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Problems with Contracts

We have all heard about foreign property scams from the numerous TV programmes promoting buying abroad and these can sometimes be very off putting when you have saved so hard to buy a property in the first place. However, such scams and problems can easily be avoided if you follow the right procedures when buying your Greek Island home. Regardless of this, there are some genuine property bargains on some of the islands and providing you understand the fundamental principles involved in buying a home there, you will be able to avoid many common pitfalls.

Language Problems

Many of the problems arising with Greek property contracts stem from not properly understanding the contract you are signing. All documents relating to the purchase of your Greek home will be written in Greek, which is not only a different language but also written in a different alphabet on top of this, Greek property contracts are cast stone and will be taken to the letter should a dispute arise. Therefore, it is imperative that every document you are given is translated into your native language by an official qualified translator who can stamp your document with the official blue translator’s stamp and even then you need to have a solicitor who speaks your language fluently go through them with you and explain in real terms what each clause means. Walk away from any vendor who is not willing to let you get a translation or copy of the contract; it is a sure sign that they have something to hide.

The Preliminary Contract

A preliminary contract states your intention to buy a property within a given time frame and sometimes subject to certain conditions. You will be required to put down a deposit of around 10% to secure the property. If for any reason you decide not to go ahead you will lose this money in full and will have to pay your seller an additional 105 compensation, so it is not wise to sign a preliminary agreement until you are sure that you have the relevant financing in place and your lawyer has conducted all of the relevant searches regarding title deeds and boundaries.  You also need to have seen the full structural report for your surveyor to determine the condition of the property. Preliminary contracts must be signed in the presence of a notary. If your vendor defaults on the agreement he has to pay you your 10% deposit back and an additional 10% compensation. Of course, this means that you'll have to pay the notary cost twice (preliminary and final contract). You may want to include a clause, which allows you to back out if your mortgage falls through – this will protect you from losing your deposit and shelling out additional money to compensate to vendor. If a document has been mistranslated by a registered translator or is misleading, the Greek law will look favourably upon the case.

Problems with Boundaries

When an estate agent shows you a plan of the plot you are buying it is very easy to misinterpret the boundaries and in some cases the agent may have been given boundaries, which are not accurate. In fact you will not know the exact boundaries of your land or property until you have had a surveyor measure them out and put boundary posts in the ground. You should engage a solicitor to check your boundaries and to ensure that when you sign the preliminary contract you are fully aware f what is actually yours.

Problems with Title Deeds

Foreigners who are selling property and land do not tend to be dogged by Greek inheritance laws as the law of their own country dictates who inherits their estate. However, if you are buying from local islanders there may be several owners and all of them have to agree that the property can be sold. They must all attend the preliminary contract meeting wither in person or through representation by their lawyer. Your own lawyer needs to check with the land registry first who the actual owners are before you get to the preliminary contract stage. Failure to do so means that one of the owners could claim their share of your home at a later stage.

Using a Notary

There is no getting away from the fact that whilst you have engaged a lawyer, translator and surveyor, you must also use a notary. He will preside over your preliminary and final contracts and stamp your deed of sale to prove its authenticity. He will also give your bill of sale a number and a composition date - if your document does not contain one then it is not legal and only a notary can do this job. The number identifies your sale at the land registry office known as the Ktimatologio and registers you as the legal owner. The registry office will assign a second number known as the transcription number, which proves that the notary’s deed has been logged in your name. some islands do not have the relatively new land registry office; instead property is registered with the old public registry known as the House of Mortgages or Hypothykophylakion. This office performs the same task and ensures the legal rights of property owners registered there.  If your property is not registered at either office then it becomes a ‘Property of an unknown owner.’ This is one to steer clear of because the legal owner could turn up at any time and providing he can prove his ownership you could lose all rights to the property.