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|Vori / Voroi|
|My house in the village of Vori in the southeast of the island of Crete|
Buying a house in Crete had been a dream for me for a long time and also for my best friend Wilbert, so I spent many hours on the internet searching for an affordable home that would appeal to us both. Our preference was for the south of Crete and if possible in the southeast, because it is the quietest there and most of our favorite beaches are in that area. It is also the part of the island that has the best papers for the amount of sunshine and the temperature. When I saw this house on the internet in a very small and quiet village, which I knew from an earlier visit, I wrote to the real estate agent on 27 July 2018 and said that I wanted to make an offer without having seen the property. I also contacted a friendly broker in Sissi, Suzanne Schils from Nikou Real Estate to ask if she could have a look at it for me and be helpful with the purchase and with advice. I had known Suzanne via the Internet for a while and since she also speaks Dutch it was extra easy for me. Suzanne went to have look at the house for us and made a lot of pictures and forwarded a map of the plot. Below are two pictures of me at the Nikou Real Estate Agency in the village of Sissi and the property as it was advertised on the internet.
The first thing we had to do, according to Suzanne, was to take a good lawyer who would check things out for us and who could represent us at the real estate agent and the sellers of the house. She brought us into contact with Eleftheria Chatzipanagioti, a lawyer in Agios Nikolaos, and on the 5th of August we hired her. That turned out to be a good choice because she was quick to respond to questions and excellent in her job as she all the time informed us about every little thing that was going on. You may think that it goes simple and smoothly if you buy a house, but nothing is less true. Since 2013 the Greek government has required all houses to be legalized before they are sold. Most old houses (about 90% I was told) is not legalised yet. And everything takes time, lots of time.
But on 5 August the lawyer immediately started working for us. She also explained the procedure extensively and had to write and send us a document to give her a power of attorney. I had to go to a civil-law notary with that document here in the Netherlands. She needed our addresses here, a copy of our passports and the names of our parents. For the latter we both had to request a birth certificate in the municipality where we were born and that took a little bit of time. The next day, on August 6, she had already contacted the real estate agent of the vendors and they would send her the details of the property so she could start her "legal search". She received those details the next day from the real estate agent and she started the investigation. This means that she went to find out who the building belonged to and if there were not multiple owners (that happens quite often in Greece) or debts on the house.
Two days later, on the 9th of August I received the "legal search" report. The house turned out to belong to an English couple. That also explained why there was a satelite dish on the roof, because most Greeks do not have that. Later we found out that this couple had returned to England five years ago for health reasons, with the intention to return to Crete again, but this never happened. After a few years they decided to put the house on sale. The house was built before 1923 and it had to be legalized in the way it was decided in the law of the Greek government 0f 2013 (this is also because there are many buildings put down without permission in Greece).
We had to send all kinds of documents so that Eleftheria could open a bank account in our name, ask for a Greek tax number, and also in the end put a signature on the final purchase contract on our behalf. We needed a birth certificate, an energy bill, a tax declaration, a payslip, a telephone bill, a copy of the passport and a notarial authorization with an apostille (special stamp) from the court. On August 9, Eleftheria also received both birth certificates and she could make the power of attorney with which we had to go to the notary. She also went to call the real estate agent to ask for the amount of the deposit that the vendors wanted. Part of that deposit was also needed to pay the civil engineer (an architect who comes to measure up the rooms and put things into the system etc.) in order to legalize the building and the plot.
Subsequently a so-called pre-contract had to be set up. This could be done through a notary, but that would take an extra long time, or it could simply be a contract between the sellers and the buyers. A contract between only the vendors and us was not binding and that would mean that the vendors could eventually decide not to sell the house, but because this was the quicker option we chose this. At the end of September (so one month and three weeks after August 9) we would go to Crete for two weeks and the real estate agent of the seller had told us that it might all be ready before that time.
