|Fact file - Making your permanent move to Crete a little easier with some useful tips
Where and how to begin purchasing your property
Money transfer and banking options
Shipment of furniture
Importing a vehicle
Medical and other insurances
Where to begin?
You should begin by appointing a reputable Estate Agent. RE/MAX Professionals falls under the umbrella of RE/MAX International and is accredited with various associations and bodies. Our office in Makrigialos is also a member of the local municipality of Estate Agents representing the Lasithi region. It is worth noting that some “Real Estate” offices operate under this title without any qualifications or certifications. Be sure to check them out first!
Purchase process – getting started…
Firstly, in order to purchase a property in Greece you need a tax file number. This is obtained from the local tax office and RE/MAX will gladly handle this for you. It is a straightforward procedure but does involve communicating with the local authority office and completing some paperwork.
Secondly, you need to open a Greek bank account. Again, RE/MAX are happy to assist you and have good relations with most major high street banks.
Purchase process – taxes …
These extra costs include purchase or transfer tax, Value Added Tax (new constructions only), land registry fees, notary’s fees, lawyer’s fees, municipal tax, surveyor’s fee (optional) and the agent’s fee. On average, the costs range between 10-15% based on the value of the property. Most fees are calculated on the ‘assessed tax value’ of the property, which is usually lower than the actual price paid.
The costs are broken down as follows:-
Purchase or transfer tax - The main fee is the purchase (or transfer) tax, which is based on the ‘assessed tax value’. Purchase tax is payable by the buyer at 7% on the first €15,000 and at 9% on the remainder. If the property is situated in an area covered by a public fire protection service (which includes most areas that are popular with foreign buyers) then the rates are increased to 9% on the first €15,000 and 11% on the remainder.
Value Added Tax : New constructions with a building licence issued after January 2005 are subject to 18% VAT.
Land registry : Land registry fees are between 0.3-0.5% of the ‘assessed tax value’ plus a small sum for stamp duties and certificates.
Notary : The fees for the notary are usually between 1-2% of the property’s assessed tax value. The notary is the official who draws up the final purchase contract and officiates the sale. A notary can also be used to draw up an extra contract appointing a power of attorney. This can be a useful document saving you time and money traveling to and from Greece to complete the sale. Legal fees for a lawyer are up to 1% of the ‘assessed tax value’. The actual fee depends on the value of the property. It is strongly advisable for a lawyer to be involved with the purchase process.
Surveyors : It is optional to appoint a surveyor to inspect a building or plot of land. The fee varies depending upon the type of survey carried out and start from around 210€.
Community/Municipality Tax : A community tax at 3% of the property transfer tax is paid to the local municipality for general public services. This tax is payable at the same time as the purchase tax.
Usually the first steps of the purchase process are initiated with the signing of a “pre contract”. Your lawyer should be involved in this process and check that the titles/deeds are clear of debt and it is legal for the property to be sold. Following this a 10% deposit is payable to secure the property. Note : the funds should be deposited into a bank account. This is non refundable however if the seller pulls out he is liable to pay twice the amount of deposit to the buyer.
Transferring of funds into Greece
This can be done in several ways. However, you must make sure that your Greek bank issues you with the official receipt known as the “pink slip”. This is so you can prove to the National Bank of Greece (for tax purposes) that the money originated from outside Greece.
These can be organised from the UK or with many major banks in Greece. RE/MAX Professionals can help you find the most suitable product using one of the many financial services available to us.
Shipping furniture vs. buying locally
Shipping furniture can be a costly exercise. There are many frieght companies on the market and one would do well to research the most competitive quote. Bear in mind however, that most companies deliver to Athens and then a third party handle the remainder of the onward journey to Crete. Insurances with this type of service are high and do not guarantee against damage of your goods.
There is a wide choice of large furniture outlets in Heraklion with reasonable pricing plus delivery options. IKEA is located in Athens with rumours of a new store to open in Heraklion. Ierapetra and Sitia have a variety of smaller independent outlets offering perhaps more traditionally styled items of furniture, but sometimes these could be a little more expensive.
In many cases the cost, time and hassle factor of organising shipment of your furniture could outweigh the option to purchase locally. Think seriously about purchasing furniture locally.
Importing a car
It is very difficult to import a foreign car into Greece and therefore highly recommended to purchase a local vehicle upon your arrival. The law currently states that a vehicle not registered in Greece can remain in the country for no longer than 6 months at any one time. Any vehicle over 5 years old is virtually, if not, impossible to import, and newer models are subject to extortionate valuations – sometimes completely random!
The Greek national health insurance is known as I.K.A. Although medical training is of a high standard, the health service is extremely under funded and public hospitals can be overcrowded and after care very limited. Public and private medicine operate alongside each other and complement one another. I.K.A. provides free or low cost health care for those who contribute to Greek social security, plus their families and retirees (including those from other EU countries). With I.K.A. you pay a small percentage towards the cost of prescriptions, although there are higher charges for non-essential medicines plus substantial contributions for many services, including spectacles, dentures and other treatment. Essential dental treatment is largely free.
