28 November 2011

Energy Saving

Here is something dear to all our hearts, particularly in these straightened times - energysaverstore.co.uk

This is operated by Mitch Conyard, a local Corfu resident who is highly experienced in this field. So if anyone is building a new villa or renovating an existing property and looking at energy saving fittings, here is a place to start.

22 November 2011

How many people does it take to make out a bill

The Greek public service has always been known for the principal of 'how many people to do one simple job', but in fact they are not alone.

Today we went to buy some bits and pieces of furniture from a hotel which is being refurbished. We chose our goods and expected just to pay the man who showed them to us. No such luck.

He made out a bill and calculated the total, 358 euros. He made a phone call, then walked us through the bowels of the hotel to an office where someone else made up a bill and printed it off, 358 euros.

Then he took up up to the top of the building where a lady typed the bill again, added it up, hand wrote an invoice, added that up, got us to sign, and sent us to the man at the next door desk to pay. He added up the amounts again, 358 euros. We paid, then we went back to the first lady. She wrote a receipt, attached it to one of the many print-outs, and we left. Seconds later she was chasing us, having given us the 'wrong copy'.

Reminds me of TEBE (the employers social security office) where I went once to get a statement. When I asked the lady if she could provide me with one immediately she said 'Of course, we are all computerised' and printed off the statement. I then had to go to three different people to get it verified, stamped, the stamp stamped etc. Unbelievable.

21 November 2011

What a Gift!

Sitting outside in the warm (hot?) sunshine yesterday morning, relaxing over a leisurely breakfast we began to wonder if someone or something was trying to cheer us up. Whether or not you believe in God, and whether or not you have been personally affected by the financial difficulties in Greece, at times like this it is hard to believe that this is not one of the best places in the world to be. 20th November, sitting outside in shirt sleeves, watering - not only the pots - but part of the proper garden as well - paradise on earth.

We re-remembered the old joke about God dividing up the world into countries and giving them out to all the nationalities on a first-come-first-served basis. The Greeks were late (!) and when they arrived to take their allotted bit of land there was nothing left. God looked slightly annoyed (a little like Angela Merkel, probably) and then finally relented "Oh, go on then, you can have the bit I was saving for my retirement".

Whoever, or whatever, thank you very much for these glorious days of very late summer.

15 November 2011

Property legalisation issues

Just for information - anyone who has a property where they have minor illegalities such as basements used as living space or uncovered balconies built in, have only until the end of November to begin the legalisation process.

Without this, it is not possible to include these areas in an EOT tourist licence for rental, and there will also be difficulties in selling or passing on the property as inheritance.

Where there are major legalisation issues, applications can be made up until the end of December.

These issues need to be dealt with as it will become very difficult to sell these properties. It is of course possible that these deadlines will be extended, but it would be wise for people to begin the work within the time frame.

Time for a joke!

It's not often that I laugh out loud, but I did when I read the following email that was sent to me last week:

Some years ago a small rural town in Italy twinned with a similar town in Greece.

The Mayor of the Greek town visited the Italian town. When he saw the palatial mansion belonging to the Italian mayor he wondered how he could afford such a house. The Italian said; "You see that bridge over there? The EU gave us a grant to build a two-lane bridge, but by building a single lane bridge with traffic lights at either end this house could be built".

The following year the Italian visited the Greek town. He was simply amazed at the Greek Mayor's house, gold taps, marble floors, it was marvellous. When he asked how this could be afforded the Greek said; "You see that bridge over there?"

The Italian replied; "No."

Although this particular joke originates from outside Greece it does appear that we (I'm including myself in this as a Greek) have an ability to laugh at ourselves. There are a number of TV programmes along the lines of "Mock the Week" and "Have I got News for You" and the following is doing the rounds of the internet via Twitter:

Five Days without a Government and during this time:

1) They have caught Psomiadi (big time swindler on the run).
2) Seized the assets of Mr. Lavrentiadis (banker/businessman suspected of tax evasion).
3) Caught harbour officials who were selling drugs.
4) Uncovered ministry officials on the take, and the most important....

Obviously Mr. Nobody really is the best Prime Minister!

Anyway, we are all hoping for better things now that we have a "more or less" non-political Prime Minister with a background in economics.

14 November 2011

A few suggestions for our new rulers

Well, we finally have a new 'sort of' government and now we have to wait and see if there are any improvements. A few suggestions for our new rulers...

1. A tourism minister who actually knows something about tourism and who doesn't think that an increase in the number of cruise passengers setting foot on Greek soil for maximum half a day, represents an increase in tourism. Perhaps a minister who is actually available to members of the tourist industry for their input.

2. Review and change the ridiculous illogical requirements currently in place for EOT licences, to encourage owners to pay for a licence, let their properties, and pay reasonable taxes on their profits.

3. Review and change the new tax laws as applied to foreign property buyers - in some countries these are fondly known as 'investors' ie. they bring money into the country (but of course Greece doesn't need money). Encouragement to these people should be a major priority.

