Buying a property in Corfu

Why choose Corfu?

With so many Mediterranean islands, why choose Corfu? Most people have their first contact with the island as tourists, but once they seriously consider buying property they realise that there are more issues to be considered when looking at investing in property in a foreign country.

Corfu is safe. The crime rate is exceptionally low.

It's also easily accessible - flight time from London to Corfu is under 3 hours. During the summer season there are direct flights from many European airports.

Compared to other parts of Greece, the climate in Corfu is welcoming, with mild winters encouraging the greenery, which is so attractive during the hotter summer months. Summers are hot, but with gentle breezes ensuring comfortable temperatures.

Corfu has a good road network (well apart from a few potholes!) and nowhere is far from the sea. Even the most distant villages are only an hour from Corfu Town or the Airport.

Healthcare is good, there is a main hospital near Corfu Town and various regional health centres. Private specialists are readily available at a comparatively small cost.

The island has always welcomed foreigners and the Greek reputation for hospitality is well deserved. International buyers can be found in almost every part of the island, unlike other part of Europe where buyers seem to cluster in ex pat communities.

Corfu has competitive property prices and annual taxes compared to many other European countries. The properties are also individual - there are virtually no large villa/apartment complexes.

Greece has a relatively low cost of living by comparison with northern European countries, especially when it comes to eating out or shopping for fresh local produce.

Non-EU residents can obtain a residents permit for investments above €250,000, which is valid for 5 years and is renewable. EU residents need only their passports or ID cards to enter Greece, and there are no restrictions on property purchase.

For investors high quality villas in good locations offer good rental yields as well as capital appreciation. We can help to find multi lingual staff locally to cover all requirements of owners and guests.

Sarah's tip

"My idea of paradise is a day pottering between the little north east coast bays, in a boat rented from Spiros and George on Barbati beach."

What we like most about Corfu

The climate! Short and generally mild winters, and long hot summers but with cooling breezes. Blue sea, blue sky and balmy evenings. Due to its relatively sheltered location the island offers calmer seas, and warmer temperatures than many other locations.

Being outside! Breakfast on the terrace, lunch by the sea, and dinner under the stars. Fresh local produce, healthy vegetables, fish straight from the sea and grilled meat on a wood fire. Even in the winter we can usually be found having our coffee at a pavement cafe.

Spectacular views! Corfu is never boring - from high mountains to shady olive groves, from tall cypress trees to picturesque fishing harbours, from vast sandy beaches to traditional villages, and of course the ever charming Corfu Town, with its Venetian architecture.

The people! Easy going, always welcoming to foreigners whether as tourists or ‘new Corfiots’

Winter! Corfu has a second life - different from the summer, quieter and more peaceful, with life centred in the larger villages and Corfu Town, offering the chance to appreciate the island at its serene best.

Culture and history! Churches, museums, cultural music events, exhibitions, theatre - both local and international.

Diversity! Over generations Corfu has developed into a true international community, where English is a universally spoken second language, and it is this combined with experience and infrastructure which enables Corfu to truly understand and fulfil the needs of international buyers.

Diana's tip

"In the summer, you can’t beat Alonaki Bay Taverna, in the south west, above a tiny harbour near Lake Korission."

Property in Corfu

Luxury villas

The majority of luxury villas are to be found on the north east coast, from Kommeno northwards. Premium areas are Nissaki, Agni, Kalami, San Stefano, Avlaki and Kassiopi. In the Barbati area there are also several modern seaside developments. The NE coast has long been regarded as the prime villa rental area, both on the coast, and also on the hillsides with spectacular views across to the Greek mainland and Albania.

Recently the 'villa' area has expanded and along most of the coastline luxury seaside villas can be found, including Agios Ioannis near Sidari, Arillas and Agios Georgios along the north coast. In the south-west the Paramonas/Prasoudi/Halikouna area is becoming more popular. This is partly due to lower prices but also due to the stunning beaches, and 'close to nature' atmosphere of the area. The scenic road running down to the fishing village of Boukari is also now home to high-end villas.

Prices for seaside properties start at €800,000 and go to €6,000,000+ while inland villas start from about €280,000

Houses

Family homes are for sale all over the island. They range from renovated village houses, to new houses on small modern developments. The village properties tend to be at lower price levels as they often have limited outside space, and sometimes do not have car access or parking. However in many cases they have easy access to shops and tavernas plus they are generally attractive properties, and are located within the community which appeals to many buyers.

More modern houses, sometimes with pools (or space for pools) are popular with buyers looking for an 'easy to run' property, and in many cases they have had the house constructed to their own specification by a local builder.

Renovation projects

Every village, all over the island, has old houses requiring varying levels of renovation. Instead of just saying 'this property needs work' we have graded them to give an idea of (very roughly) how much work is likely to be required to make the property viable to live in.

