A Modern Five-Story Villa Outside Athens, Greece
$3.37 MILLION ($2.875 MILLION EUROS)
Built into a mountain on the craggy coastline of Dikastika Bay, this five-level home is in Dikastika, a tiny city in the Attica region of Greece, about 30 miles northeast of Athens.
Custom-built for the sellers in 2015, the 5,920-square-foot house offers sweeping vistas across the Petalioi Gulf, in the Aegean Sea, from every floor. “It’s a terrific offering on an exceptional property with stunning views,” said Theo Bosdas of Engel & Volkers MMC Greece, the listing agent. “A home like this on the Athens Riviera, in the southern suburbs, would go for twice the price.”
Along with a hilly quarter-acre lot, the home’s landscaped grounds encompass adjacent public parkland where the sellers planted palm trees and other greenery, with permission from local authorities. “It doesn’t belong to them, but they wanted to extend the feeling of the land they have,” Mr. Bosdas said. “It adds to the home’s opulent feeling.”
From the road, a sculpted steel gate opens to a short driveway and a three-car garage. One level up, a pair of guest bedrooms with en suite bathrooms share the level with a tiled outdoor deck and kidney-shaped pool. The owners built the pool as an extension of the house rather than in-ground; the facade is covered in rough-hewed rock salvaged from the home’s construction.
The main bedroom suite occupies the third floor, with an expansive bathroom and walk-in closet with custom cabinetry. “Everything is large in there,” Mr. Bosdas said. A private staircase reaches the main bedroom from the pool level. An elevator also services all floors.
On the fourth level, a great room has living and dining areas, and a fireplace. The room’s 26-foot ceiling soars past the fifth floor. An oak spiral staircase, the room’s centerpiece, wraps around a sculpted floor-to-ceiling oak panel.
Off the dining room, the kitchen has a horseshoe-shaped breakfast bar, along with custom Italian cabinetry, SMEG appliances and Grohe fixtures. Just opposite, a covered outdoor lounge area includes a pizza oven and barbecue pit. A triangular white canopy juts from the house to cover the lounge area. “Some of the décor is Art Deco-inspired, mixed with these modern elements,” Mr. Bosdas said.
The fifth floor, called “the captain’s room,” offers unobstructed sea views and has its own bar and kitchen, fireplace and built-in sofa. “You can see both the sunset and sunrise because of the home’s location,” Mr. Bosdas said.
The furniture, imported from the United States, is negotiable. An “American, Asian or Russian” would be the most likely buyer for the home, Mr. Bosdas said. “It’s quite flamboyant.” And while the home “might feel distant for a Greek buyer,” he said, “it’s perfect for people who want to be a bit isolated. It’s one of the two or three best properties in the area.”
About an hour from the center of Athens, Dikastika borders Schinias-Marathon National Park, a five-square-mile protected patch of wetlands and forests. While “not quite on the map” for foreign luxury buyers, Dikastika is “a beautiful area, and the beach is wonderful,” said Yannis Ploumis, managing director of Ploumis Sotiropoulos/Christie’s International Real Estate in Athens. “Home values are moderate, and you can live close to nature.”
A large convenience store serves Dikastika; retail, hospitals and professional services are available in the town of Nea Makri, about 10 miles south, Mr. Bosdas said. Athens International Airport is about 25 miles south.
While Greece has long been popular with foreign buyers, the Greek government has enacted policies designed to keep the market competitive. A residency-by-investment program, known as the Golden Visa, launched in 2013 and ties a residency visa to a 250,000-euro ($293,000) property investment or 400,000-euro ($470,000) financial investment in Greece.
In 2019, the property market got another boost from a plan aimed at luring retirees and high-net-worth buyers: Investors who park 500,000 euros ($586,000) in Greece receive Greek tax residency, with a 100,000-euro ($117,000) annual flat tax on worldwide income from any of 57 countries with which Greece has a tax treaty.
Both programs have helped property prices gradually recover from their nadir following the last decade’s debt crisis, which left Greece nearly bankrupt. “There’s almost a total market recovery from that loss,” said Alexandra Sekouri, the founder of Athens real estate advisory firm Lithos Investment and a vice president of the Hellenic Association of Realtors.
But in 2020, pandemic lockdowns “froze” Greece’s roaring property market,” Ms. Sekouri said. Based on data from the Bank of Greece, she said that transactions in Athens, Greece’s capital and largest city, fell nearly 50 percent from 2019 to 2020. Likewise, Golden Visa program revenues dropped nearly 75 percent in 2020, though applications have rebounded as borders have reopened.
