Valmas Associates as exclusive editors & contributors to the most extensive publication on Greek Real Estate Law
Valmas Associates are exclusive contributors and editors on the most extensive (to this date) publication on Greek Real Estate Law in the English language from ICLG (International Comparative Legal Guides). The Chapter on Greece is due to be published on early 4th Quarter 2018 as part of the ICLG Real Estate Law 2019 edition, examining contemporary issues and practical aspects of Real Estate Law in several countries globally.
The Article below is part of a work in progress (hence some information may be incomplete or inaccurate) on Greek Real Estate Law from Ioannis Valmas, to be published by a leading Publishing House in Greece in late autumn 2018. It is aiming to serve as a guide to existing and prospective investors in real estate property in Greece.
Greece’s real estate market has been demonstrating clear signs of recovery and Athens, among other areas, has been at the epicenter of real estate investments from investors from all over the world. Local prices are still well below pre-crisis levels making Greece an undisputed buyer’s market. According to the Bank of Greece, in Q1/2017, Athens property was 44% cheaper than its 2008 peak.
A. Costs related to the purchase & sale of real estate property in Greece
A1. Costs for Purchase of Property in Greece
A purchase agreement for Real Property in Greece is effectuated through the drafting of the notarial deeds and the subsequent signing of the final Contract for the Sale of Property by the seller and buyer (or their proxies).
Buying Real Property in Greece bears various associated costs/fees which can be divided in the following sub-categories:
1. Notary fees: They are paid by the buyer of real property, and cover the drafting and approval of certificates provided by the sellers (approximately 1.2-1.4% of the tax value or purchase value of the property although they can considerably vary as page numbers, copies of deeds etc. increase costs particularly in respect to transactions of low value properties).
2. Legal Fees: They are paid by the party that the lawyer represents, and albeit not compulsory they are strongly advised as a lawyer shall, among others, commence due diligence and a historical check of the titles (deeds) from previous to current owners, proof reading of the contracts for sale, representation of the buyer at the signing of the deeds making sure everything is in order, registration of titles to the Land Registry and Cadastral Authorities etc. Lawyer fees are freely negotiated between the parties and vary depending – among others - on the experience of the lawyer, the complexity of the matter at hand etc.
3. Realtor Fees: The estate agent's fees are not specified by law and fees are freely negotiated between the contracting parties and subject to a written agreement. Usually a fee of a percentage of 2 percent of the purchase price of the property is agreed between the realtor and the seller/buyer (2 percent charged to each side), yet this arrangement may vary, depending on the transactional value and various additional factors that may raise or decrease the said norm of 2 percent. The legal framework for the conditions of providing realtor services as well as the rights and obligations of realtors are determined by the Greek Civil Code (703-707) and Law 4072/2012 (Articles 197-204). Fees/costs can be higher for small value properties.
4. Property Registration Fees: Fees related to the Registration of Real Property in the relevant Land registry and/or Cadastral Office (0.5-0.7% of the property value). Fees/costs are higher for small value properties.
5. Property Transfer Tax: As of 01/01/2006 (in respect to buildings for which the building permit was issued after the said date), a VAT of 24 percent is imposed on the purchase value on the first sale of newly built buildings by a manufacturer, or by a person who deals professionally with the construction and the sale of buildings.
For all other properties that do not fall under the above category, the transfer is charged with a real estate transfer tax at 3.09 percent.
Assessment of Property Tax
The value of property in Greece is assessed according to the so called system of objective value (also known as tax value). This system provides for a minimum value of real property according to objective criteria such as location, size, shared facilities in the area, age of a building etc. This system has been imposed so that the tax authorities have a minimum value as reference when imposing taxes in relation to property ownership/purchase-sale/inheritance. In cases of sale of property, the transfer tax is calculated on either that “objective value” or the value agreed in the purchase agreement, whichever is the highest. The objective values are usually significantly lower than the market values. Since not all areas in Greece have been valued/assessed, when there is no such assessment, the tax authorities make an estimate of the value according to similar transactions in the area or other available data.
6. Golden Visa Government Fees: Additional Duties apply to the applicants of Golden Visa, i.e. to people who immigrate to Greece by Investment in Real Estate over the value of 250,000 EUR under the auspices of Article 20, paragraph B of Law 4051/2014. Although these duties are not related to the property transaction, they should be taken into consideration when evaluating costs. According to Article 38 paragraph 8 of Law 4546/2018, with effect from September 12th 2018, in regards to applications for residence permit for owners of real estate property, the State Fee will be 2000 EUR per adult. This fee will be borne by both new applicants or applicants who renew for another 5 years. The residence permit must be renewed every 5 years. As aforementioned this State fee is for the grant of the residence permit and not property related.
