Every summer, hundreds of non-suspecting foreigners, arriving with the best intentions, are caught by the illusion that there is a real investment opportunity in Greek property. This could not be further from the truth as more and more reports emerge of a highly corrupt system that leaves foreigners open to extortion, dynamic pricing by gangs of people who are largely a law unto themselves – and a situation where they are trapped after investing sums of money. As reported by Newstrail, Greece does not behave according to European norms when it gets to consumer rights and the enforcement of professional codes of ethics – as these are literally non-existent when dealing with property lawyers and civil engineering/construction companies. Corfu and Mykonos have been tipped as two of the worst locations to deal with lawyers and civil engineers, with Athens being slightly better.
Problems with the Greek property market include foreigners being extorted with additional building charges, lawyers attempting to sneak additional fees that were never agreed to – and situations where professionals want to act with total impunity to change prices as they see fit. As one buyer said:
“The moment I queried the additional sneak charges, they wanted to walk away with me losing everything I paid up to that point – so clearly the only language they understand, is that of duress and extortion”.
Systemic corruption and white-collar crimes:
In small islands like Corfu and Mykonos you have close circles of friends: where the civil engineer, lawyer and building inspectors from local authorities operate as packs. Beyond that, there is also price fixing between construction companies, civil engineering firms, lawyers and notaries, who thrive on the highly illegal practices of price fixing. Corfu is largely seen as a hotbed for mafia-style construction management where extortion is rife.
As one British buyer recently said:
“Once I paid my deposit, people changed from being sweet to showing their teeth: first the lawyer attempted to rinse with an additional nine thousand euros in newly discovered fees, then later, after paying the civil engineer his deposit, he changed his tune that the house that he thought was in a fantastic condition, was actually not maintained for years and abruptly changed the prices and scope of the project. When I questioned the engineer, he said that they can simply pack up and leave.
They caused severe damage to the property, but wanted total impunity without claiming responsibility for any losses we suffered as a result of their misconduct. The worse feeling in the world is when you realise that both lawyers and civil engineers – the very people who are supposed to look out for your interest, do exactly the opposite. They are causing irreversible damage to the reputation of their country, thinking that they can continue getting away with sneaky, unethical behaviour”.
Other buyers from Israel, Germany and China were equally irate at the poor levels of ethics demonstrated by property and legal professionals in Greece. The Chinese government and Costco are facing a huge loss after it trusted Greece with investments – only to learn that the terms that were promised, got changed later on, effectively leaving them in the classic Greek extortion trap.
An Israeli buyer in Mykonos said:
“I refused an extortionate quote to paint my house and did it myself. The construction company owners who littered the entire hill with illegal buildings, sent their friend from the local planning department to come and harass me for working without a building license. Did that person also visit them when they constructed huge mansions illegally on the hill? This is shameful behaviour that one would never expect in Europe these days”.
Black money and total tax avoidance – EU crackdown necessary?
Both civil engineers and lawyers openly avoid paying taxes and issuing any receipts. They insist to be paid in cash – especially in Corfu and Mykonos. According to one client:
“They are not so smart: by writing specifically how much they want each time in an email, sending statements of what was paid by email, facebook and SMS – and then saying they will walk away without contractual responsibility as the dealings occurred without VAT receipts. These people are seriously harming the economy of Greece – and seriously harming the reputation of Greece as a destination for investment”.
The same buyer also said:
“If a lawyer or civil engineering firm does not have AT LEAST 10 positive reviews on Google maps, from verifiable foreigners – forget it. Don’t touch them”.
Thousands foreclosures to hit the market, causing oversupply:
There is also a huge number of foreclosures about to hit the market, as banks were previously blocked by corrupt notary associations who refused to participate in sales of distressed properties. In the Ionian islands, notaries boycotted the government’s pledge to Europe: which was to get rid of toxic loans. Now, finally, these properties are expected to be listed on the market, creating an additional oversupply in a country with an aging, declining population.
Foreigners should be rather cautious when dealing with any form of property investment in Greece. Fake news platforms based in Greece are quick to float stories of a recovering property market that is “red hot” – which could not be further from the truth. Prices are still falling across Greece, with Athens being the only exception thus far. If the legal system in a country fails foreigners and local contractors refuse to sign proper binding contracts while engaging in dynamic pricing tactics, backed by systemic corruption and tax avoidance that is quite normal, how can the property market ever recover without the trust of the international community? There is always a reason for everything in the world – all this explains why every other European country recovered fully from the recession, except Greece.