There's no doubt Greece has been made the scapegoat of Europe, being pilloried in the media spotlight with half truths and distorted facts. Much of the media coverage refers to - bailout, aid, financial assistance - all giving the impression that cartloads of cash is arriving in Athens for a great giveaway.
The reality is somewhat different. Shut out from international markets, the Greek government was forced to borrow from Germany, France and others, rather than from banks and investors that would normally have bought government bonds. Greece was able to borrow from these countries at about 3.5%. As Germany borrows on the market at around 2% it makes a whopping 75% profit when lending to Greece. With Germany advancing 8.4 billion and France 9 billion, these countries stood to make about 600 million euros in profit.
But the 130 billion bailout will help all that won't it? The short answer is no. Nearly 94 billion will go to pay interest, recapitalize banks and private sector payments to restructure borrowing.
POT AND KETTLE!
Greece was never the only one. Too many governments - the UK included - allowed sovereign debt to get out of hand. In 2012 the UK will spend £705 billion to help keep public services going - but will raise only £5,750 billion in tax revenue. That gap, plus existing borrowing, means the country's deficit is well over £1 trillion - equivalent to every man, woman and child in the UK owing £16,400. Yet the UK government has not yet introduced savage austerity measures such as those being endured by the Greek people.
As Greece makes valiant efforts to reform - just as the UK had to do in the 1970's - Greece should not be treated as the pariah of Europe, when there are so many other countries in a similar position.
GREEKS ARE LAZY!
Well look at the facts. The average German works only 1,390 hours per year, while the average Greek works 2,119 hours per annum. So who's lazy?
The Greek people are enduring tremendous hardship with increased taxes, salaries and pensions cut overnight and the minimum wage slashed to less than £500 per month - that's nearly 30% less than the minimum wage in Spain and 50% of that in the UK. The 'Troika' of lending bodies to Greece have crushed the country into accepting cuts so deep that Greece will experience a depression far deeper than that of the infamous Great Depression during the 1920's in America - the world's worst ever economic downturn.
SO WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO ME?
The austerity measures affect the incomes and pensions of locals and in the longer term, with lower wages, this will gradually drive down the cost of living. As you probably have capital and pensions based in sterling this should mean you get even more for your money.
Crete is the location which accounts for 85% of overseas buyers in the Greek property market. As it's cheaper to live in Crete than it is in the UK - even now - that can only be better for you. Coupled with a far better quality of life and not to mention 320 days of sunshine and no more freezing cold winters, you owe it to yourself to turn that dream of yours into reality - and check out the best value for money when buying a home in Crete.
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Recent events have painted a picture of Greece and its people as being greedy and lazy good for nothings, but is this a case of a pot calling the kettle black? Go back three years and the UK banking system was in meltdown, people were up to their necks in debt, maxing out on credit cards as if there was no tomorrow. That was never the case in Greece. It's a cash society so there was never the same level of personal debt and banks didn't have to be bailed out by tax payers either. Yes, the Greek government did borrow more than it should - but then so too did the UK. All countries have to borrow money in its daily business and it's confidence that enables them to secure realistic rates of interest. Unfortunately the markets turned on Greece and raised their lending costs so much that compound interest inflated borrowing repayments beyond sustainable levels.
In a desperate fight to contain the country's solvency the Greek government introduced a whole raft of measures to reduce sovereign debt.
Tax thresholds were slashed from £10,300 down to £4,300. VAT was raised to an eye watering 23%. All pensions above £860 a month were cut by 20%. Public sector wages were chopped by 20%, while employees of state-owned enterprises had wages decimated by 30%. 'Solidarity' payments of 1%-5% of annual salaries were deducted in lump sums. If you owned a car with an engine size of over 3 litres you had to pay a one off 'Solidarity' payment of approximately £450 and the latest move has been the introduction of a property tax. Based on the size and location of your house, typically on a two bedroom Snobby, this amounts to around £250 per year, levied on the electric bill.
All this and a typical salary in Greece is only around £1,100 per month. Not only that, but unemployment stands at 18% and that does not include the forthcoming wholesale reduction in public sector employment.