A2. Costs for Sale of Property in Greece
7. Betterment Tax for Sellers: Pursuant to Article 41 of Law 4172/2013, a betterment tax on the transfer of real estate, will be imposed on the seller of real estate property in Greece with a coefficient of 15 percent calculated upon the profit the seller made by the sale of the property when compared to the original purchase value of the property. There are reduction factors limiting the amount of tax a seller will be called to pay upon the profits from the resale of his/her property based on amount of time they kept ownership and other factors.
In the event a property has not been purchased and e.g. has been inherited or gifted, then the acquisition price will be based on the tax originally paid when one inherited or was gifted the property.
The coming into effect of the above provision has been keeping on getting postponed since its inception and subsequent enactment and it has now further been suspended until the 31th of December 2018.
Simplified Example: An individual buys on the 1st January 2019 an apartment for 20,000. EUR and sells it within the same year for 30,000. They will subsequently be taxed with 15 percent tax upon the 10,000 EUR profit, i.e. their tax will be 1,500 EUR and will have to be paid with a payment order before the notary public (who will in turn hand the payment to the tax office) at the day of the sale.
However, the longer an owner keeps ownership of the property the less of the betterment tax they will be called to pay. The following table demonstrates the progressive reduction.
This is progressively dropping to 60% if one has kept ownership of their property for more than 26 years.A further reduction factor is the following: If a seller has possessed the property over 5 years before selling it, a 25.000 EUR amount will be tax free.
8. Higher Taxes for Repeat Sellers: It is worth noting that under Article 21, paragraph 3 of Law 4172/2013, the tax office may consider a private person as a business for tax purposes (thus taxing at a considerably higher rate than above under paragraph 7) if he/she makes three sales of property within a period of 2 years.
An exemption to the above rule is when the sale involves properties that have been inherited or gifted by relatives up to the second degree, or properties that have been owned over 5 years.
B. Cost related to ownership of real estate property in Greece
The ownership of real estate property in Greece is subject to the ENFIA Tax (Uniform Tax on the Ownership of Immovable Property). Under Article 1 of Law 4223/2013 (as amended by Law 4509/2017) it is set out that any natural or legal person or legal entity that owns real estate property that is located in Greece, is subject to the said tax. Under Articles 4-5 it is defined that the tax consists of 1. a principal tax imposed on each real estate property and 2. a supplementary tax imposed on the total value of the property rights on real estate property of the taxpayer subject to tax.
B.1 Principal ENFIA Tax
ENFIA Principal Tax is calculated by multiplying the square meters of the property by the principal tax per square meter (depending on the location of the property, use of the property and other coefficients); thus, determining these tax values per sq. m. is part of a complex process undertaken by experts appointed by the Hellenic Government and it is subject to periodic reviews and changes.
B.2 Supplementary ENFIA Tax for Natural Persons (Private Individuals)
ENFIA does not only include the Principal ENFIA Tax, but also the Supplementary ENFIA Tax, which is imposed by the following scale (a progressive tax rate) when the value (or accumulative value if more than one properties are owned) of real property assets of individuals exceeds the value of €200.000 (formerly €300.000):
B.3 Supplementary ENFIA Tax for Legal Persons or Legal Entities
The supplementary ENFIA is also imposed on the property of legal entities, which is calculated at a rate of 5,5‰ although it is subject to discounts, such as 3.5‰ for the properties owned by non profit organizations.
B.4 Further Taxation on Offshore Legal Entities
Additionally, the Greek legislator introduced by virtue of Article 15 of Law 3091/2002 (as amended by Law 4446/2016), the liability of certain legal entities (such as offshore companies), that have full property rights or bare ownership or usufruct property in Greece, to pay an annual special property tax of 15%.
Several exceptions from this tax obligation are set out by virtue of Article 15 paragraphs 2-4 Law 3091/2002, such as for companies that have their headquarters in Greece or another EU country (typically SA and Ltd companies), on a. the condition that the shares of the companies are owned by individuals or that these companies declare the individuals who are owners of their shares, and b. that these individuals have been issued with a tax registration number in Greece.
C. Income Tax from Real Estate Property in Greece
Every natural person/individual that owns property in Greece is entitled to lease their property and generate income, so long as they declare the profits/income to the tax authorities. No residence permit is required for this type of activity as it is not a business activity per se.
