Greece house prices and best places to buy property

Perhaps when you think of Greece you think of the classical past, and the Parthenon standing proudly above the ancient city of Athens. Perhaps you think of whitewashed houses and cobbled streets on sunny islands where fishing boats bob in the harbour. Or maybe you're up for a more modern upmarket coastal resort like Glyfada.

That's why it's important to think about what you want from your Greek property before you start your search - whether it's a cheap bolthole where you can recharge your batteries in peace and quiet, a luxurious villa, or an apartment with access to all the nightlife of central Athens.

If you're looking around Athens, be prepared for high prices. Kolonaki is one of the most sought after neighbourhoods, full of high end boutiques and stately mansions - not a suburb exactly, but definitely quieter than the business districts or Plaka. €4.6m will get you a charming neoclassical town house, on four floors with an attic; €350,000 could purchase a modern two-bedroom, two-bathroom flat with a shared private garden - not a common feature in the area. Anaktora is another popular area for foreign investors.

Prices are lower in the northern suburbs, beautifully situated on the lower slopes of the hills outside the city. Kifisia, Penteli, Ekali and Psychiko are suburbs with much less traffic and more greenery than the city centre; a large house with a garden in Ekali might sell for €1.5m, while a 5 bedroom maisonette in Kifisia could cost about €450,000. There's a good rental market both in the suburbs, and in central Athens, so properties here would make good investments, though the yields are not high.

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Anything else available for buyers outside Athens?

Buyers who want a mixture of city life and coastal relaxation might consider the Athenian riviera, which is popular with locals as well as foreigners. Glyfada is an international hotspot, a modern resort where local movie stars and celebs hang out, but you could also consider Faliron, or the less glitzy, more watersports-orientated Voula and Varkiza.

The Peloponnese is the southern part of Greece, below the 'waist' at the Gulf of Corinth. It's a fascinating mixture. There are some upmarket coastal resorts like Costa Navarino and Porto Heli, but many foreign buyers head for Messinia with capital Kalamata, where traditional stone tower houses might sell for €200,000, or for traditional inland villages which may not see a foreign visitor from one year to the next. A three bedroom house in one of the villages might cost you €90,000 or so, but a restoration project could cost as little as €28,000 (€80,000 for a tower house).

Crete is Greece's largest island; unlike most of the smaller islands, it's a year round location with its own economy and excellent infrastructure including two international airports. The choice for foreign buyers here is between modern resorts and traditional farm or village houses.

Bargains do exist on Crete, but property here has been pretty resilient; the crisis never really hit. €60-80,000 will get an apartment in popular coastal town Agios Nikolaos, while €100,000 could buy a fixer-upper or a small village house inland. Villas close to the coast sell for around €500,000 up, but inland can be found for less; a new development at hilltop village Litsarda lists five bed villas at just below €400k.

Head to the islands

Then of course we have the other Greek islands. The Cyclades are the priciest, particularly Mykonos where villas still for €1m plus. However, Mykonos also offers the best returns on holiday lets, with a gross yield of 8.5% achievable, so for those with the money to invest it's a good earner. Santorini, similarly, is expensive but has excellent yields.

Less expensive are Naxos and Paros, larger and less touristy islands. €1m gets you one villa on Mykonos, but five three-bed village houses on Naxos!

The Ionian islands to the west of the mainland have always been popular with the British - Corfu still has a thriving cricket club. It's a year-round island, which doesn't shut up shop in the winter. Though town houses sell for €200,000 and villas can sell for millions, a fixer upper could sell for just €50,000. Sister islands Kefalonia and Zakynthos are also popular.

Further east, towards Turkey, are the Dodecanese and North Eastern Aegean islands. Rhodes, the biggest, is highly developed; Rhodes town is open all year, though many of the resorts and tourist facilities across the island close down in the winter. Town houses cost from €200,000 and villas start at around €400,000; apartments are also available in Rhodes town, and rent out well, with an estimated yield of 5% or more.

The Sporades, on the east coast of Greece, have beautiful beaches and pine forests covering much of the islands. Skopelos features in the film Mamma Mia! while Skiathos and Skyros are also popular with foreign buyers.

To finish this whistle-stop tour of islands, the Argo-Saronic islands are just an hour's travel from the centre of Athens, so they're open all year for Athenian weekenders. But that also makes them quite expensive; car-free Hydra has been a cosmopolitan island for decades, with film stars, well known musicians and celebs all buying on the island. Still, a bijou detached house could come in below €300,000 and a large traditional home set around its own courtyard €900,000 or so.

Greece is all about diversity

Finally, back to the mainland where north of Athens, few foreign visitors go and villages have Balkan or Ottoman looks, with heavy rock built houses and tiny Byzantine churches. With farmland in the plains, and forests on the mountains, rural life seems to have survived the centuries relatively unchanged, and foreigners who are willing to make the effort to search for the right property to restore are more likely to find a bargain here than anywhere else in Greece.

Greece is probably one of the most diverse of European property markets, with a choice between contemporary town living, seaside relaxation, and sprawling old farmhouses. Prices can be highly diverse, even within a single destination, so in-depth market research, and choosing the right agent, are key to making a good purchase decision.