As with all things in the world of politics, it's the man in the street who ends up standing there in disbelief, having to pay for the mess created by politicians. While for the most part austerity measures do not really effect ex-pats, for Greeks times are hard - and will probably remain so for some time to come as the government grapples to stimulate growth, while a battered and bruised population is forced to dig ever deeper into their pockets to help fund it.
After all said and done, for Brits wondering whether to make that move to the sun, don't believe what the UK media says about Greece. Far better to listen to someone who actually lives there! Crete is still a safe place to live, the weather is wonderful, the crime rate is low and your UK pension buys you a far better lifestyle compared to the doom and gloom of having to live in the UK.
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Not a Snobby I hasten to add, but houses built by other developers.
Culturally when a local buys a house it’s invariably for life. Following this thinking and the fact that a Greek property contract is extremely difficult to follow, there have been many occasions where builders have flouted planning issues to cut corners and costs, never thinking they would ever be discovered. However, we Brits are more used to selling a place every few years and these problems have begun to rear their head, due to more effective monitoring and planning regulations which are being considerably tightened.
Pools have been a way to cut corners. A Planning license can cost around 4,000 or more euros. Build without one and this can save a developer quite a bit of money. When the owner comes to selling, chances are this illegality will be picked up by the purchaser’s lawyer and the sale is lost.
When building outside the village boundary, a building license will be granted only for a single linked property. While drawings submitted will show perhaps three properties, they are linked together in some way to create one unit of construction and a building license is issued on that basis. However, the developer will often not comply with the license and builds three separate detached houses, which can be sold for a lot more money than a linked property.
Snobby only ever buys land within a village boundary, where it can be legally split into single freehold plots, for individual ownership, just as you would expect in the UK.
However, other developers have built on land outside the village boundary where individual ownership of plots is not legally possible. Let’s say there are three houses on a development. Each home is defined by a topographic drawing which identifies each plot, but the purchaser will own his land as a percentage of the whole site, which is jointly and severally owned by the other owners.
If you fall in love with a resale, here are two important points you need to check.
1 – The topographic survey of the property should have signatures signed by every neighbour who owns a boundary with the plot. This should prevent any land disputes.
2-Have your lawyer employ an engineer to survey the property. This may cost, but it will give you a better opportunity to judge the legality of the property. For example the building license which forms part of the contract may show 65 sq. m. of building, but the owners have added on an outside kitchen without planning. That’s illegal. This couldn’t be picked up just from sitting in an office.
If all this seems a little fraught and a bit of a gamble, buy new and take the simple and secure route by buying an honest Snobby. We guarantee every Snobby is, and has always been, 100% legal and as safe as houses.
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Except they can’t. A stagnant UK property market means they’re going nowhere – but now help is at hand!
The island of Crete has always been popular for holidays. Now it’s attracting the attention of Skiers due to its fantastic weather with 320 days of sunshine a year and no freezing cold winters. That’s a big saving on the energy costs you pay in the UK. There’s no council tax, which saves a thousand or so, and eating locally grown produce is not only better for you, it’s cheaper too! A couple can live comfortably in Crete on a pension of £10,000 a year. Just compare that to the UK!
However, there’s a big fly in the ointment preventing Skiers from enjoying this brighter lifestyle. The UK property market is in the doldrums, preventing many from selling their house, which they need to do in order to buy a home in Crete. Most people have sufficient to put down a deposit, but need the money from their house sale in the UK to pay the balance. In today’s market there’s no knowing when that will be.
Snobby Homes is a leading property developer in western Crete. Their Marketing Director, Mike Saunders says, “We’ve seen people devastated, having fallen in love with a development but unable to proceed because they cannot sell their house in the UK. Our Helping Hand scheme is very simple, it allows buyers to realize their dream now - and there’s absolutely no risk.”
Get a feel for the quality and see the specification of a Snobby show house and check out locations where Snobby are building. If you fall in love, then a Purchase Agreement is prepared, which is a legal quotation, confirming specification, plot and freezing the build price for either 1 or 2 years. Within this deed you have the legal right to delay construction until you have sold your house in the UK, which means you’re always ahead of the game. You don’t pay a penny more, there are no stage payments and the balance due is only paid when your new home is complete.
