Greece is a country where traditionally the majority of its people own their homes. The Constitution, the Civil Code and other special laws come to protect property rights, which makes Greece a rather safe place to invest.
However, buying a property in Greece can potentially be a stressful procedure especially when a foreign buyer is not fully aware of the legal complexities related to purchasing a property.
One of the major problems that foreign buyers may encounter when buying property in Greece is the danger of transacting with third parties claiming ownership rights over the property, instead of the actual legal owner.
Such people might claim ownership rights based on a verbal agreement in the past, without executing formal notarial deeds or they took advantage of the true owner’s absence who might have left their properties unattended for many years or believed that their properties have been taken care of by these third persons (i.e. relatives, friends etc.).
This is a phenomenon due to the historical and sociopolitical background of Greece and it is usually found in rural areas of the country, though not exclusively.
Trying to provide a safe legal framework for all parties, the Greek legislator has included, amid the common ways of acquiring property ownership:
- the acquisition by the person who possesses a property for more than 10 years, exercising his ownership rights in good faith, by virtue of a title deed, even if the person who conveyed the property was not the legal owner or he was not competent to sell in the first place, being enough that 10 years have passed with someone else exercising adverse possession rights as the owner of the property (ordinary usucaption or “taktiki chrisiktisia”), and
- the acquisition by the person who possesses the property, exercising consecutive acts of possession on it, for more than 20 years, without having a title deed proving his ownership right, being enough that he proves his uninterrupted possession over the property for more than 20 years (extraordinary usucaption or “ektakti chrisiktisia”).
This latter case is considered to be the most problematic for the future buyer.
In order for the buyer to be sure that he will never be in a position of having to face angry inheritors of the estate of the true legal owner who might come to challenge the validity of the buyer’s purchase deed and thus his ownership onto the property, it is a wise idea for the buyer to appoint an independent lawyer to run a thorough legal research not only in the archives of the locally competent Land Registry (“Ypothikofylakio”) but mainly in the Hellenic National Cadastral (“Ktimatologio”), wherever applicable, in order to verify the ownership rights of the seller.
See also our how-to's about buying land in Greece.