Most renovations definitely fall outside the 'DIY' or 'fixer upper' category, except possibly grades 1 and 2, but we do have plenty of professionals who can help.

  • Grade 1 - Needs minimal work such as redecorating or general cleaning. Apart from spiders, uninhabited for some time, but often has basic services
  • Grade 2 - Has a bathroom and/or a kitchen, probably dating back to the 1950's. The ceramic tiles are so old that they will soon be back in fashion.
  • Grade 3 - Probably structurally sound, needs roof repairs, electrics, plumbing, doors, windows, any stairs and floors need attention.
  • Grade 4 - Needs new roof and structural repairs to walls, plus re-plastering. There are probably more holes than actual roof and cracks in the walls.
  • Grade 5 - Not much more than a pile of stones – more of a re-build than renovation. Some would say this is a demolition project, but at least you have a good supply of stones to use!

If you decide a renovation is just your type of project, we have every type of professional available, should you need advice.

Land

Corfu has plenty of plots of land for sale - all sizes, all locations, all views, all prices! A smallish buildable plot of land away from the sea can start from about €20,000 and a building plot on the sea can be €3,000,000, with a wealth of plots in between.

Greek planning laws are complex and it is essential to employ a good engineer and lawyer to check all the finer points to make sure you can build on the pilot of your choice - and ensure that the design of your choice will fit!

General basic rules are:

  • Inside a village/town planning zone building is permitted on virtually all plots, whatever the size - however there are restrictions on building overlooking neighbours or common areas.
  • Outside these zones, if not on a main road it is necessary to have 4,000 m2 in order to obtain a building permit for up to 200 m2. However, if the plot has sufficient main road frontage the requirement drops to 2,000 m2. All plots are now measured using GPS to ensure that they comply with the size regulations.

The above are the basic rules. There are many more, and it is absolutely essential to work with an experienced engineer to ensure that no problems arise during the process. At Corfuhomefinders we can recommend highly experienced professionals in every field who can provide advice.

Building is severely restricted in seaside areas and plots on the sea require a 'shoreline certificate' before a building application is considered. Building in areas designated as 'forestry' is not permitted, and plots are required to have a forestry certificate before permits are issued.

Building construction must comply exactly with the plans on the permit issued as a completed build project must be signed off by the planning department, otherwise electricity cannot be applied for, and the property cannot be sold.

Apartments

Corfu does not have massive apartment developments in the style of Spain or Cyprus - planning laws have made sure of that. The available apartments tend to be in small blocks of 4 or 6, and set on two floors.

They are usually ex tourist properties and therefore close to the coast. Of all the properties available, these are probably the most convenient for buyers requiring 'lock up and leave' and with the lowest overheads.

The property market in Corfu

Corfu is very much an individual property market - most buyers are long-term lovers of Corfu who know the island well and who will buy regardless of external circumstances. It's also very much a 'niche market' since outside the main Corfu Town there are no large developments, or apartment buildings - every property is unique in terms of style and location.

As with anywhere in the world, some locations carry a price premium, such as on the north east coast (and coastal properties generally), whilst rural properties can be found at more economical prices.

The island has been affected by the general downturn, not only in Greece but all over Europe, and buyers are very much aware that they must consider carefully the value of their property investment. This is something Corfuhomefinders prioritise on behalf of our clients.

Price is obviously always a major factor, and a few properties have been substantially reduced. In many cases though, sellers are achieving a good rental return during the summer - and are therefore prepared to wait for a satisfactory sale price.

Most sellers will consider reasonable offers, but prices tend to be quite stable. The market for villas as holiday letting investments is constant, particularly where a buyer wants to combine a family holiday home with a good letting option.

Renovation projects are always in demand since they allow buyers to budget in stages - firstly for the purchase, and then to carry out the renovation in a time frame that suits.

Similarly land and new build options can give the option of spreading the purchase costs, whilst giving buyers the chance to have a property constructed to their exact preference.

Because there is such a wide range of properties ranging from land plots or village houses to luxury villas there really is something available for every potential buyer.

The excellent transport links to Europe, and short flight times, as well as good motorway links through Greece also have a beneficial effect, opening up the island to buyers from many countries.

Overall the recent property market in Corfu has been stable, and judging from current interest levels, is likely to remain so.

The buying process and beyond

Once you have chosen your property this is what happens.

You will need

A LAWYER - As in any other EU country you will need to appoint a lawyer. They check every aspect of the ownership title of the property, and ensure that there are no legal claims against the property or the sellers. We can recommend experienced lawyers, fluent in your language to work on your behalf.

A NOTARY- Your lawyer will appoint a notary to prepare and register the final contract for the purchase. This is a government official who checks all the documents presented by your lawyer to ensure the total legality of the property transfer.

A GREEK TAX NUMBER (AFM)- If you make a Power of Attorney your lawyer will be able to obtain this on your behalf and sign the final contract if you cannot attend the signing in person.