What’s more when your lawyer pays over your deposit, Snobby transfers ownership of the land into your name, so your money is never at risk.
Says Saunders, “Our Helping Hand scheme means you can fall in love with a plot and without any pressure, realize your dream, secure in the knowledge that you’re in absolute control.”
Snobby Homes have several small developments along the cost of western Crete. They are proud of their reputation of building quality houses with a luxury specification - the lowest price in Crete for new build detached homes. What’s more Snobbys are sold at an all-inclusive price which means you know precisely what to budget for, whereas all other builders and agents add on many thousands extra, on top of the house price, to pay for taxes, legal fees and purchase costs.
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There have been demonstrations in the streets of Athens, but riots happen in London too! In both cities peaceful protest was taken over by publicity seeking anarchists pandering to the media who much prefer the excitement of riots and tear gas, because it makes more interesting news. Bad news is good news. Good news is just boring, which is why we’re fed a constant stream of spin that, in the end, brainwashes us into believing what we’re reading is true. You’ll probably see the same events played out time and time again throughout a summer of discontent when public sector workers all over Britain will be going on strike! Seen in the Greek media it will seem as if anarchy is running rife in the UK!
It’s a fact of life, all countries have to borrow money. While the UK pays loan interest of £120 million per day, it’s fortunate in borrowing at low rates. Unfortunately all the hype directed towards Greece by the money market has sent the cost of government borrowing to unsustainable high rates of interest. Therefore the Greek government has agreed to pass severe austerity measures on the country in order to provide the IMF and EU with the confidence needed to provide loans at a realistic rate of interest.
While tax payers money was used to give life support to the UK banking system to prevent it crashing, Greek banks were more astute and solid, requiring no cash support as their borrowings accounted for no more than 19% of assets – and there is a government fund of 10 billion to top up the banks’ capital if at all needed.
When it comes down to it, both countries are up the creek without a paddle, burdened by levels of public worker employment, far greater than the wealth creating private sector. Consequently public expenditure has to be brought under control. Neither the British nor the Greek man in the street want public services cut, or have to pay higher taxes, or work longer before retiring. You can argue all you like against austerity measures but when push comes to shove where would you prefer to live? Which offers a better quality of life – the UK, or Crete?
Having a better lifestyle is not all about money; that’s just part of the equation, but OK, let’s look at living costs first. Crete offers two large financial savings. There’s no council tax or TV license – and with mild winters you don’t need to budget for heating costs from October through to May. Those savings alone add up to thousands. What’s more, with solar water heating you get boiling hot water – for free – throughout most of the year. Average monthly salaries in the UK are about £2,350, while in Crete it’s only around €1,200 (£1,060) per month, so you can tell, the cost of food in Crete is cheaper than in the UK.
We estimate a couple can live in Crete on £1,000 (€1,130) per month, which includes paying utilities, housekeeping, food bills, running a small car and eating out once or twice a week. And food seems to taste far better, because it’s locally grown and healthier too. In Crete, the local greengrocer only sells what’s in season – unlike the UK where fruit and vegetables are ‘forced’ and shipped in from all over the world - so instead of being available only in June, you can buy bland tasting strawberries all year round!
And then there’s that indefinable – ‘quality of life’. Crete has the lowest crime rate in the EU. In villages people rarely lock their cars or front doors. The weather is wonderful – 320 days of sunshine a year – and there’s no frost, ice or snow in the winters. A walk along the beach in January, under a blue sky and warm sun, does wonders for the soul! Stay in the UK and winters – and life – is all doom and gloom. Cretans are a warm friendly people who take great delight in getting to know new neighbours. Before you know where you are, you’ll be invited to weddings and christenings, village events and family celebrations. There is something intangible about living a slower life, a life governed by the seasons, where you appreciate the kindliness of neighbours, instead of having to rush everywhere, here and there, yet never seeming to get anywhere.
Live in Crete, let the rest of the world pass you by and simply enjoy life. You can afford it! And if all the pessimists are right and in years to come Greece ever does revert back to the drachma, then life in Crete will become even more affordable!
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