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A REAL ESTATE TRANSACTION IN GREECE – Insights by a real estate expert

By 12/09/2021 No Comments

Which is the biggest difficulty in buying a property overseas?

Buying a property overseas is one of the greatest experiences in a person’s life. Although, in all overseas transactions there are inherent risks lurking that may create anxiousness and unsafety to the buyer. A successful real estate transaction is a result of co-operation and coordination of professionals from different fields i.e. notaries, civil engineers, lawyers, realtors etc.As per our experience throughout the years, from the very beginning we understood that the main difficulty a foreigner encounters dealing with an overseas transaction is to find the above professionals and co-ordinate them in order to achieve a successful outcome. The difficulty lies in practical reasons, as indicatively are the language barrier, lack of knowledge of the localities, mismatch on the mentality etc.The quote “Think Global, Act Local” precisely describes our approach on such cases. Corresponding to our clients’ needs and aiming to make their lives easier, we act as an One-StopShop, gathering under our umbrella all the professionals involved in a real estate transaction i.e. accountants, civil engineers, notaries real estate agents, property valuators etc, who are long-term and trustworthy partners. Acting so, our clients feel free to enjoy their buying journey, without having to bother themselves with formalities and technicalities, that could make them feel tangled and in uncharted waters.

Our liability and experience as built throughout the years provides us with the comperative advantage to provide an all-in-one services package, with our clients’ having to address their enquires and wishes to us, and us taking over their implementation.

 

I’m afraid that due to Covid-19 travel restrictions and health risks I have to postpone my plans. How can you help whilst we still can’t travel?

In a real estate transaction we have to distinguish between two basic benchmarks, which are: (a) the substantial step of finding a property tailored to your needs and (b) the technicalities, such as due diligence, signing of S&P Contract etc. With a reliable and trustworthy team of professionals by your side, the technical part could be a piece of cake, and the whole procedure can be concluded remotely, in virtue of a Power of Attorney (PoA).

In specific, by signing a PoA before the competent Greek Consulate or a Notary Public, either in Greece or abroad, we can perform on your behalf all the relevant actions for the completion of the transaction, from issuing the Tax Identification Number (TIN) to signing and registering the Sale and Purchase Contract and applying for Golden Visa.

Nevertheless, we should not exclude from the debate the first step of identifying the property. As a matter of fact, the global technological transformation diminishes the distance and makes a remote transaction not only feasible but the safest and easiest roadmap during Covid-19 times.

Our law firm, having a trustworthy team consisting of civil engineers, technicians, realtors, property valuators etc can help you choose the property of your interest remotely, either it is a holiday home or an investment property etc.

We always seek to provide our clients with services that have an impact on their lives and not with incomprehensible and obscure legal information that will make them feel puzzled and anxious. The selection of the property in Covid times can be transformed from a stressful procedure to a joyful journey with our assistance. Our team can pay on-site visits to the property and provide you with all the necessary material and information that will help you make up your mind and make the right choice.

 

How long does the buying process take?

The average time for the completion of a real estate transaction in Greece is 20 to 30 days. It is true that Greece is one of the most bureaucratic countries and the signing of a contract requires a pile of documentation, mostly from the seller’s end. 

Despite the cumbersome and Greek bureaucratic administrative system, which as physical entails delays, we have to admit that we are going through a period of digital governance transformation, as the Greek Government is doing the utmost in order to reduce the average time needed for a contract, hence facilitating real estate transactions and boosting investments in Greece. In the above context, the e-property portal was very recently launched by the Ministry of Finance, in an attempt to expedite the procedure and offload Tax Offices, which are struggling with the hectic workload. It is anticipated, that until the end of 2022 all real estate transactions will be concluded electronically, bringing a new era on real estate field.

 

What are the buying taxes?

The transfer tax currently amounts to 3.09% on the value of the property. Nonetheless, when we come to the tax estimation, the question “Which is the value of the property?”, could be proved tricky, as an objective tax evaluation system is applicable in Greece.

An objective tax evaluation system means that each property in Greece has a prefixed value, defined by the Ministry of Finance according to predetermined factors, as indicatively are the area, the floor, the facade of the property etc, the so-called Objective Value of the property.