If you don’t qualify for health care under the public health system, it’s essential to have private health insurance (and mandatory for non EU residents). This is recommended in any case (if you can afford it) owing to the inadequacy in some areas of the public health services, long waiting lists for specialist appointments and non-urgent operations.
RE/MAX Professionals can advise and help find you the most suitable private medical insurance and any other insurances necessary (i.e. car, house etc) with our affiliates in this particular field.
If you are thinking of starting your new life as a family there are some very important considerations to take into account, one of the main ones being schooling. There is an international school in Heraklion but if your children are going into the local Greek schooling system the younger they are the much easier it will be for them to adapt and learn the language. There are state run pre schools “Nepio” for the ages of between 4-6 and school age begins at 6. It would be optimal if children relocating were of these ages, if not younger. Obviously, much older children would find it very difficult to integrate immediately and follow the lessons without any prior knowledge of the language and could feel very isolated. There are many testimonials about this topic and it is advisable to research further and bear in mind each child is different and copes accordingly. At the end of the day parents understand and know their child better than most and should know if it is the right thing to do. It is a decision not to be taken lightly and with responsible evaluation make the conclusion that is right for you.
Socialising in your new surroundings
Depending on your chosen location the social activities in Crete vary. There are many things to think about when deciding which area is right for you. Generally speaking, the pace of life is much slower and things happen at a more leisurely pace (positive reasons why many people choose to relocate). If you are seeking total peace and quiet and want to appreciate the traditional values of life then maybe a typical mountain village would be the perfect choice. However, consider carefully the practicalities (i.e. essential to drive, plan ahead for shopping, learn the language to communicate or if you simply couldn’t live without the familiar “city” conveniences). There are many small towns within the region that are home to an eclectic mixture of foreigners and locals alike. A good option is to rent for a short period of time prior to purchasing in your desired location to really make sure. The larger towns of Ag. Nikoloas, Ierapetra and Sitia have all the amenities such as hospitals, dentists, major supermarkets and cinemas and in Heraklion many major UK department stores can be found – Marks & Spencer being a firm favourite. In most of the larger areas group activities are held such as exercise classes within a gym or independent dance studio, coffee mornings with other foreigners, ballet, scouts, music and art clubs for our younger ones. Maybe your relocation would be a great time to start a new hobby such as painting or walking.
Crete has a wonderful array of things to enjoy. With it’s geographical diversity, beautiful coastline and dominating mountains, varied flora and fauna, choice of larger towns for cultural experiences and a traditional way of life still occurring in the villages, you have the luxury of being exposed to a wide choice. If you really want to make a new life in Crete, it helps if you understand the people who live there. Find useful and interesting information about their culture, history, traditions, customs and learn, at least, a little of the language before arriving.
Traditions are many and varied. The Greek Easter is probably the biggest celebration of their calendar but there are many smaller festivals held throughout the year. These are sometimes spectacular events to witness and very enjoyable to be part of. It is a great way to learn the customs and appreciate your new surroundings.
Food is wonderfully fresh, grown and produced locally resulting in culinary delights that are the highlight of many a visitors trip to Crete. Take time to savour all the traditional dishes of the region - following suit with the locals to eat seasonally – purchasing vegetables from local markets and trying the different cheeses, meats and fish available. Greeks and in particular, Cretans, are amongst the world’s healthiest people. It is attributed in a large part to their diet which includes lots of olive oil, garlic and red wine.
The climate is a huge positive with more than 300 sunny days in the Lassithi region and mild winters, it makes for a very comfortable residence. This aspect alone provides the opportunity to enjoy an outdoor lifestyle. Take time to explore the surrounding countryside by foot. This way you will meet and converse with the locals and enjoy the wonderful nature that is abundant.
In summary, a relocation to Crete is made for many reasons and with different personal circumstances but it in all cases is the start of a new chapter in life. Ensure the original reasons are not forgotten or lost in daily living and really enjoy everything this beautiful island has to offer.
Crete is a popular holiday destination mainly due to it’s extended summers and has huge investment potential, in particular, in Eastern Crete. This area is expecting the airport in Sitia to expand to cover international flights and Heraklion airport is set to open up direct flights all year round. There is also major investment from the government and large corporations with plans to create first class golf courses, luxury villas and apartment complexes to attract high class, high spend tourism. Currently the most undeveloped area of the island, with prices at least 40% lower than in the western end, it would make investment prime.
RE/MAX associates can offer qualitative advice on investment opportunities suitable for you.
RE/MAX pertains to certain responsibilities within the local and global community. We promote ourselves to supporting various charities and groups within the area, in particular children charities and disabled charities. We provide extra funds to allow them any necessary equipment and give them the opportunity to enjoy extra curricular activities such as parties and excursions.