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Greek Property May Well Prove a Calm Investment Among a Tempest of Economic Uncertainty

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By : Nicole Rapaport    99 or more times read
Ten years ago, Greece property was largely overlooked. Buyers were either repeatedly drawn to old favourites such as Spain and France, or looking further afield to the emerging markets of Morocco or Bulgaria. But interest in property in Greece remains alight for a number of reasons: the healthy lifestyle, sunny climate, great beaches and food, and a superb quality of life for a fraction of the cost, to name but a few.

An established democracy, Greece is a fully-fledged member of the EU, which means that for Europeans the purchasing process can be simple. It also gives Spain a run for its money on the British package-holidaymaker front, which is good news for anyone planning to rent out their property in Greece.

Property investors generally regard Greece as a strong market due to its healthy tourist industry, which is backed by the government. Prices remain very affordable in many parts, and homebuyers can purchase far more for their money than in other popular European holiday destinations. Most rural and costal areas provide an idyllic lifestyle that many British retirees choose to adopt.

In terms of the global recession, Greece is holding out according to some experts. Mike Saunders, marketing director at Snobby Homes says: "Property prices on the whole remain unchanged. Personal borrowing in Greece is nowhere near so highly geared as it is in the UK. The Greek banks have not been caught up in sub-prime lending, so mortgages are still available for UK buyers to purchase property in Greece."

So if the overall prognosis for Greece is good, it may well prove a calm investment spot among a tempest of economic uncertainty. Greek sellers appear reluctant to drop prices, hoping to weather the storm, although there is the odd bargain to be had.

Robert Key, senior partner at Cluttons Greece, concurs saying that despite what is happening in the rest of Europe, the market for Greek real estate is holding up well. "Property prices increased in the first half of 2008, and there was only a slight drop in values towards the end of the year. At time of writing the average price of residential properties in Greece has fallen by five to 10 per cent. It is true that the number of transactions taking place is around 40 per cent less than this time last year - but this is due mainly to the banks having tightened lending criteria.

"Prices may still fall a little in 2009, but any drop is not expected to be significant. This is due mainly to Greeks having one of the highest rates of home ownership in Europe - hence mortgage repayments and forced sales are not a worry for most. For those willing to research the market, however, properties with higher price reductions do exist. These come mainly in the form of price reductions by developers who have over-borrowed and must now meet loan repayments."

He adds: "Overall Greek property represents excellent value for money when compared to other European destinations - and it's a market which historically holds its value. Greece with its diverse mountain ranges, lakes, valleys, island paradises, ski-centres and the cleanest of seas offers everything one could desire - with heaps of culture. And that's without mentioning the cuisine...

"Be it an investment in land, a villa or an apartment, we remain confident that Greece will continue to be a safe and profitable place to invest in property - providing the advice of a reputable surveyor and lawyer is taken."

However, Babi Prokas of PK Developments paints a somewhat bleaker picture of the property market in Greece, claiming that the recession has hit it so hard there that not only is there a virtual standstill in construction, but that violence and theft is on the rise among frustrated and unemployed youths.

"Greece has over 160,000 newly built houses that haven't been sold and that number is expected to climb this year," Prokas estimates. "I believe that it will take a good six months to see the beginning effects of the stimulus packages that the G20 nations have committed to. I believe we will see a price stagnation in the property market for the medium term, before prices rebound."

In terms of location, there are hundreds of inhabited Greek islands, so choice is by no means limited. Crete is one of the most appealing areas for Brits who are looking for a permanent base or a holiday home. Every year its sandy shores, green hills and olive groves attract almost a million British holidaymakers.

"Over the last two years, there has been an increase of almost 40 per cent in the number of Brits purchasing property in Crete. Four out of five new property buyers are British and the final statistics show that more than 15,000 Britons are owners of a property in Crete," says George Skouloudis Director of Artec Homes (which has projects in Tavronitis and Kissamos).

Maria McLaren, an estate agent specializing in Crete property, says: "The cost of living here is around 35 per cent less than Britain, and the crime rates are minimal. People buy in Crete mainly because they already know and love it-they can switch off and relax here. It is the lifestyle that attracts them and the friendliness of the people."

Not forgetting the Greek capital, property in Athens remains popular with international investors, and the expansion of the metro system has increased interest in residences further away from the centre.

Lucy Russell managing director of Quintessentially Estates says: "Athens is the gateway to all the islands in Greece and has easy access from the UK. Properties vary from the cheaper apartments around 200,000 to grandiose villas in the millions. Athens tends to attract people buying second and third homes rather than holiday home, and house prices have risen around 40 per cent in the last five years. The rental yields are fairly low, at around two to three per cent, and the average rent is around between 2,000 to 3000 per month."
Nicole Rapaport for Homes Overseas.
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