid to the government when the final contract is signed.
Unless otherwise agreed to by the parties, the buyer always pays this tax. The actual amount to be paid is determined by the value, location, and age of the property.
Generally, newer construction will range between 8% and 13%:
- €85,001 to €130,000 = 8%
- €130,001 to €220,000 = 9%
- €220,001 to €300,000 = 11%
- €330,001 and above = 13%
Annual property tax
The Greek government levies a yearly tax on all properties. The actual amount an owner owes varies depending on multiple factors, including location, value, and use.
Generally speaking, the tax is based upon the estimated rental value of the property within its respective market and typically ranges between .025% to .035% of the property value.
VAT – Value Added Tax
In Europe, as with most of the world, VAT is one of the most common taxes a buyer pays on most goods and services. Though the tax is universal in the European Union, each country has the right to regulate its application.
In Greece, property transactions are typically subject to VAT at a rate of 24%.
However, there are exceptions to this rule, and it generally requires an experienced tax expert to navigate them, but they include:
- First-time buyers
- Undeveloped land
- New vs. old construction
Greece levies an annual wealth tax, the Unified Property Tax (ENFIA), on select investors and property owners.
The tax is not invoked directly due to the purchase of a property but:
- Triggered by the value of the property,
- Location of the property,
- Number of properties owned, and or
- The overall net worth of the investor or property owner.
According to current Greek law, the tax is a preset amount, updated annually.
For general reference, the 2022 amounts were:
- Property values up to €70,000 = ENFIA tax was €0 to €1,000
- €70,001 and €200,000 = ENFIA tax range of €280 to €2,800
- €200,001 and €500,000 = ENFIA tax range of €630 to €6,300
- €500,001 and €1,000,000 = ENFIA tax range of €1,350 to €13,000
- €1,000,000 and above = ENFIA tax range of €2,700 to €27,000
Average monthly utility costs in Greece
Utility costs anywhere in the world are difficult to estimate, as consumption and use by every individual and family differ, along with other factors, such as the age, location, and amenities of the property.
New luxury construction in Greece can easily reach upwards of 500 sq. meters [5400 sq. feet], with some large properties reaching 1000 sq. meters. And luxury apartments often range between 150 and 500 sq. meters [1600 – 5400 sq. feet].
Commonly, in Greece, per person/per 100 sq. meters, utility costs can range:
- Electricity – €60 to €100
- Heating & hot water – €40 to €80
- Water – €20 to €50
Finance options for buying property in Greece
Foreign property buyers and real estate investors looking to buy real estate in Greece have several options for financing, both public and private.
The Greek mortgage market
It is worth knowing, in Europe in general, banks prefer to avoid mortgages – they are not a foundational product of the European financial system.
However, they are available, and banks in Greece do offer mortgages to non-Greek citizens and residents who possess a valid Greek tax ID number – required for the real estate process – and a Greek bank account.
The basic requirements to be eligible for a Greek mortgage are:
- The applicant must be at least 25 years of age
- The applicant must be able to pay off the mortgage by age 58
- The applicant must have a Greek tax number
- The applicant must have a Greek bank account
In general, mortgage terms can range from 6 years in length up to 30 years. Banks typically require a down payment ranging between 20% to 30%.
While the minimum for a mortgage can be as low as €10,000, rarely will a bank lend more than 80% of the property’s value. Thus, unlike in the US, the down payment is not optional.
It is important to understand, however, that the terms and conditions of any bank loan vary from institution to institution and for non-Greek citizens as compared to citizens – specifically, non-citizens will pay a higher interest rate.
The most common mortgages that Greek banks offer to foreign buyers are:
- Fixed-rate mortgages – provide a stable monthly payment throughout the life of the mortgage
- Variable rate mortgages – monthly payments will fluctuate with market conditions for the entire length of the mortgage
- Hybrid mortgages – a combination of a fixed and variable rate; the rate is fixed for a specific period of the mortgage and variable for the remainder
- Interest-only mortgages – the owner only makes interest payments for a specific number of years before paying toward the principal
Private financial institutions
If a buyer does not qualify for a mortgage or prefers not to use a Greek bank, there are diverse and extensive options for private financing – such as a mortgage lending company.
