After successfully developing property on Mykonos, Athens-based architect Marina Birdimiri chose the seaside town of Elounda on Crete’s north-east coast for her next project. It was 2008, and the town was a popular tourist destination. By the time the villas were completed, though, Greece was in the middle of a debt crisis and buyers were scarce. So, she started renting them out instead — and has not looked back, despite receiving regular offers from people wanting to buy them.
“I never imagined I could make so much money from renting,” she says. Birdimiri’s villas — one with six bedrooms, the other with eight — rent for upwards of €8,000 a week, through travel firm Abercrombie and Kent, a testament to the increasingly high-end nature of Elounda and the wealthy clientele that choose to holiday there.
“The weather is good from March to November, you can find quiet villages and are still close to a wild part of Greece. It’s both authentic and international,” she says.
How long Elounda, which has a year-round population of about 2,000, can hold on to its authenticity is another matter. While the area around the port remains low-key and unspoilt, there are several large-scale resort developments in the pipeline that locals say could impact the landscape and community.
Since 2007, Mirum Group, which claims to be one of the largest landowners in Greece, has been steadily investing in the region. Its first development, Mirum Villas, was 10 four- to six-bedroom residences on plots in excess of 4,000 sq m. A five-bedroom villa with views of the water is for sale with Engel & Völkers for €2.8m.
More recently, Mirum was granted permission to develop Elounda Hills, a huge €410m resort with 600 residences, hotels, leisure facilities and a 200-berth marina that will span 85ha between Elounda and the regional capital, Agios Nikolaos. A further Mirum resort, the 11ha Park Residences, is also in the pipeline. “Developers are aiming at an international market but have to be careful not to swallow up the location, not to cross that thin line into overdevelopment,” Birdimiri says.
It is not hard to see why Elounda attracts developers. According to research from the Hellenic Statistical Authority and E&V, property there sells for up to €7,000 per sq m, (around €2,000 to €3,500 more per sq m than comparable property elsewhere on Crete). Prices are high because of the lack of stock, says Natalie Leontaraki, president of E&V Greece. “I know of firms from Cyprus, Germany and America acquiring land for development.”
Elounda has a two-tier market, says George Michaelides, owner of local agency Buy and Sell. Property in the villages, where the locals tend to live, starts at under €100,000 for a house. In areas preferred by international buyers, such as the hills overlooking the rugged coastline of Mirabello Bay, villas are at least €300,000, but can reach €2m-plus. Michaelides estimates the price of prime property in Elounda has risen 10 per cent over the past year.
Across the country, house prices are still a long way from where they were before the financial crisis. In the 10 years to early 2018, property prices in Greece had fallen by as much as 43 per cent, according to the Global Property Guide website, which uses data from Bank of Greece and the National Statistical Service of Greece.
But prices seem to be rising again. Remax calculates that national house prices have jumped 7.3 per cent in the past year. On Crete, prices rose 3.5 per cent between 2017 and 2018, according to E&V data. Other islands are experiencing steeper rises. On Corfu prices are up 7.4 per cent on the year before, according to research by Greek property site Spitogatos.
Agents say that interest from overseas buyers has been bolstered by Greece’s “golden visa” scheme, introduced in 2013, which allows non-EU citizens to receive a visa in return for investing €250,000 in property.
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In 2018, 9,756 residence permits for investors were issued, up from 3,695 in 2016, according to Enterprise Greece, a business promotion body. The largest group of buyers was from China, the research found, followed by Russians and Turks.
Michaelides’ overseas clients are predominantly northern European and British, he says. At the Diamond Residences, adjacent to the Porto Elounda Hotel, Buy and Sell is selling a two-bedroom beachfront home with a pool, for €1.5m. The agency is also listing a detached six-bedroom villa with sea views and infinity pool for €1.3m.
Leontaraki says the scale of planned development for Elounda is still rare elsewhere in Greece, but that Crete is trying to move away from its package-holiday image. “Elounda will be well known for having the best in high-end tourism,” she says. “More like Mallorca or Monaco.”
- In the past eight years the number of visitors to Crete arriving by plane has increased by roughly 80 per cent
- Gross rental yields in Elounda average 5.5 per cent annually
- In July, the Greek parliament approved cuts to property taxes by up to 30 per cent, depending on the value of the property
What you can buy for . . .
€600,000 A three-bedroom villa with a pool
€4.5m A contemporary waterside property near Ammoudara beach with five bedrooms
€12m A six-bedroom villa in Elounda, with 300m waterfront, a pool, tennis courts and private chapel
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