This is calculated as follows:
Example: If an individual has earned 20,000.00 EUR from leasing his/her property, they will be taxed at a 15% rate for the first 12,000.00 and 35% for the remaining 8,000.00.
Furthermore, a solidarity levy at a coefficient of 2.2% up to 10% (depending on the total income) is imposed if the annual income exceeds 12,000.00 EUR.
D. Inheritance Tax for the Succession on Real Estate Property in Greece
As a general remark it is worth noting that by virtue of the Greek Civil Code there are two different types of succession in Greece: a. intestate succession and succession by virtue of a will.
Pursuant to the Greek tax legislation, Greek Inheritance Tax is assessed on the current value of the total property inherited. Property means any kind of movable and immovable property located in Greece, regardless of the descendant’s nationality. The taxable value of real estate property inherited is the objective value (it is calculated on the basis of certain predetermined factors set by the Ministry of Finance and it is also called tax value) on the day of death of the deceased. Immovable assets located abroad are not subject to Greek Inheritance Tax, regardless of nationality and residency.
The tax rates vary, depending on the relationship between the deceased (inherited person) and his/her heirs. Tax rates are based on a progressive scale at varying coefficients. Rates thus depend on the parties’ relationship and range from 1% to 40%, while there is a tax-free amount (which depends on the proximity of the relationship which is categorized in three classes/categories). As a general rule, the closer the relationship to the deceased, the lower the tax rate. For example, in case of inheritance from the deceased individuals to their spouses or children, the respective rates range from 1% to 10%, whereas the tax-free amount is up to EUR 150,000.
This category includes the surviving spouse and all the descendants of the deceased, as well as his/her surviving parents. According to Law 3719/2008 in this category is also called as heir the surviving cohabitation agreement’s partner.
This category includes the third degree blood relatives, such as surviving grand-parents, brothers and sisters, nephews/nieces.
This category includes any other blood relative or non relative.
Below follows an explanatory table that can help in the calculation of tax depending of the category which the heir belongs to:
E. Donation Tax & Parental Grants for Real Estate Property in Greece
The acquisition of real estate property through donation is subject to the same tax categories as inheritance tax. The respective tax return should be filed with the tax authorities before the signing of the donation contract before a notary.
F. Real Estate Investment Companies
In the light of a fast recovering real estate market, large companies have begun investing in the real estate sector in Greece (Cosco in Piraeus, Canadian Fairfax Financial Holdings in EFG Eurobank Properties, Lamda Development in The Hellinicon Urban Development Project etc.).
Under the auspices of Laws 4141/2013, 4209/2013, 4281/2014, Real Estate Investment companies are companies limited by shares (special purpose S.A. companies), established with the sole aim to acquire and manage real estate property in Greece. Their minimum share capital must be twenty five million Euros (€25.000.000) at a minimum, fully payable upon establishment of the company. The share capital of the company consists of contributions of cash, money market instruments, securities and property, immovable or movable, which serve the operational needs of the company.
Prior to the issuance of permission for establishing a Real Estate Investment Company, the Stock Market Commission must approve. A similar permission is required when an existing company is converted into a Real Estate Investment Company. In order to grant permission, the Stock Market Committee evaluates the investment plan, the organization, the company’s technical and financial assets, the reliability and experience of the individuals that are going to manage the company and the suitability of the people establishing it, in order to ensure the good/sound management of the company. The company has, among others, the obligation to invest its funds as set out below:
A) A minimum of 80% of its assets in Real Estate. Investment in real estate properties in third countries outside EEA is permitted so long as it does not exceed 20% of the Company’s property portfolio value.
B) Deposits and stock market instruments, according to article 2 paragraph 14 of Law 3606/2007.
C) Invest in movables required for the company’s operational needs that (in addition to the real estate acquired by the company to service such needs) that must not exceed ten percent (10%) of the total assets value, at the time of acquisition.
Among other provisions,
· It is prohibited to transfer company owned real estate property to company founders, shareholders, members of the board of directors, general managers or managers, their wives or blood and affinity relations up to the third degree of kinship.
· The company must pay annual dividends to its shareholders of at least fifty percent (50%) of its annual net profits. A lower percentage, or no percentage, may be distributed, following a decision by the Assembly, under the condition the company statutes include such a provision, either for the creation of an extraordinary non-taxable reserve fund made up of other earnings besides capital profit or for distributing free shares to the shareholders by increasing the share capital, according to the provisions of Codified Law 2190/1920.
