Greece is the word for holiday home buyers
The British have always loved Greece for its undeveloped islands, rustic villas and cat-filled restaurants overlooking crystalclear bays. Or as Dimitrios Papadimoulis, the European Parliament vice-president, put it in his April statement on Brexit: “Greece and Britain have a relationship. You’ve shared our history, liked our sun and sand and enjoyed a couple of drinks in our tavernas.”
And so we continue to book holidays and buy homes across the Aegean, from simple whitewashed village houses to multi-millionpound contemporary villas with Hockney-blue infinity pools. In the past couple of years, Greece’s security has become a tick-box, too. “A lot of people who might have gone to Turkey have come to buy in Greece,” says Spyros Mantzos of estate agency A Property in Greece. “It seems a safer and friendlier prospect. The British, French and Belgians are our biggest buyers.”
Tourism is hugely important to the still-struggling Greek economy – Elena Kountoura, the tourism minister, says she expects a record 30million tourists in 2017 – and Greek locals continue to make UK visitors feel welcome. “I can assure you that Greeks will continue to show their hospitality to the British as if they never left the Union,” Papadimoulis added in his speech.
That’s lovely to hear, but where are we buying? Access is key to the popularity of the islands, and air routes are set to improve since the German company Fraport AG took over the running of 14 regional Greek airports (as part of Greece’s bail-out deal with its EU creditors). These include those of Crete (Chania), Corfu, Rhodes, Mykonos, Zakynthos and Santorini.
“Operators are pushing them hard for more year-round flights. Many services stop between November and March, despite the mild climate of islands such as Crete,” says Mantzos.
Crete is his biggest market, with interest highest around Chania and the nearby Akrotiri peninsula on the west side, and the town of Agios Nikolaos in the east. The typical spend is around €150,000 (£139,400), which buys a modern three-bedroom villa with a pool. “People either buy resale properties or [find a plot and build their own], which offers a VAT advantage over buying a new home,” says Mantzos. A high-end self build near Chania or Elounda in Crete would cost around €750,000, he says.
He adds that property prices have fallen for 10 years, so it’s a good time to buy, and with low upkeep costs, rental yields can be good; 60 per cent of buyers rent out their properties.
At the higher end of the market, the Ionian islands are ever-popular. In Zakynthos, or Zante, there’s a beachfront property close to the fashionable Peligoni Club (beloved of the Home Counties yachting set) that has been reduced from €5million to €3.8million, available through Aylesford. It offers 10 bedrooms with three more for staff, along with an infinity pool a few steps from the sea, and rents for €25,000 per week during high summer.
An absence of concrete and an easy lifestyle that feels like it’s unchanged in 30 years is what draws people to Zakynthos and Corfu, says Andrew Langton, the chairman of Aylesford International estate agency. “Corfu has suddenly become a major attraction as nearby countries have become off limits due to safety concerns,” he says. “But everyone wants a home within steps of the sea and they are as scarce as hens’ teeth as no one wants to sell.” On the chichi north-east coast of the island you might not find a waterfront home, but A Property in Greece has two three-bedroom villas with panoramic sea views for €750,000 and €1million.
Super-fashionable Mykonos is a favourite of hedonists and celebrities, with its designer shops and restaurants such as Nammos, Nobu and Hakkasan. This is Greek island life at its most sophisticated. The typical budget for a home is €1.5million to €2million, according to Roi Deldimou of Beauchamp Estates. “You might get a small house on a little complex for €1million, but most people want large west-facing houses in prime areas within easy reach of Mykonos Town,” she says. “Prime areas are Agios Lazaros, Agia Sofia, Tourlos and Houlakia.”
If you want the sugar cube-style properties of Mykonos without the party scene, look to the quieter Tinos and Syros. Beauchamp has a fivebedroom traditional country estate on Syros for €1million. You will have to reach it by ferry (or plane) from Athens but you’ll escape the tourist hordes.
Over in Rhodes, it’s a different story again. The agency Engel & Völkers reported a 57 per cent increase in demand from international buyers for properties on Rhodes, especially those from central Europe. Interest has been focused on Lindos, Pefkos and Vlicha on the east coast, with prices up to €650 per sq ft.
But why the increase? The recovery of the tourism industry coupled with the improvement in the political situation in Greece, says Georg Petras, the managing partner of Engel & Völkers in Rhodes. “We are expecting property prices to rise further in the long term,” he says.
From rustic, whitewashed cottages to state-of-the-art villas, demand for Aegean island properties is high, says Liz Rowlinson
Call it the blues: a hillside house in Corfu, main, is €1m through A Property in Greece; a villa in Crete, left, is €2.9m with Savills; Engel & Völkers has a €600,000 flat in Rhodes, below; Villa Elia in Mykonos, below left, is €1.5m through Sphere Estates