The New York Times Features House Hunting in Crete

Crete, in an astronaut photograph taken from the International Space Station. Photo: Public domain

NEW YORK – In a recent international real estate article, the New York Times featured Crete and its housing market, highlighting a villa located in Plaka in the north west of the island. The 2,690-square-foot, two-story Villa Ioanna has seven bedrooms and four bathrooms and “sits on a sloping, 1.23-acre lot near several olive groves and overlooks Souda Bay and the Mediterranean Sea,” the Times reported, adding that the whitewashed concrete house was built in 1994 and was once a two-family home, but a renovation six years ago made it one-family.

The property’s manager and the owner’s daughter Penelope Vlamaki told the Times, “We wanted it to be more modern.”

With traditional Greek design, archways throughout, marble floors, a kitchen with wood cabinets, stainless steel double sink, and a breakfast bar, the house features sliding glass doors, a broad balcony, a heated pool, and a Jacuzzi. Freshwater tanks, solar panels, internet, satellite TV, and parking for three cars are also among the amenities. The villa is on the market for $1.3 million (1.2 million euro).

The real estate market in Greece had been in a slump for nine years during the financial crisis. but things are improving steadily. The Times reported that “in 2018, real estate investment increased by 20 percent and prices by almost 2 percent, according to the Bank of Greece, and the volume of building permits, which had fallen for seven straight years, rose more than 10 percent. The turnaround coincided with the end, in August 2018, of Greece’s $360 billion bailout by the International Monetary Fund.”

“For a long time there was not much going on,” Claudia Marenbach-Fountoulaki, an owner of Crete Island Estates, which has this listing, told the Times. “With the crisis, there was a time we didn’t have anybody coming. Prices were rock bottom.”

The improved economy and a rise in tourism are helping, Kostas Taralas, chief executive of Greek Exclusive Properties, told the Times. TripAdvisor also named Crete “the fourth-best destination in the world” for its “physical beauty and archaeological treasures,” the Times reported.

Taralas noted that “Crete’s real estate market is ‘one of the strongest in Greece,’” the Times reported, adding that “thanks to its warm, sunny climate and long summer season, ‘many international buyers have Crete as first choice to buy their second home,’ and “the market is similar to those of other Greek islands, including Corfu, Paros and Rhodes.”

Vladimir Papounidis, the vice president of Grekodom Development, noted that Crete is seeing “intensive construction of villas and two- to three-bedroom residences within a complex with a shared swimming pool,” and “seven five-star hotels have been built on the island in recent years,” the Times reported.

“Prices for villas with a ‘nice sea view and short distance to the sea’ range from about 500,000 to 1.3 million euros ($550,000 to $1.4 million),” Taralas said, while “seafront villas, with direct access to the water, go for 2.5 million to 4 million euros ($2.7 million to $4.4 million),” the Times reported.

Historic fixer-uppers are available for about 100,000 euros ($110,000), but “it will cost 150 percent more to renovate,” Marenbach-Fountoulaki told the Times, adding that “they are all inland in a village, but have great character.”

Villa Ioanna is among the luxury seafront properties which held their value during the financial crisis, with “stable prices the last 10 years, considering inflation,” said Savvas Savvaidis, the managing director of Greece Sotheby’s International Realty, told the Times.

Foreign buyers from various countries including Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, and the United States are drawn to Crete for the real estate bargains compared to the ever-popular Mykonos, Marenbach-Fountoulaki told the Times, adding that Crete’s “towns are more authentic” and the locals are “hospitable and very friendly.”

Savvaidis noted that the golden visa program “is very appealing for Chinese and Russian” buyers, who receive a renewable five-year residency visa for investing $250,000 in a home. The article then summarized the Buying Basics, since the area is located near Greek and American military bases, home buyers need permission from the Greek military which can take two weeks to receive. Taralas said that “after finding a home, buyers are issued a Greek tax number and must open a Greek bank account for the transaction,” the Times reported.

Savvaidis said that “buyers are advised to hire a lawyer who will handle the title search; do due diligence to make sure the house is in good shape; and provide the papers for the notary public to draw up a contract,” the report continued.

Marenbach-Fountoulaki pointed out that “most foreign buyers pay cash” since getting a mortgage can be difficult, the Times reported.

Closing costs about 8-10 percent of the sale price while “a transfer tax of 3 percent on private homes (whereas property owned by a corporation is subject to a value-added tax of 24 percent),” Taralas told the Times.

“Notary and lawyers’ fees plus the broker’s commission total about 1 to 2.5 percent of the sale price, and there is a land registry tax of 0.5 percent,” the Times reported.

Vlamaki told the TImes that the annual property tax on Villa Ioanna is 845 euros ($927).

More information about the villa is available online by contacting Marenbach-Fountoulaki at Crete Island Estates by phone: 011-30-28250-83155; or online: crete-island.net.

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