One must be extremely careful in purchasing and /or selling Greek real estate. There are significant differences between the handling and closing of U.S versus Greek real estate matters. One of the most important things for Americans or Greek-Americans to consider when buying real estate in Greece is that Greece has no “title insurance” as we have in the United States. [Our U.S. office has been a U.S title agent for over 50 years]. For example, for real estate closings in the United States, we always obtain title insurance for our clients to insure against title defects and or defects in the ownership of title on behalf of the seller; and to protect against other claims and liens, taxes due, etc…

In Greece there is no such thing, so that you are totally dependent on the careful and detailed title search which must be done by your lawyer in the relevant Greek recorder offices are to determine if the person selling you the real estate indeed has title ownership or liens or title defects which will prevent you from building on the property. The recording of titles is different between Greek real estate recording and recording of real estate in the United States. In the United States the properties are identified by specific parcel, map, block and lot number identifiers. In Greece, under the Ypothikofilakio system (Greek Recorder) properties are identified by name and therefore must be searched by name. This often requires searching not only the sellers name but also the name of prior sellers and/or grand and all parents and grandparents (if the property was inherited). Only in this way we can determine if there is hidden past inheritance or title claims. Individual assessment needs to be made to determine if there are adverse possession or “hrisiktisia” claims

There is a new Greek recording system called the Ktimatologio (National Cadastre), which also must be searched (since recorded title deeds must be recorded there as well). While, traditionally Greek deeds are recorded in the Ypothikofilakio-by name not by plot description, the Ktimatologio registration required surveys are more similar to our system in the U.S. There are also no “deeds” in Greece the way we understand “deeds” in the U.S., (which has to do with Greece’s “code law” system versus common law, English system etc…) Accurate searching of title is critical as well for an evaluation of whether the property is in environmentally restricted areas, for example: the European Natura Program; archeological areas; or restricted forest and preservation areas. Greece building codes and restrictions (Poleodomia) are extremely complicated and may affect whether or not you can build or continue to have use of the real estate for residential and for commercial purposes. There is strict new legislation with regard to the buying and selling of aftheraita (non compliant zoned buildings) and there are new certifications which must be complied with. (There was recently a “cure” period to pay up fines for these). Owners of real estate

must file not only an E1 Tax Form; (obtain the Greek Tax identification number (AFM)); but also must file an E9 registration. For U.S residents there are reporting and declaration requirements for the receipt of foreign rents. Bilateral tax Treaties and IRS foreign tax credits must be considered. Very often we have been involved in overseeing and managing Greek real estate for Greek Americans with multiple properties, (for example after an inheritance), and are experienced in the managing and overseeing of such properties for Greek –Americans including rentals, leases, collection of rents, and evictions.

In addition, we handle building and construction contracts in Greece since these must be carefully reviewed because Greek contractors are notorious for not finishing a job; increasing the costs of labor and materials during the job and/or completing a job in a way that does not comply with zoning rules and building requirements.

Our firm is very knowledgeable and familiar with the proper and best positioned Greek engineers (mihanikoi) that we can use to identify specific zoning (poleodomika) issues in all of Greece. We work also with the largest networks of realtors who have represented U.S, Greek and multinational, major real estate companies and realtor networks.

We have also been very successful in arranging the appraisal of Greek properties, (utilizing the top Greek appraisers) and providing certified, translated deed records coupled with appraisals for use in the U.S. We have also represented numerous insurance companies and Banks with regard to buying and selling real estate in Greece. One of the major issues for Greek Americans in buying and selling real estate is, if selling, to not transfer the title until all the money is paid or secured.

Very often in Greek real estate contracts, title will be transferred pursuant to an installment sale and thus a seller of Greek real estate can find themselves having transferred title and subsequently stuck in lengthy litigation to collect the amount due. In such cases, the Greek law provides that we can record Ypothikes (mortgages) as appropriate. In addition, very often in the sale of Greek real estate, there are multiple issues with regard to the Greek real estate transfer tax. (Foros metavivaseos akinitou). Greek real estate, in most locations, has an “assessed tax value” (antikimeniki aksia) which, most likely, is not equivalent to actual fair market value. Assessed value in Greece differs from assessed tax value in the United States substantially. Since the buyer pays the Greek real estate transfer tax, the buyer very often will seek a low value to be placed on the agreement of sale/deed so as to pay less real estate transfer tax. The problem with this trap is that, because of strict new banking regulation, a Greek – U.S resident may not be able to export to the U.S. the sales proceeds without presenting (pothen eshes) source justification, and therefore will be limited on the amount that can be exported. It should be noted that Greece does not have the U.S distinction of “deed” versus “agreement of sale” and these documents are therefore merged into one document.

By way of example, in representing a U.S. buyer (or seller) of Greek real estate, (depending on the circumstances) we most likely will:

*   Recommend an engineer conduct a site inspection;
*   Obtain a certified topographic plan;
*   Search (personally and by hand) the land registry (Ypothikofilakio/Ktimatologio);
*   Deal with the issue of seller’s tax clearances from the Tax Authority;
*   Obtain Municipal (TAP) clearances;
*   Calculate and arrange for Tax Authority transfer tax (paid by buyer in Greece);
*   Deliver draft of agreement of sale (simvoleo poliseos) to the Bar Association;
*   Arrange for notary’s signature of draft sales agreement;
*   Drafting of the transfer deed;
*   Record deed in the required Land Registries (Ypothikofilakio/Ktimatologio)