This is an introduction to Helen Papadoyianni, an English real estate agent based in Northwest Crete. Brits in Crete invited Helen with her many years' experience of handling property buying clients from the UK, what in her opinion was the the single, most important mind set to be adopted by you, if you are coming to Crete. Here is her reply.
Helen writes: "Due Diligence" That is the first piece of advice I would give to anyone looking to buy or build on Crete .. In layman’s terms this means simply “Do your homework”..
Before you even look at any properties for sale or any plots of land there are things for you to check out. It is always a good idea to talk things through at home in the UK before you leave and make some notes to take with you when you visit Crete.
As in the UK, and the rest of the world, there are less than scrupulous traders about and getting recompense for any unacceptable standards of work or work paid for and not done is a very difficult and expensive process with no guarantees at the end of it.
Ask around in the area where you are thinking of settling, see which companies are recommended by those already living there. Theirs will be the voices of experience. Listen carefully, be like a sponge and you will also get to know pretty fast who to avoid. Try also to obtain - as far as is possible - unbiased opinions and comments on who to deal with. There are many good, reputable builders and companies who will help and advise you on your purchase. You will find this out in the course of doing your homework.
Ask as many questions as you can, then LISTEN to the answers.
Once on Crete it is very easy to get all starry eyed when you see the views and you are enjoying the different culture. This is not real life. Don’t get carried away and sign on the dotted line without giving it, enough thought. That can be an expensive mistake.
Just as you would in the UK, ask about distances to shops, nearest hospitals and other amenities etc.
If you are buying a holiday home you will have different criteria to somebody planning to live here all year round. Some of the seaside villages can resemble ghost towns out of season.
Something else to bear in mind is that the pace of life in Crete is much slower than the UK. If you buy a plot up in the mountains you may well have a view to die for, but you may find yourself waiting months, possibly even years, for electricity and/or a phone. Any agent or developer worth his salt will point all these things out to you. Any agent who does not point these things out should be given short shrift, and you move on.
Another point to consider before parting with your cash or signing anything is whether you are sure that the piece of land or property you are buying is actually owned by the person you are buying it from. It is not uncommon for one piece of land to be owned by more than one member of a family, and there is no guarantee that all parties will have been contacted with regards to the plot purchase by you. This is particularly important if you are trying to buy a plot from a local person. Generally if you buy from a reputable company these issues will have been dealt with by them, but your lawyer will still need to check.
"Always get a lawyer .....and don't try to go it alone."
Your lawyer will do the searches on the land in question, including checking for debts which remain with the land should someone have taken out a mortgage and wish to resell. (Referred to as encumbrances in UK). Any debts left unsettled with the tax office and without the required receipt will automatically pass to a new owner and their liaibility.
Always get a lawyer and get them to do the legal leg work, a few hundred euros spent on this aspect can save you thousands of euros should anything go wrong at a later stage. Don’t try to go it alone.
It is normal here in Crete to sign a “Power of Attorney” for your lawyer to sign documents on your behalf in your absence and even if you are here in Crete he will sign the documents for you. The reason - Can you read Greek well enough to sign a legal document?
Crete is a wonderful place to live and you will be made very welcome by the Cretan people. But if you don’t do your homework, the Cretan Dream can turn into a Nightmare. Meet people, ask questions, check the answers, have an open mind and you could soon be the proud owner of your dream home in the sun. It is all part of the process of due diligence.
FYI - For further general guidance on buying properties or land in Crete, check out another dedicated pageon the subject.