· Real estate investment companies must pay tax with a coefficient set at ten percent (10%) of the valid European Central Bank intervention rate (Interest Reference Rate) plus one (1) point, and is calculated on the average of the investments, plus the available funds, in current prices. In case of a change of the Interest Reference Rate, the new calculation value is valid as of the first day of the month following the change. The tax is payable to the competent Tax Authority within the first fifteen days of the month following the period recorded in the bi-annual investment tables. Upon payment of the aforementioned tax, the company’s and shareholders’ tax obligations are fulfilled.
G. Benefits to Real Estate Owners in Greece: Golden Visa - Immigration by Investment In Real Estate in Greece
According to the provisions of Article 20 Law 4251/2014 (Immigration and Social Integration Code) third country nationals (and their children under 21,parents, spouses and spouses' parents) who purchase real estate property the value of which exceeds € 250,000, are granted residence permits renewed every five years, so long as they keep ownership of the property. These permits – among others - allow for free travel within the EU and Schengen areas.
Valmas Associates have been awarded the "Leading Cross Border Full Service Law Firm of the Year, Greece" on the category of 2018 Leading Adviser Awards by Acquisition International.
As of 2018 Ioannis Valmas is a member of the Investment Migration Council (IMC).
The Investment Migration Council (IMC) is the worldwide association for investor immigration and citizenship-by-investment, bringing together the leading stakeholders in the field and giving the industry a voice. The IMC sets the standards on a global level and interacts with other professional associations, governments and international organisations in relation to investment migration. The IMC helps to improve public understanding of the issues faced by clients and governments in this area and promotes education and high professional standards among its members.
As of June 2018 Ioannis Valmas, head of Valmas Associates, has been awarded the Greek Golden Visa Program of the Year 2018 - Greece award by Global Business Insight for his work on Greek Property Law & Immigration to Greece by Real Estate Investment.
A recent amendment to the Law governing Residency by Investment in Real Estate (Art. 20 paragraph B, Law 4251/2014) has been made with the enactment of Law 4546/2018.
According to Article 38 paragraph 8 of Law 4546/2018, with effect from September 12th 2018, in regards to applications for residence permit for owners of real estate property, the State Fee will be increased from 500 EUR per adult to 2000 EUR per adult. This fee will be borne by both new applicants or applicants who renew for another 5 years. Please be reminded that the residence permit must be renewed every 5 years.
Persons under the age of 18 will not be required to pay the above State Fee as there is no State Fee for minors.
Applications for residence permit made prior to the 12th of September will bear the lower fee of 500 EUR per adult applicant.
The investment threshold of 250.000 EUR still remains unaffected making Greece the lowest cost country for Residency by Investment in Real Estate in Europe.
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As of February 2018 Valmas Associates have been awarded the Gold Client Champion Award as "a firm standing out for their stellar service" and as "attorneys who excel at service as affirmed by their clients". The award is the result of Reviews from our clients on Martindale-Hubbell and Lawyers.com.
Greece’s special residence program for foreign investors has taken off, reflecting increasingly bright growth prospects as the country emerges from economic crisis and its growing importance as a gateway to the European Union. In the last year, the number of foreigners awarded a Greek Golden Visa has soared: rising by more than 40% from a year earlier.
Launched five years ago at the height of the country’s economic crisis, the Golden Visa program is now coming of age amid a new wave of investor interest, particularly from countries like China, Russia and Turkey. The reasons are several: from Greece’s sunny Mediterranean climate and high quality of life, to its low property prices. A budding economic recovery plays a role for some investors, for others its political uncertainty abroad. And since the law was revised in 2015, Greece’s Golden Visa has become still more attractive to foreign investors, comparing favorably with similar programs in countries like Cyprus or Portugal. A stepped up promotion program - in the last two years Enterprise Greece has showcased the program at trade fairs from Moscow to Beijing to Constantinople – has also helped.
Greece’s Golden Visa program grants a permanent residence permit – and access to 26 Schengen area countries - to individuals and their families who invest a minimum of €250,000 in Greece, such as in real estate or other productive investment. According to the latest data from end November, a total of 2,170 Golden Visas have been issued directly to foreign investors – and more than 5,000 including family members - up from 1,522 at the end of 2016.
