House Hunting in … Greece

This seven-bedroom, four-bathroom home is in Plaka, a fishing village on the northwestern coast of Crete, the largest and most populous of the Greek islands. The property, known as Villa Ioanna, sits on a sloping, 1.23-acre lot near several olive groves and overlooks Souda Bay and the Mediterranean Sea.

Built in 1994 and clad in whitewashed concrete, the 2,690-square-foot, two-story house offers traditional Greek design, with archways throughout. It was originally a two-family home, with communal spaces at street level and bedrooms below. A renovation six years ago reconfigured the upper level into one large, marble-floored entertaining space. The kitchen was enlarged, and the bathrooms were redone.

“We wanted it to be more modern,” said Penelope Vlamaki, the owner’s daughter and the manager of the property, which is frequently rented.

At the end of an asphalt driveway, beyond an arched colonnade, are two separate front doors. One leads past a hall closet and bathroom, through an archway, to the intersection of the dining and living spaces, which connect with the kitchen in the open floor plan. The other leads past a bedroom and a hall bathroom, through another archway, to the living space.

The kitchen has wood cabinets, a stainless-steel double sink, creamy Bakelite countertops and a porcelain-tile backsplash. Beyond the breakfast bar, three knitted pendant lights hang over the dining table.

CreditCrete Island Estates

Three sets of sliding-glass doors in the rear of the living area open to a broad balcony outfitted with a hammock, a dining table and a lounge area for savoring western sunsets over the bay. The house, which is decorated in blue and white, is being sold fully furnished.

Twin curved staircases lead down to the lower level, with three bedrooms and a hall bathroom on either side, and laminated wood floors throughout. “You can be all together, and you can be separate,” Ms. Vlamaki said. “Families like to be together and also separate from their friends.”

The gray-tiled bathroom on one side of the lower level has a Jacuzzi tub; on the other side, the matching bath has a shower.

Two master bedrooms, one with a canopied double bed, have sliding-glass doors that open to a covered terrace and heated pool overlooking the water. Chaises longues and a canopied double sun bed face the water.

The remaining bedrooms have doors leading outside. One has a private, shaded patio; another opens to a seating area.

A washing machine is in a downstairs bathroom, and clothes are hung outside to dry. “We have sun most of the time,” Ms. Vlamaki said.

The house has freshwater tanks and rooftop solar panels to provide electricity for hot water, internet and satellite television. There is parking for three cars.


CreditCrete Island Estates

The mountainous island of Crete is about 160 miles south of Athens, with around 630,000 residents. Villa Ioanna is half a mile from the main Plaka square, where there are restaurants, cafes and mini markets. Sandy and pebbled beaches, shops, cafes, bars and a supermarket are less than a mile away, in the resort village of Almyrida. The nearest marina for small yachts and ferries is in Kalyves, a 15-minute drive. Of the three airports on Crete, Chania International Airport, a 45-minute drive, is the closest.

After a nine-year, 42 percent slump during the national debt crisis, the Greek housing market is on the mend, industry professionals said. In 2018, real estate investment increased by 20 percent and prices by almost 2 percent, according to the Bank of Greece, and the volume of building permits, which had fallen for seven straight years, rose more than 10 percent. The turnaround coincided with the end, in August 2018, of Greece’s $360 billion bailout by the International Monetary Fund.

“For a long time there was not much going on,” said Claudia Marenbach-Fountoulaki, an owner of Crete Island Estates, which has this listing. “With the crisis, there was a time we didn’t have anybody coming. Prices were rock bottom.”

Besides an improved economy, an uptick in tourism is helping, said Kostas Taralas, the chief executive of Greek Exclusive Properties. Earlier this year, Crete was named the fourth-best destination in the world by TripAdvisor, because of its physical beauty and archaeological treasures.

Crete’s real estate market is “one of the strongest in Greece,” Mr. Taralas said. Thanks to its warm, sunny climate and long summer season, “many international buyers have Crete as first choice to buy their second home,” he said, adding that the market is similar to those of other Greek islands, including Corfu, Paros and Rhodes.


CreditCrete Island Estates

Crete is seeing “intensive construction of villas and two- to three-bedroom residences within a complex with a shared swimming pool,” said Vladimir Papounidis, the vice president of Grekodom Development. And seven “five-star” hotels have been built on the island in recent years, he said.

Prices for villas with a “nice sea view and short distance to the sea” range from about 500,000 to 1.3 million euros ($550,000 to $1.4 million), Mr. Taralas said. Seafront villas, with direct access to the water, go for 2.5 million to 4 million euros ($2.7 million to $4.4 million).

A historic home in need of restoration can be bought for about 100,000 euros ($110,000), but “it will cost 150 percent more to renovate,” Ms. Marenbach-Fountoulaki said. “They are all inland in a village, but have great character.”

Luxury seafront properties like Villa Ioanna held their value during the financial crisis, with “stable prices the last 10 years, considering inflation,” said Savvas Savvaidis, the managing director of Greece Sotheby’s International Realty.

Many of Crete’s foreign buyers come from Belgium, France, Germany, Israel and Scandinavia, Ms. Marenbach-Fountoulaki said, as well as the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Mr. Savvaidis said he has also seen buyers from Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

One reason they are drawn to Crete, Ms. Marenbach-Fountoulaki said, is that homes there are a bargain compared with those on the popular island of Mykonos. Foreigners also choose Crete because the “towns are more authentic” and the locals are “hospitable and very friendly,” she said.

Greece’s golden visa program offers noncitizens a renewable five-year residency visa in exchange for investing $250,000 in a home. The program “is very appealing for Chinese and Russian” buyers, Mr. Savvaidis said.


CreditCrete Island Estates

The Souda Bay area is home to Greek and American military bases, and buyers there must obtain permission from the Greek military. “They always get it, and it is only a formal procedure, which takes about two weeks to get through,” Ms. Marenbach-Fountoulaki said.

After finding a home, buyers are issued a Greek tax number and must open a Greek bank account for the transaction, Mr. Taralas said.

Buyers are advised to hire a lawyer who will handle the title search; do due diligence to make sure the house is in good shape; and provide the papers for the notary public to draw up a contract, Mr. Savvaidis said.

Because of the difficulty of obtaining a mortgage, most foreign buyers pay cash, Ms. Marenbach-Fountoulaki said.

Closing costs can run about 8 to 10 percent of the sale price. There is a transfer tax of 3 percent on private homes (whereas property owned by a corporation is subject to a value-added tax of 24 percent), Mr. Taralas said. Notary and lawyers’ fees plus the broker’s commission total about 1 to 2.5 percent of the sale price, and there is a land registry tax of 0.5 percent.

Greek; euro (1 euro = $1.11)

The annual property tax on this home is 845 euros ($927), Ms. Vlamaki said.

Claudia Marenbach-Fountoulaki, Crete Island Estates, 011-30-28250-83155;

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Published at Wed, 04 Sep 2019 13:40:19 +0000