Living on Crete is becoming the preferred lifestyle for more and more foreigners each year, a fashion that is causing the traditionally respected profession of real estate agentry to become inundated by get-rich-quick newcomers.
Have you noticed how many new real estate agents have sprung up in the last few years in Crete? And not just among the locals. This is suddenly the new “profession” for aspiring expats who, in years past, would have come over to Crete and opened up a pub or taverna.
Now we don’t want to appear cynical, but how come every Tom, Dick and Harry, or Manolis, Kostas and Giorgos, have suddenly become “property consultants” in Crete? Many of these same people were waiters or barmen here, or redundancy victims in totally unrelated fields back home. And, due to a poor turnout of tourists in recent years, jobs in tourism are at a premium, so other fields of employment are being sought.
“It’s like suddenly they come to Crete, take one look around, and say: ‘Hmm, there’s a lot of land over here, maybe I can sell some’,” said one cynical observer. “But you have to ask yourself: would you buy a used car from this guy?”
In Agios Nikolaos, it seems that a new estate agent appears every couple of weeks, invariably in a plush office with computer screens everywhere and comfortable chairs all over the place.
The title of this diatribe, “caveat emptor,” is a Latin phrase meaning, “let the buyer beware,” and that is the point of this article. While there are many professional, experienced estate agents, there are also those, Greek and expats alike, that are just out to make a fast buck from naïve and unsuspecting foreigners. The following story is, we assure you, completely true.
After searching for two years, an English couple found the house of their dreams in the Agios Nikolaos area through an estate agent. While discussing the property with friends in a taverna, some other people joined in who, as it turned out, happened to know the family selling the property. The name and address of the seller were established and the couple, who went to see them in a small village, were treated to traditional Cretan hospitality, together with several glasses of raki.
The couple intimated that they would like to make an offer on the property and the vendor, after a little negotiation and a little more raki, agreed to a fair price. The title search is now in progress and they expect to complete the sale shortly.
Nothing unusual, you might think, about this story – until you discover that the lowest price that the estate agent had given this couple for the same property was 12,000 euros higher than the asking price! This would not be so bad if the property was of significant value but the agent’s commission in this case would have amounted to a whopping twenty-five percent. The standard commission, by the way, which is established by law, is around three percent – just a bit of a difference!
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have friends or acquaintances who will help them in this way, so this couple considers itself very fortunate indeed. However, at least now we know why being a “property consultant” is the new occupation of choice for both aspiring locals and enterprising expats.
There are, of course, many creditable and reliable estate agents on Crete. Prospective buyers should always “shop around” before making such an important purchase as property, and ask about the agent’s business history and satisfied client list.
(Editor’s Note: In next month’s edition, The Crete Gazette will feature an article on guidelines that expats should follow when considering a property purchase on Crete.)