Press article from the Observer…

From the Observer April 25 2004

Plot your course for a place in the Greek sun

Are you in search of a home in paradise? Build it yourself, says June Field.

Let's face it, buying an overseas home is fuelled by fantasy. For most of us the script goes: a) find crumbling old farmhouse; b) amass sufficient funds to restore it to a tasteful country retreat all our friends will envy.

Greeks, on the other hand, find the British 'makeover madness' rather amusing. They are more than willing to sell off their rural ruins, as this generates enough cash to construct a flash new villa on another plot which they didn't tell you about.

Now property agents report that there has been a reversal: these days, Britons buying in Greece are copying the locals and opting for the 'self-build' route.

'Before, around 80 per cent wanted the romantic ruin, but now up to 90 per cent of my clients go for new build,' says John Goodwin of developer Living In The Sun. 'It's mainly because they want a quality home; most old properties in Greece were not earthquake resistant, meaning the house could fall around you. Plus, properties were poorly built for the holiday trade using cheap materials. They were hot in summer and cold in winter. But in the past few years construction standards have improved.'

For those in the market for a simple bolthole, it pays to shop around. There are countless building plots scattered across the Greek islands selling for as little as €20,000. Further up the scale, an acre-sized slab with sea views costs between €50,000 and €70,000. [check out our lastest information on Crete Property]

Elizabeth Meadows is one British buyer who plunged into the Crete property market and came out smiling. 'Being a large island, Crete has year-round appeal. I flew out and bought a lovely plot of land in Filaki about an hour's drive from Chania in western Crete.'

There is a growing foreign community in this area who are attracted by the climate and easy connections to the UK. Between May and October there are direct charters to both airports (Chania and Heraklion). In winter, scheduled flights operate via Athens, and high-speed ferries have cut the journey from Piraeus from 12 hours to around six. [check out our lastest information on flights to Crete]

'Liaising with John Goodwin's English builder on Crete meant I had no problems explaining what I wanted - which was a modern, two-storey, three-bedroom villa with swimming pool. I paid €147,000 for the entire project, then spent an extra €30,000 on features like a conservatory, solar panelling and outdoor barbecue area.'

A local partner, Nikos, helps British buyers navigate the bureaucratic maze, which is generally the biggest headache for foreigners.

One year and four visits later, it's all ready to move into. Along the way, Elizabeth has struck up friendships with all of her neighbours (most of whom are British). She is flying out with friends from Devon this month to enjoy her newly finished villa and hopes to retire permanently to Crete by next spring.

Tips for Hellenic happiness

  • A plot without utilities needs thought as cost of connection varies
  • Hire a reliable local team to help with paperwork. It is critical to ask when viewing plots whether you will obtain building permission. Get a lawyer to conduct a search before putting down any money
  • Purchase taxes are 10-15 per cent of the price
  • Building permits are costly; about £6,300 for a 250 sq metre home. It's tricky getting permits for plots next to the sea
  • Local labour is scarce; be prepared to rely on the local illegal workforce

Just some of the reasons we love Crete...

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