A Tax No. is obligatory for all buyers, and is issued from the Tax Office.

A GREEK BANK ACCOUNT– the necessary documents are:

  • Your Greek Tax Number
  • A copy of your passport.
  • A document verifying your residential home address – drivers licence, council tax bills, utility bills etc.
  • A document establishing that you pay tax in your home country – wage slip, or company accounts if you are self employed.

TO PAY A DEPOSIT- this is usually 10% and is paid in order for your chosen property to be removed from the market. This is held in our Client Trust Account and forms part of the funds at final contract completion.

When the time comes for final completion

You can return to sign personally, or you can leave a Power of Attorney with your lawyer to sign on your behalf. They will also be responsible for paying all fees and taxes which are due at this time.

Additional purchase expenses

These vary for each property but you should allow in the region of 12% in addition to the price of the property. This includes - Purchase Tax, Lawyer’s fees, Notary's fees and Agency Fees.

Financing your purchase

It is currently very difficult to obtain a mortgage in Greece, although occasionally it is possible. Most buyers choose to raise finance based on property they currently own in their home countries.

Buying regulations are now the same for Greek nationals, EU citizens and non-EU citizens.

Money transfers

When you need to send money to Greece from non-eurozone areas you should consider using the services of our partner currency exchange company Foreign Currency Direct, www.currencies.co.uk recently awarded Gold Trusted Service by Feefo.

Residence permits

EU Nationals

You will not need to obtain a residence permit before you buy your property. For EU nationals residence permits are simple to obtain and if you plan to stay for longer than 90 days, you will have to register and obtain a permit at the nearest police station or Aliens’ Bureau. You need to present your passport or identity card, four photographs, proof of accommodation (title deeds), proof you have sufficient income (e.g. bank statements or certificate from your employer) and proof of health insurance cover (EU Health Card – which has replaced Form E-111 and E-121 – or a private health insurance policy)

Non-EU nationals

In 2013, the Greek government passed a new law which gives non-EU nationals and their family members residence permits when buying property with a value of €250,000 or more. This residence permit is renewable and allows the buyer to live in Greece, exit and re-enter at any time, and to travel to all other Schengen countries purely with their passport. The permit takes on average about 2 months to obtain once the relevant property has been purchased.

Investment

In Corfu or anywhere else in the world, the correct property to buy is not only the one you love the most, but also one which will function as a profitable investment. In buying a property on one of the popular islands such as Corfu you are acquiring a safe, secure investment, with probable appreciation on the property value. It also offers the opportunity of a good annual return on a seasonal rental.

There are a variety of investment options:

  1. The most common is that of a holiday home which also has letting potential, which can provide wonderful holidays for family and friends, and also be let to generate an income which will support the running expenses of the property.
  2. A ‘lifestyle change’ investment enabling you to live and work in Corfu, such as a 'bed and breakfast', guest apartments, or a small hotel.
  3. A property which is simply an investment such as a villa or apartments, which are let throughout the summer in order to provide a regular income.

At Corfuhomefinders we have many years of experience and can identify suitable investment properties, within your budget and fulfilling your personal requirements. We will give you honest, practical opinions on the projected return for your potential purchase, and advice on how to achieve this, with recommendations for locations/types of property etc. We can provide examples of previous purchasers now successfully realising a good rental return on their properties

Property management

Once you own your property the question arises of how you want to look after it - if it is a holiday rental will you be here to run it yourselves? If not, you will need reliable people to look after your property and your guests, or you might want someone to take over the entire letting and management process. We realise how difficult it is to have everything the way you want it when you won’t necessarily be on site to organise it yourself.

If it is your personal home you might just want someone to open up the house periodically, check that all is ok, and then simply get the house ready for your arrival and clean after your departure.

At Corfuhomefinders we know local people who can help you with all levels of property management, totally tailored to your personal requirements - if you find the letting process and day to day management rather daunting, we have someone who can handle it for you, if you need a cook, maintenance staff or cleaners arranged and overseen, we can do it, if you have an electrical or plumbing problem, we can send someone.

Property taxes and operating expenses

There is an annual property tax (ENFIA) payable either as a lump sum or in 5 payments. This is calculated on the taxable value of the property, and is area dependent, with amounts ranging from €3 per m2 to €6 m2<

Electricity (DEH) bills are every second month, and included in the bill is a percentage for local utilities, and TV Licence. The smaller the electricity bill, the smaller the utilities bill.

Water bills (DEYAK) are every quarter. Telephone/Wi-Fi land line bills are every 2 months. Wi-Fi, at varying speeds, is available throughout the island.

There are several mobile phone companies who offer contract connections, pay as you go, and also wifi.

Satellite TV is available via Nova or Cosmote, with a monthly subscription, and a wide range of channels including many in English. Many people now use the internet for streaming/downloading television or films.

Most bills are payable either on-line or through direct debit via your bank account.