The objective tax evaluation system was introduced by the Greek Government a long time ago in an effort to prevent tax evasion, which was a common phenomenon in Greece. Actually, it was usual the buyer and the seller to agree on a higher selling price and declare a lower price on the contract in order to reduce the payable transfer tax.

In order for the Greek Government to combat this phenomenon, they stipulated that the transfer tax will be calculated on the higher between the objective price and the selling price. Hence, even if the parties declare a lower price in the contract in an effort to circumvent the Greek taxation law, the buyer is obliged by the law to pay the tax on the objective value.

 

Do we expect a raise on the objective values and how could this affect the market value of a property?

In an attempt to boost real estate transactions and the Greek economy after the dire repercussions of Covid-19 pandemic, Greek Government decided to raise the objective values as of 1st of January 2022. Profoundly, the above will give a push on the market prices as well.

The objective values and the market values are like communicating vessels. Given that the objective values will go up, the market values as well will be on an upward path as well.

 

What other expenses should I bear in mind in order to calculate my budget?

Apart from the transfer tax, other expenses that the buyer shall bear is the registration fees for the registration of the Contract with the National Cadaster or the Land Registry, which are also a percentage on the value of the property.

The National Cadaster has been instituted in 1995 as a unified and constantly updated

information system that records legal, technical and other additional information on real estate and rights over it, under the responsibility and guarantee of the State. Its compilation aims to create a modern, fully automated real estate registration system ensuring the greatest possible publicity and security of transactions. The Cadastral system aims to completely replace the

System of Registrations and Mortgages – aka Land Registry – that was instituted in the mid-19th century, as the official public register of real estate transactions.

Due to the fact that the Greek National Cadaster hasn’t been finalized yet – for almost 20 years now – in some Greek areas the Land Registry is still operational, while in others the National Cadaster is finalized.

Depending on the area in which the property is located, the buyer has either to pay the Registration Fees to the Land Registry, which amount to 0,475% on the value of the property or the Registration Fees to the National Cadaster, which amount to 0,575% on the value of the property.

Furthermore, the buyer shall bear the notarial fees which usually amount to 0,89% – 1,00% plus VAT 24% on the value of the property and the legal fees.

 

Is it a good time to invest in real estate in Greece?

Covid-19 took a toll on real estate transactions globally. Expectedly, Greece didn’t escape the crisis. Despite the fact that there was a bearish turn at the pace that real estate prices were raising during the last couple of years, there was still a raise on the prices during 2019-2020, according to the statistics published by the Bank of Greece.

Of course, the rate of that raise was much lower than the anticipated one in pre-Covid terms and admittedly the pandemic halted the exponential growth on the real estate prices. Nonetheless, it is obvious, that since the prices had gone up during the pandemic, in the next 5 years real estate market in Greece will demonstrate great development, taken into consideration big investment projects, as indicatively Ellinikon

Project.

Besides, the recent past of Greece’s economy presages a positive outlook on the Greek economy. In specific, at the time that Greece started recovering from a period of great recession, Covid-19 showed up in our lives, having as a result, if not an overturn, then a slowdown on the Greece’s timid steps towards development. Nevertheless, while the forecasts for such a susceptible economy were negative, Greece proved wrong those that thought that this would be the final hit. Two out of the three big Credit Rating Agencies upgraded Greece, socking the markets by making it a safer investment destination during Covid – 19 pandemic.

On November 2020 «Moody’s” upgraded Greece, Government of local and foreign currency long-term issuer ratings to Ba3 from B1 previously. Moody’s has also upgraded the local currency senior unsecured debt rating to Ba3 from B1, as well as the foreign currency senior unsecured MTN programme and senior unsecured shelf ratings to (P)Ba3 from (P)B1, while the outlook remained “stable”. On April 2021 the international rating

agency Standard & Poor’s unexpectedly upgraded Greece’s sovereign credit rating by one notch, to ‘BB’ from ‘BB-’, and adjusted the Greece’s outlook from “stable” to a “positive” one. In its scheduled review of the Greek economy the CRA projected an economic rebound of 4.9% for this year, above the latest Bank of Greece forecast for a 4.2% growth. According to the agency, the recovery will accelerate to 5.8% in 2022. The fact that S&P has also adjusted Greece’s outlook to “positive” from “stable” means that a further upgrade may well be due in the upcoming months, taking Greece to the verge of investment grade after more than a decade.

