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Greece is the word

Sunday October 1, 2006

Alexander Garrett

If health services are a key criterion for would-be retirees, then be warned that Greece has a reputation problem in this area. There have been horror stories over the years concerning tourists who found themselves in Greek hospitals and were shocked at the facilities. The problem is more acute on smaller islands, although on the whole, hospitals are improving, and if you are prepared to spend the money, there are always private clinics.

There are plenty of compelling reasons for retiring to Greece. It has abundant sunshine, relatively cheap food and drink, and charm ? and, unlike the Spanish costas, there is almost nowhere outside Athens that could be considered crowded. It is also brilliantly situated for forays to the Middle East, North Africa and beyond.

Greece has always attracted a smattering of expat retirees, including academics, schoolteachers and others who appreciate its cultural history. But in property terms ? both standards and prices ? it has lagged behind the Iberian peninsula and is only just catching up. This is a country where until recently it has been easier to buy a pile of crumbling stones than anything resembling a modern home. Obstacles to property ownership were high; until Greece joined the EU you had to own a company to buy a home. Today, there is far more development going on, and standards are rising to something closer to those you could expect in Spain and Portugal.

The coastal climate in Crete ranges from 9C to10C in winter to 30C in July and August, although it can get much colder in the mountains. It is Greece?s largest island and is big enough to escape the crowds. You can buy properties to renovate for next to nothing and new developments are also good value by Greek standards. For example, Papadakis Architects ( is offering a pair of new-build three-bedroom detached villas at Kefalas, each with swimming pool and view over Georgioupolis Bay, for around £200,000 apiece.

Corfu is much smaller, more European, temperate and more expensive. It also has a closer and more noticeable expat community ? this is, after all, the island that has been familiar to generations through Gerald Durrell?s My Family and Other Animals.

One alternative that is growing in popularity is the mainland region of the Peloponnese ? with few direct flights, it is less expensive the further you get from Athens.

Greece is not particularly attractive from a tax point of view: the main income tax band has just been reduced to 29%; from this year there is 19% VAT on new house sales, with an exemption for first-time buyers; and there is capital gains tax on all property sales, at 20% if sold within five years, reducing thereafter.

There are very few purpose-designed retirement complexes in Greece aimed at overseas buyers. One of the first† is Apokoronas Park, in south-west Crete. Residents will benefit from wardens, 24-hour security and maintenance, on-call medical teams, visiting hairdressers and organised trips. Prices, which appear to be aimed squarely at the UK market, range from ?60,000 for a studio to ?120,000 for a two-bedroom apartment.

Money Observer

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