After falling by as much as 50% from their pre-crisis peak, and with booming summer tourism buoying short-term rentals, Greek property prices now offer a highly attractive yield on investment, say industry experts. That has drawn investors from China, who now account for almost half of Golden Visa holders.
But another reason is Greece’s political stability and EU membership. In the past year, nationals from several neighboring Mediterranean countries – most notably Turkey – have also been buying up Greek real estate, lured both by the access to the EU that a Golden Visa offers, as well as to diversify their holdings away from an uncertain climate in their home country.
Source: Enterprise Greece
Valmas Associates have been acknowledged as one of the leading professionals in the particular field. We have represented and/or we are currently representing clients from Africa, the Middle-East, Asia & America in the field of the Residence Permit by Property Investment in Greece (Golden Visa).
You may contact us on the relevant section of our website so that we further assist you.
Valmas Associates advised and assisted an overseas investor in the acquisition of an exclusive real estate property in Mykonos, Greece from a private seller.
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Following a recent tanker accident in the area of the Saronic Gulf with the sinking of a small tanker vessel and a subsequent oil spill, we provide a case study by Ioannis Valmas aiming to provide a guide on avoiding similar accidents and the legal tools that have developed through the passage of time in order to combat similar incidents. For more information Download the case study here.
Acquisition International Magazine in its August edition praises our Greek Lawyers' track record on Greek Real Estate Law and Greek Aviation Law Sectors.
Attendance of International Investment Immigration Forum on Golden Visa Programs & Golden Visa Greece
Ioannis Valmas was invited by Enterprise Greece and participated on an international forum jointly hosted by the Investment Immigration Council and Enterprise Greece.
Forecasting demand, supply & freight in the dry bulk capesize vessels' sub-sector (First Semester 2017).
The following report was drafted by Ioannis Valmas in January 2017 and serves academic reference purposes only. By no means does it constitute business or legal advice.
Click Forecasting the dry bulk capesize sub-sector to download
Ioannis Valmas currently advises an international Oil & Gas company on the acquisition of a Togolese registered tanker vessel from a BVI company.
Ioannis Valmas has authored the chapter on Greece for Corporate Jet Investor's Guide on Aircraft Registration and Tax.
Ioannis Valmas and team represented a foreign Airline on a cross-border dispute against a Greek airline before the Greek Courts for a claim of over 700.000 EUR.
You can download our new brochure form the following link: Valmas & Associates Company Presentation
I. Valmas has just been admitted to Plymouth University and is currently studying and researching towards a MSc in Shipping via part-time Distance Learning. Continuous education has been at the forefront of our firm's principles and focus since the beginning. Our vision is to strengthen our office's presence in the services sector of the Shipping Industry by:
1. gaining a broad and deep understanding of the Shipping Industry's functions and workings (that is by studying Shipping beyond a mere study and interpretation of legal rules) and 2. applying this knowledge to our existing strong background in International Business and Trade Law.
During the course of this study, several articles and essays related to Shipping will be released from our blog.
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Valmas & Associates - Greek Law Firm will be participating in the upcoming 9th International Conference of Maritime Law which will be held in Piraeus from 13 to 15 October 2016 and will deal with Maritime Safety and Security: Legal implications to ships, cargo and the human element.
Outline of the Real Estate Owners' Residence Permit in Greece:
By virtue of article 20 of the Greek “Immigration & Social Integration Code” (Law 4251/2014) third-country nationals and their family members (spouses, children and parents) can issue a renewable five-year residence permit in Greece on the basis that they own immovable property in Greece valued at €250.000 for all renewal periods (with each renewal taking place every five years).
Non-EU Nationals obtaining the 5-year residence permit may:
The competent Greek authorities provide the applicants with a certificate of receipt of the application, permitting the third-country national to stay in Greece until the authorities reach a final decision on the application. The resident permit is typically issued by the competent authorities within a period of maximum two months after submitting the application.
CAUTIONARY NOTE WHEN PURCHASING REAL ESTATE IN GREECE:
In recent years some "immigration agencies" (especially in China) and local realtors in Greece have appeared in the market offering "competitive" packages by allocating very cheap properties and selling them at a whopping profit. You need to be cautious as you may end up getting a property that its real value may be much less than 250.000 EUR. Whereas this will still grant you the residence permit (as long as you paid over 250.000), it is not a sound investment if the property's real market value is e.g half of what you paid. Appointing an independent Greek lawyer from is vital in getting your money's worth and protects you from either "immigration agencies" or realtors bloating the property's prices.
Contact our Real Estate and Immigration Lawyers for more info.