Helping You Build a Life Overseas

How to renovate your Greek property the right way

Pushing the overgrown bougainvillea out of the way, from the terrace of your dream home, you catch sight of the sparkling Mediterranean…
Bringing this once loved home back to life will be more than just a way to live in Greece, it feels like a sacred duty; a challenge that could be the defining moment in your life. And, yes, you might make some money out of it!
In most of the UK, a rundown country home with land and a view will be fixed up and featuring on Homes under the Hammer before you can say “kerching!” In many parts of the Mediterranean, too, locals have not been slow to see the appeal of such properties. The fact is though, that you can still buy a rundown property that will make a sensational home with a little TLC (okay, a lot of TLC) for under €50,000 in Greece. 
What’s more, there is never likely to be, hopefully, an economic situation as bad as the current one in Greece. So if you fancy taking on the kind of Grand Designs style, life changing project to create something special, the time do it is now. Property has dropped 40 percent in price and local architects, builders and tradespeople could do with the work.
You need to know what you are getting into, however. You are likely to go through periods of feeling discouraged, tired and ripped off. The charms of the honey coloured stone, bougainvillea and view will be forgotten. You may wonder why you’re arguing about wet rooms and underfloor heating with people to whom you are paying large amounts of cash.
Well, if it was easy, everyone would do it! The key thing to remember is that there will be the day when it is finished and you love it – and don’t regret a minute of it.
Here’s what you need to know:
Don’t rush in. The building didn’t get that rundown overnight and probably won’t sell before you have the chance to get a good selection of quotes in for the work and really know what you intend to do
Live close. Most projects won’t be habitable while the building work goes on, with little in the way of sanitation and cooking facilities. There are advantages to staying onsite, however, and keeping your builders focused. Can you rent a property very close by, or even hire a motorhome? 
Enlist the help of other expats. Yes, you’re buying out in the sticks to avoid the expatriate haunts, but plenty of fellow Brits have renovated homes in Greece, so why not ask for help, advice and, most importantly, recommendations?
Employ who you like. Many of us feel duty bound to employ local tradespeople to do all the work. That’s a noble sentiment and a good way of making contacts in the community, but this is your home and your money, so employ whoever you feel most comfortable with, wherever they come from. Recommendations from those who have gone through all this before you are worth their weight in gold.
Truly independent? One of the charms of living in a small community is that people know and help each other. But you don’t necessarily want to use the architect, builder or roofer that your estate agent recommends: are they the best, or are they their brother-in-law?  
Find a way to communicate. Why should your builder in Greece speak English well? A good channel of communication is essential, however, and it is wise to get everything in writing, such as changes from the original agreement. Apps such as Google Translate can be a real help. 
Do as you would in the UK. It’s easy to panic when abroad, leading to inertia. Not everything is different overseas, however, so work out how you would progress your project in the UK and do the same in Greece. For example, Greece has a version of the Yellow Pages called where you can start looking for tradespeople.
Be a “bloody difficult” man/woman. The people of Greece are kind, friendly and like the British. Just as “strong fences make good neighbours”, however, assertiveness and strength of character are much admired qualities. Insist your property is finished exactly how you want it, get quotes in writing and a proper receipt. 
Pay your taxes! Things work differently in Greece, so before you get too stroppy, know what is and what is not your responsibility. Paying national insurance, IKA, for your builders when on your property is your responsibility.  
Enjoy it. Bringing this wonderful home back from the dead will be one of the greatest achievements in your life.