Furthermore, if the buyer has opened a Greek bank account, the buyer can leverage financial services in their own country, transfer the funds to their Greek bank account, and finalize the real estate transaction that way.
Important to note: funds transferred into Greece for purchasing real estate, especially if done as part of the residency by investment program, will be subjected to Greece’s strict due diligence investigations to comply with both KYC and AML laws and regulations.
For investors who already own property in Greece, equity release allows them to borrow money against their current property portfolio to buy new properties.
However, the investor must have significant equity available in their existing portfolio, and the interest rate tied to equity release is much higher than that of a mortgage.
Some sellers, most commonly large-scale developers, offer their own forms of financing to buyers.
The seller determines the terms and conditions of financing, but buyers enjoy a higher approval rate with seller financing – accompanied by a much higher interest rate than a bank-issued mortgage.
A popular option with foreign investors and Greek citizens alike is the leaseback.
The leaseback allows an investor to purchase a property, and then lease it back to the developer or a property management service for an agreed period – during which the developer or service pays rent to the owner.
The leaseback allows investors to turn their property into an immediate revenue stream and begin actualizing ROI while still having the ability to access the property for personal use, such as vacations – providing those details and dates are agreed to in the contract.
Cryptocurrency and buying Greek property
As the popularity, options, legitimacy, and accessibility of cryptocurrencies grow globally, the ability to use them in place of fiat currencies for everyday transactions is also becoming more common.
While there are ways to purchase property in Greece using cryptocurrency, a direct property purchase with cryptocurrency is not, currently, an option.
Crypto entrepreneurs and other crypto-based HNWIs, who want to leverage the value of their crypto portfolio to invest in the Greek real estate market, will need to liquidate their crypto in a manner that will satisfy Greece’s due diligence requirements.
Options, such as a crypto-backed loan, from a credible and licensed source using a centralized platform and state-of-the-art blockchain analysis could be the best route to consider.
However, in many ways, Greece remains one of the world’s crypto-frontiers and digitally developing economies.
The experts at Astons are available to discuss all potential routes to purchasing property in Greece as well as avoiding the future need for applying for the European Union’s ETIAS e-Visa by investing in Greek residency through real estate.
For a complete and thorough review of your individual situation, contact your personal Astons expert now.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, it is possible to purchase real estate in Greece using an overseas mortgage – this is a popular financing method used by many US investors.
However, if the property investment is part of the Greek Golden Visa program, then neither a mortgage from a Greek bank or an overseas mortgage can be used.
For the Greek Golden Visa, the property would need to be paid in full in cash with the funds sent to a Greek bank account.
No, simply owning property in Greece does not give you the right to reside in Greece. Residency and property ownership are completely different legal frameworks – with the only exception being the Greek Golden Visa program.
The Greek Golden Visa program is the only means of acquiring the right to Greek residency when investing in Greek real estate.
For more information about the Greek Golden Visa program, schedule a Free Consultation with an expert at Astons.
One of the elements that makes the Greece’s residency by investment program very unique is the fact that it permits:
- Property to be purchased anywhere in Greece
- Property does not need to be pre-approved for the program, only the minimum investment thresholds must be met
However, the important fact to keep in mind is that for the Greek Golden Visa program, different areas of Greece have different mandatory minimum investment requirements.
For example, in the most popular areas in Greece, such as Crete or Athens, the property must be at least €500,000. Whereas in some other parts of Greece, the required minimum investment is only €250,000.
Yes and No. The US tax benefit called the 1031 Exchange allows US real estate investors to exchange like-kind domestic properties for other domestic properties or foreign properties for other foreign properties.
As of now, it is not permitted under the 1031 Exchange rules to swap US-based properties with foreign-based properties. However, if a US real estate investor has a like-kind foreign property to exchange with one in Greece, that would be permissible under the 1031 Exchange.
Bearing in mind, this is from the perspective of the US side of the matter. Whether or not such a transaction would standup to the required Due Diligence issues in Greece – along with other Greek legalities – is something that would be handled on a case-by-case basis.
To best understand your options for investing in the lucrative Greek market, schedule a Free Consultation with an Astons expert.