The deceleration curve on the price increase in conjunction with a series of favorable provisions that the Greek government is to introduce, along with the digital transformation of the Administrative System, and the positive outlook, create the perfect momentum for investments in Greek real estate market. It is anticipated, that the next five to ten years will be a milestone for the Greek economy. Thus, the prices on real estate may well be skyrocketed in the near future, creating a great opportunity for those who plan to invest on properties in Greece.

{ Two out of the three big Credit Rating Agencies upgraded Greece, socking the markets by making it a safer investment destination during

Covid – 19 pandemic. }

 

Do we anticipate new incentives for real estate investments?

In the opening of Thessaloniki International Exhibition, as per standard practice, the Prime Minister made   a series of announcements, including a set of incentives that will enter into force as of 2022.

First of all, the Annual Unified Property Tax (aka “ENFIA” in Greek) will be switched from a tax on the immovable properties of the taxed person, them being precepted as a total, to an itemized tax which will be calculated on each property separately, at least for those who have in their ownership properties of 250k upwards.

Hence, the escalation that is currently applicable on the calculation of ENFIA – a system of presumptive taxation is applicable in Greece – which has as a result heavy taxation for those that have in their ownership assets of a high objective value (which sometimes doesn’t correspond to the commercial one) will be abolished, and the total value of the landlord’s immovable property will be irrelevant for the calculation of ENFIA, making the tax relief obvious.

In addition, as of 2022 the buyer of an apartment or land plot will be able to know the amount of ENFIA that he/she shall pay annually beforehand – something which wasn’t possible before – an amount that will be readjusted only in case that the objective value raises.

Moreover, the Greek Government has already introduced many   tax incentives, addressed to specific targeted groups

i.e. pensioners, digital nomads, investors etc.

Indicatively, any individual abroad who transfers his/her tax residence to Greece, can be subject to a special regime, if they invest 500,000 euros within a 3-years period in real estate, companies, securities, or shares in legal entities, or legal entities based in Greece. Those who enter the special scheme will pay an annual flat tax on their global income, which amounts to €100,000 for a

15-year period. For those who invest 1m in Greece, the flat tax will be reduced to the half, namely

€50,000 and for those who invest 3m the flat tax will be reduced to the amount of €25,000.

“Greece offers new tax incentives to attract foreign investors.”

 

Which are the main differences of a real estate transaction between Greece and other countries?

While in many jurisdictions the sale and purchase contract can be concluded with a private agreement drafted by an attorney at law and signed before him/her, this is not the case in Greece. All the contracts related to a real estate in Greece have to be in the form of a notarial act, which makes the whole procedure more time – consuming.

Furthermore, the insurance of real estate transactions, which is a standard practice especially in the US, preventing the buyer from being presented with a fait accompli i.e. legal defects, mortgages etc, is not applicable in Greece. Having said that, a foreign buyer has to be very careful on choosing his/her lawyer, as it is substantial to secure that all due diligence is conducted properly.

 

Do I need property survey?

Due diligence is, if not the most important, one of the most important steps in a real estate transaction. There are two main surveys that shall be conducted in order for the buyer to get the green light to proceed with the transaction.

The first one is the legal research before the Land Registry and the National Cadaster in order to ensure that the property is free of any lien, such as mortgages, pre-notices of mortgage and that the registration has been concluded properly.

In parallel, our civil engineers will conduct a research to the City Planning Authorities, in order to make sure that all the surfaces of the property are in conformity with the building permit and legalized. Since city planning infringements are a national sport in Greece, we urge our clients’ attention to this research.

As per the provisions of the law, the legalization for the property’s surfaces before the sale of the property is an obligation of the seller. To be more precise, the Greek Government invented a very clever way, in order to cope with the city planning infringements phenomenon, while at the same time the Greek State managed to raise funds.

Since it was impossible all the properties with city planning infringements to be abolished, Greek Government obliged the sellers to legalize the illegal surfaces on the property by paying the relevant fine. Thus, a civil engineer appointed by the seller shall provide the notary with a certification, verifying that the property is well within the building permit’s provisions or – if this is not the case – that all the infringements have been legalized and all the fines have been fully paid.

 

For further information & clarification, kindly contact us directly.

You can email us:  or call/text us directly at: +306908351705 (WhatsApp/Viber)

Athens, September 2021

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