On the 13 August after we had been to the notary in Amsterdam for a signature on the papers that Eleftheria had sent us, I thought the document was ready to be sent to the law firm in Agios Nikolaos, so I made a scan of it to show Eleftheria. But it was not yet okay, because I had to take the document to the court in Amsterdam where the signature of the notary would then be checked again. They had to put another stamp on it to finalize it. That is called the apostille. In the meantime, the sellers in England were also busy arranging a power of attorney for their lawyer in Crete. That took longer because they had to get this final stamp at the Greek consulate there.
After that came the long period of waiting. At the end of September we flew to Crete for two weeks and we had the hope that everything would be ready before that and we would get the keys, but the legalization of the building was not completed by then. We did make an appointment with the selling agent to come and see the house. The day before we had that appointment we were too curious, drove to the village and we could already see the outside and part of the house. The next day we had the appointment with the real estate agent and she came with a bunch of 7 keys to open all doors. A number of curious villagers immediately came to the event. The atmosphere was very nice and the people were very friendly and enthusiastic that the house, which had been empty for so long, was finally sold.
Fortunately we were both lyrical about the property we had bought. The two gardens in the front were indeed overgrown and the flowers and plants were more than two meters high, but that is a matter of pruning. There was also a beautiful large orange tree. The neighbor of the building had watered the plants and this tree for five years while the building was empty. It also turned out to be two separate houses and not one. There was a small house with a bedroom, a room with a kitchenette and a large closet, and a bathroom with shower and toilet, and there was a larger house with a living room / kitchen / dining area, a utility room, an office, a bedroom and a bathroom with shower toilet. There were also a number of outbuildings / storage rooms. In one of them there was also a connection for water, so there was the possibility to build a bathroom here in the future and to make it a separate studio for any visitors.
The best of the whole we both found the shared long veranda at the back of the two houses, which looked out on the valley and the mountains in the distance. That veranda was enclosed and completely private. There were no houses at all in front of it, so a free view. We discovered an almond tree and a walnut tree. A part of the porch was no longer accessible because part of it had been blocked for now by unknown trees. A nice detail was also the old-fashioned oven outside in which you could bake bread. The small house also had a beautiful old fireplace. Here were also two fridges, three heaters (one electric and two on gas), a fan, a hot plate, a double bed and there was a small old television. Both the small and the larger house were air-conditioned. In the big house there were four fridges, a freezer, a washing machine and a dryer, a kitchen with all kinds of equipment, a big TV, pots and pans and all kinds of crockery.
Later that week we came back again and to meet with two friends of us from Amsterdam, Eddy and Louisa. I had received the keys for a while from the real estate agent to show it to them. They also liked it very much. Then we continued our holiday and left again to the next villages where we had booked overnight stays. Unfortunately we did not hear from the real estate agent or our lawyer for the rest of the holiday, so the legalization was still not passed when we flew back to the Netherlands.
At the end of October early November we had planned another trip to Crete, so now we were hoping that by that time everything would be arranged. But unfortunately that was not the case. We did go to have another look at the house and picked some oranges, but that was it. Only on the 13th of November, about ten days after we were back in the Netherlands, I received an e-mail from my lawyer that she had received the documents of the topography of the plot of the building from the civil engineer. I had already been told that they would have to be sent to a civil-law notary in Greece, who would then take it further. It was nice to have the map and to view it. I found out that there was still a space of 15 m2 that we had not seen and that the veranda was more than 26 meters long.
On January 9th I was informed that the contract was now at the notary's office and that she was working on it. The end was in sight and soon it would be signed. But a few days later we were disappointed again because one of the sellers from England bumped into a problem with the Greek tax authorities because he was mentioned as being Greek but was not. New documents had to be arranged again and there was another apostille (special stamp, I think through the Greek consulate in England or the court there) that had to be applied for. Those documents then had to be sent back to their lawyer in Crete. Arranging the papers would take about three weeks according to the e-mail.
In the meanwhile my best friend, with whom I would buy the house together, for all kinds of reasons refrained from the purchase. My lawyer and we have become quite frustrated by now. I have now given the order not to sign anything. I will first take another look and then I will maybe buy the house on my own. April 12th we fly back and then we will see how to carry on with the purchase.