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Renovating Your Greek Rundown Property

Greece has many old, rundown properties in need of some tender loving care and attention. When these homes are renovated they bring with them a characteristic charm that can only be found here. So if your dream is to own a small, whitewashed stone house – the sort of thing you see on postcards in the resorts then read on about how you can achieve this and avoid some of the common pitfalls. 

Finding a Surveyor

Once you have found a rundown property you should get a surveyor to take a look at it and prepare a report so that you have an idea of the full extent of the work you need to undertake. It’s no good trying to estimate the extent of work involved yourself unless you are a builder as often old properties hide a multitude of sins without you realising this. If you are set on renovating it is far better to go in with your eyes wide open than end up with an unfinished property because you exceeded your budget.

Finding an Architect

The next person to enlist is an architect. He will confirm for you whether your plans for a dream pad are feasible and more to the point conform to local building regulations. The architect will case out your land and the rundown property and come up with his ideas for best dealing with the renovation taking into account, which materials can be reused and how to blend with the natural environment. He will also be able to give you information about the costs involved in obtaining a building permit and drawing up plans, which has to be done before you apply for the permit.

Understanding Building Permits

Depending on the location you choose to buy in, there will be restrictions on what you can and can’t build. If you have bought within the boundaries of a town then the size of land you have bought is not an issue, however, if you have bought in a rural location you must have a minimum of 4,000 sq m to develop. You also need to research whether you have bought archaeological or ecological grounds because these areas come with their own set of rules and regulations and on the Greek Islands there are numerous historic and natural sites still waiting to be discovered.

Once you have agreed on a plan with your architect, who will have proved himself invaluable at this stage, he will tender them to the local Ministry of Planning office for their approval. Reaching the approval stage is likely to take many months and the cost is likely to be around 12,000 Euros for a small plot.

Choosing a Builder

Unless you are a builder yourself, you will need to engage a reputable builder to undertake your renovation work for your rundown property. Make sure you choose a licensed contractor who has liability insurance and make sure that he shows you the document so you can check it is genuine and updated. One way to find a good builder is to ask other people either directly or on some of the expat forums to recommend someone to you - there are plenty of reliable and good builders about but they tend to be somewhat optimistic and you need to cut this down to what is realistic in your project. Do not agree to pay anyone up front no matter what the excuse. It is better to find someone else.

Agreeing the Building Contract

You will also need to have a legally binding contract drawn up, which details budgets and deadlines with your builder; without this you leave yourself wide open to abuse. Building contracts here are regulated by law and are known as a ‘symvasi kataskevis ergou.’ There is no specific format for doing this it just has to be written down setting out the payment details and exact works that must be undertaken. The cost of your building work will be fixed by the builder and should either be paid in installments or on completion of the work and this should be clearly laid out in the contract.

Determining Costs

Obviously, renovation costs will vary according to the work and condition of your rundown property, but one way of calculating this in a rough way is to use the cost of building a new home and deduct 40%. Currently it costs around 700 to 1,600 Euros per sq m for a new build. Thus, as an idea, renovation costs for of a 100 sq m stone house would be anything from 30,000 upwards Euros depending on its condition.

Bear in mind also that brick is cheaper than stone and pine wood is the cheapest of all woods. Additionally the access to the property will have a bearing on price, which will be lower if the property is easy to get to with cement mixers etc. and if your island is more remote, materials will have to be shipped in from other islands or the mainland and this will add to the cost. Never underestimate what you are taking on and do not try to cut corners to save money, you will lose out in the long run. It is always better to research the rundown property project fully before you begin and have a contingency budget for things that may not work out according to plan.