Greece Owners Guide
Owning A Holiday Home in Greece
Many of us have memories or dreams of island hopping in turquoise seas and seemingly endless sunny days. Unspoilt little villages scattered amongst the hills of sun-baked islands and multi-coloured fishing boats in the lapping waters of intimate harbours. Drinking iced coffee on the beach and dipping into the sparkling sea from time to time to cool off. A pace of life that seems relaxed, the natives friendly and easy-going. During the long summer the evenings are wonderfully warm, and eating traditional Greek food at a taverna on the sea’s edge (no tides to worry about) is the perfect end to relaxing days. No wonder, perhaps more than any other European country Greece – or at least her islands, brings to mind the purest ideal of a summer holiday destination for many British people. It is therefore the clear favourite choice for many to consider when looking for a holiday home.
The Greek archipelago includes 227 islands that are inhabited and the thousands of miles of coastline on the main land and the islands offer sandy beaches stretching over many kilometers, sheltered bays and coves, beaches with sand-dunes, pebble beaches, coastal caves with steep rocks and dark colored volcanic sand and coastal wetlands.
The larger islands like Crete and mainland of Greece offer huge mountains, dramatic gorges and quite extensive forests. The highest mountain in the country is Mount Olympus at a height of 2,917 m (Mytikas peak), while about 40 mountain ranges throughout the country exceed elevations of 2,000 m. The Greek mountains are characterized by their diversity and beautiful scenery, some areas of which contain some of the oldest natural wooded lands in Europe. There is much wild flora and fauna to enjoy on this relatively empty country (the population per square mile is 1/3 of that in the UK) . If you are interested in marine wildlife, various conservation areas such as that found in the Sporades islands give the opportunity to see Greek sea turtles and Monk seals amongst many other species. The Missolonghi lagoon nature reserve is an ideal area to see wader birds and other wetland wildlife. Wolves and other rare mammals, birds and reptiles can be found in the Dadia Wildlife reserve and in many other protected areas.
In addition to the clear attraction of the summer in Greece, the country has great appeal out of high season. In the spring the islands and rural mainland are a mass of wild-flowers and the weather is still cool enough at this time of year, and also in the Autumn, for some spectacular walking and climbing possibilities. Even those who love the sun will find the daytime heat more comfortable at each end of the season and the sea is also pleasantly warm in the autumn, having had the summer’s sun to heat it up. Greek winters can get very cold, particularly in the mountains, so you get ‘proper’ seasons, with the opportunity to snuggle up to the wood-burner, and you are often rewarded with blue skies with crystal clear air in the winter.
In addition to its natural riches, Greece offers relics of thousands of years of history, with wonderful antiquities and ruins from ancient times – Delphi, Knossos, Epidavros, Olympia and the Athenian Acropolis and Parthenon, from Roman times, the Byzantium era and from more recent invaders such as the Venetians. Athens’ National Archaeological Museum contains some extraordinary treasures as do the sites and museums at Delphi, Mycenae and Mystra. In Athens and other large cities you can enjoy many outside cultural events such as plays and concerts, often held in the ancient Greek amphitheatres and you can generally be sure of a warm, dry evening in which to enjoy the entertainment. The Greeks are very involved in their Church and the visitor can enjoy many celebratory festivals throughtout the church year. All over the country you can see the distinctive roadside shrines and can explore Greek Orthodox churches, some such as Agios Eleftherios in Athens, from the Byzantine era, historically important and richly decorated, others such as the the more modest local churches found in every Greek village.
Learning about Greece and getting about:
Take time to explore the country or even just the region that you know you want to be in. Try short rents in different places. Such exploration will reveal new things about the country and also help you to focus on what you finally want. You then get a better idea of which characteristics of a holiday home, and its location would be important to you. You will discover compromises you might have to make; the convenience of the town for provisioning and entertainment versus the quiet and privacy of the countryside. Although many British people like to holiday and increasingly to have a second home in Greece, and English is often spoken in areas where there are a large number of tourists, the country does not have hot spots of English speakers like Spain and Portugal do. Getting a good command of Greek (including learning to read the Cyrilic alphabet), is, arguably, essential and will certainly enhance your experience of exploring to the full this wonderful country.
Service and product providers
Make provision to pay for the essentials of owning property, particularly when you live in a different country most of the time. When planning to take on a holiday home, you must ensure that you budget for any ongoing mortgage payments, buildings’ and contents’ insurance for the holiday home, second home local authority tax and any service charges if your property is in a communal setting. And don’t forget utility bills, broadband etc. If there is a pool at your property allow for chemicals, special water rates and on-going maintenance and cleaning. Your insurer will insist that there is someone local to keep an eye on the place – to hold a key and to organise any necessary urgent repairs in your absence. You may well want gardening services to keep the garden from drying out and to give the impression of the property looking neat and lived in. And over time you will need to pay for builders, plumbers, electricians etc for maintenance and extensions etc.
Things to do when you are there:
Make the most of the area that you have chosen to live in. Get involved in the local community, culture, entertainment, miscellaneous activities, and keep fit and healthy. Learning written and spoken Greek is a good idea on two levels. Firstly, of course, to help you to get by in everyday life; in shops, restaurants, reading road signs and understanding utility bills and other official communications. Secondly the process of learning will help you to become involved in local life. People everywhere appreciate it when foreigners living amongst them (even if only part time) learn the local language and will often be very encouraging of your efforts. As you grasp more of the language it will help you to socialise, shop at the local market and find the best of the catch with the local fishermen etc. You will enjoy testing out your language skills and be delighted as you understand more and become more understood. As you get better at Greek you can help other Britons new to Greece to settle in and enjoy their holiday place.
Renting out your holiday home:
You may plan from the start to rent out your holiday home for holiday use, or you may find this option more attractive at some point in the future. You will need funds to market your holiday home. Your property will then need to be kept in an excellent state of repair and be very well presented, with clean furniture in good condition and pristine crisp linen for each new visitor. The house will have to meet all rental regulations and if there is a pool/ garden areas, these will need to be kept clean and safe. You will probably need to employ the services of a management company to do this. Adequate holiday home insurance will be required which should include liability cover and loss of rent.
If you are going to rent your home for holiday lettings, a freeview TV with DVD player may not be enough for today’s renters. You might wish to invest in providing a full entertainment package, multi- channel television (which receives the home TV stations of the rental market you will be aiming at) and wi-fi. In that case you will be looking at the cost of on-going cable/satellite packages, broadband. However these added facilities will hopefully enhance the income you could earn from holiday home lets.