Border reopenings this year pushed prices up as foreign buyers returned and inventory shrank. Ms. Sekouri said home prices in “the most expensive parts of Athens,” including Kolonaki, Parliament and the Athens Riviera, can now exceed $1,100 a square foot, and can reach $2,700 a square foot in luxury seaside villas or apartments.
According to his firm’s data, Athens home prices rose 6.4 percent in the second quarter of 2021 over the same period last year, said Giorgos Gavriilidis, co-founder and CEO of Elxis At Home in Greece, a real estate agency and property law firm with offices in Greece and the Netherlands. “Athens is very popular at this moment, mostly for houses near the historical center.”
Nationwide, Mr. Gavriilidis estimated that prices rose 4.4 percent from Q2 2020 to Q2 2021, “and will continue to rise by 5 or 6 percent every year.” Still, Greece remains a bargain compared with comparable European locales, he said: “Property in the south of France costs 10 times more than coastal Greece.”
Real estate should benefit from Greece’s growing allure for global business. According to a 2021 Ernst & Young report on investment in Europe, “Greece ranks — for the first time — among the 10 most attractive destinations for foreign investment, with 10 percent of respondents mentioning Greece among the three most attractive countries for 2021.” Microsoft announced last October that it would build a European cloud-services hub in Greece.
Who Buys in Greece
Foreign buyers in Greece “fall into two main groups,” Ms. Sekouri said. The first are seeking Golden Visas, with most coming from the Middle East, Turkey, Russia and China.
The second group, she said, includes “investors looking for good ROI, like an Airbnb,” with most coming from Germany, France or Italy. Post-Brexit, the Golden Visa program has also attracted British buyers “who want access to the E.U.,” Mr. Ploumis said.
Americans and Canadians are not significant players in Greece’s property market, Mr. Gavriilidis said: “We see some, but the majority are from elsewhere.”
Buyers from outside the European Union face few restrictions in Greece, said Helen Alexiou, managing partner at the Athens law firm AKL. “To purchase property near borders and on some islands, you need government approval,” she said. “Because the process can be lengthy, I’ve seen deals crash around this,” she said.
Lawyers are essential for foreigners to execute property deals, Ms. Alexiou said. The Greek government has begun digitizing property records to streamline transactions, but title confirmation still relies on printed records, “which only a lawyer can search,” she said. Once a lawyer confirms ownership and any building restrictions on a property, a notary gathers closing documents from both properties to execute a closing, she said.
For the Golden Visa program, the application fee is 2,000 euros ($2,345) for the primary applicant, and 150 euros ($175) for each family member, with children under 18 exempted. The residency permit “is valid as long as you hold the property,” Ms. Alexiou said, though they must be renewed every five years.
Most foreign buyers pay cash, said Giorgos Vlastos, a tax consultant and co-founder of Greek Advisors, a Rhodes real estate advisory firm and brokerage. Greek banks may offer financing “under some conditions, but we don’t see it very often,” he said. Almost all foreign buyers open a Greek bank account to wire funds to sellers, and to pay taxes and expenses.
Languages and Currency
Greek; euro (1 euro = $1.17)
Taxes and Fees
Buyers pay a 3 percent transfer tax calculated on the value of the property, Mr. Vlastos said. In December 2019, the Greek government enacted a three-year suspension of the 24 percent value-added tax on properties built after 2006. The exemption is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2022.
Lawyers fees are set at 1 percent of the property’s value up to 44,000 euros ($51,500), 0.5 percent of the property’s value from 44,000 to 1.4 million euros ($1.64 million), and 0.4 percent of the value above that, he said.
Notary fees range from 0.8 percent of the value of the property up to 120,000 euros ($140,000) to 0.65 percent for properties up to 2 million euros ($2.3 million), Mr. Vlastos said.
Realtor fees average 2 to 3 percent of the value of the sale, and are split between buyer and seller, Ms. Sekouri said.
Mr. Bosdas, the listing agent, said annual property taxes on this home “are less than $3,000 — quite lower than other competitive seaside areas.” He estimated maintenance costs, including the pool, gardens, and heating, at about $1,000 a month.
Theo Bosdas, Engel & Volkers MMC Greece, 011-30-6936-580-777, engelvoelkers.com