4. Incentives to existing businesses in the tourism sector, to improve their scope and services, such as tax concessions and allowances for modernisation and refurbishment, in order to drag Greece into the current century and compete with more recent tourist destinations. These occasionally do exist, more often than not their terms are so prohibitive that few businesses manage to gain any benefit. The whole tourism and related industry needs constructive, practical assistance.

As always, I doubt very much if any of the above will happen. Greece seems so hidebound in its ways, with blinkered vision, that we all just stagger on in the same old way and rely on the beauty of the country and the warm personal welcome of its citizens to foreign visitors to sustain an industry which could be a major factor in the gradual recovery of the country.

10 November 2011

The end of an era - fingers crossed

So Mr. Papandreou has resigned. Definitely the end of an era and no doubt many people are hoping that things will start to improve. This week we have had the C4 programme doing a somewhat biased comparison between the UK and Greece for workers and income. I suppose it isn't interesting television to say that most of the population work very hard, for far less money that comparable British workers, they have virtually no social security/unemployment safety net or supplementary benefit, and that many private sector workers, such as those employed in hotels, do not get paid on time, if at all - and no one helps them. As I say, that doesn't make for fun TV viewing does it?

There is no doubt that Greece's problems are deeply rooted in the past, with massive tax evasion and corruption (and many of the politicians shouting so loudly now against the Papandreou measures were in place whilst this was going on) and no government has seemed to be able to get to grips with it, but it is unjustified to put the blame on 'the Greeks' as a whole. Still, let us keep our fingers crossed and hope for better times.

EOT Licences

Most villa owners are aware that if they wish to let their property to tourists they must have an EOT licence from the tourist board, but many of them do not know the way to go about getting the information as to whether their particlar property qualifies for a licence and what costs are involved.

At Corfuhomefinders we have an EOT licence consultant who can advise owners if their property qualifies for a licence, the paperwork necessary to obtain one and the procedure which must be followed. In the past many owners who only let their properties for a short period of time did so without obtaining a licence. In the last year it has become obvious that EOT and the tax authorities are making a major effort to track down those people letting properties without a licence and fining them accordingly. If anyone would like to be referred to our consultant please call or email us for information.

As with many other things in Greece, there is little logic behind the reasoning for eligibility (or not) for the licences - wouldn't you think in the current crisis the authorities would be loosening the regulations in order for more people to license and therefore have a business which is paying tax and therefore contributing to the economy. Of course not. The regulations are complex, and in many instances totally illogical and stupid, which of course is no surprise. This is why we have someone to look at each property individually and assess the best way forward.

2 November 2011

From The Daily Telegraph

This article appeared recently in the Daily Telegraph, one of the UK’s most influential newspapers. It begins by talking about the influx of Greek buyers for prime London property, but then goes on to discuss the property market in Greece. Its opinions are much the same as ours, although when the writer mentions that rental yields are unattractive we would disagree – on holiday villas the returns should be seen as reasonable, especially since so many buyers of holiday property are not using it purely as an investment, but factor in the costs of their own family holidays.

If wealthy Greeks are snapping up property in London like there was no tomorrow, it might seem rather perverse, on the face of it, that British property-hunters should be training their eyes on Greece, scouring the Aegean for bargains. But in the whirligig of the world property market, one door often opens when another closes.

Greece may not be a blue-chip investment financially, but it remains reliable in other ways. However dark the clouds gathering over the eurozone, for lovers of the eternal trinity of sun, sea and sand, the Greek islands have an imperishable charm. High-end buyers may be hesitant about investing, given all the economic uncertainties, but those on smaller budgets are not being so diffident.

“We have certainly seen an upsurge in bargain-hunters interested in resale properties,” says Spyros Mantzos, owner of the Kent-based estate agent A Property in Greece. “If the market in investment properties is stagnant, holiday homes and retirement homes are more popular than ever.”

The cost of living in Greece is substantially lower than in Britain, there are more and more low-cost flights to the country. If you cannot find an island to suit you, it is probably because you have not looked hard enough. There are islands for everyone, from party animals to nature-lovers to people who just want to sit and watch the sunset with a glass of ouzo.

Property prices generally in Greece are falling. House prices in Athens fell by 6.71 per cent in the 12 months to June 2011, according to Bank of Greece figures. Across the country as a whole, the cost of apartments fell by 4.45 per cent over the same period. But the picture is not uniformly grim.

The fall in property prices in the islands has been significantly less than in Athens and other mainland cities – only one per cent in the last year. A whitewashed villa in Mykonos, with views of the Aegean, is not about to rocket in price, but neither will it plummet. The market in holiday properties is reasonably buoyant, certainly compared with other sectors of the Greek economy.

For investors, rental yields on apartments are unattractive – around 2.8 per cent in Athens and 3.5 per cent in Crete, according to the Global Property Guide.

Investors also need to factor in the fact that, because of austerity measures introduced by the Greek government, new taxes are being levied on high-end properties, of the type traditionally beloved of yacht-owning millionaires. But for those willing to take the long-term view, there are far worse European countries in which to buy property.

Central Athens may be risky in the present economic climate but, in ever-popular Crete, you can get two-bedroom villas for not much more than £100,000. Other islands where you can get value for money include Rhodes, Kefalonia, and Corfu.
The economic crisis will pass. The glory that is Greece is eternal.