How the world has changed………everything we took for granted is no longer certain, all our plans seem to have been shelved or even abandoned by this upsetting situation, and we don’t quite know what we are looking forward to in the future.
We feel blessed to have been in lockdown in Corfu all this time, although we have been restricted to where we could go we have all been working from home, catching up on everything we have been putting off, and getting ready for what we hope will be plenty of viewings in the months to come.
We were impressed at how efficiently the Greek government dealt with the pandemic as it approached. Greece is famous for its ‘laid back’ attitude to life in general, and we would have expected the same to apply in this case, but in fact, they were very effectively pro-active, and on the islands, in particular, there were very few instances of the virus. The weather was lovely, and although we couldn’t go out and about we could take walks in the countryside around our homes, go to supermarkets which were never short of supplies, and gradually to the beach, then eventually as of this Monday, back to our office. (Great celebrations with coffee and Greek Easter bread which we had been saving!).
In contrast, we sat and watched in horror and disbelief as the pandemic spread through the UK, the USA, and Europe. Looking most closely at events in the UK we couldn’t understand why there was no lockdown, even as it was obvious that the spread was out of control – most worrying was the fact that we all had family in the UK but could only sit and watch as the disaster unfolded, with politicians apparently unable to agree on what to do.
Through all this period we had emails from people who had been planning to come looking at properties in April and May, and who obviously were unable to. However, most seem undeterred and the viewings which were temporarily shelved will be re-instated as soon as flights are feasible. We also have had more emails than usual from new clients – some perhaps just escapism, but undoubtedly some who feel that this year might be the time to make the move, or buy their dream holiday home. The sales which were in progress came to a halt for a few weeks whilst government offices were closed, but now the offices are open everything is slowly catching up.
This week, you could be forgiven for thinking that nothing has changed here, shops are all open, cafes and restaurants mainly have open space and they are all open, non-seasonal hotels are opening, and travel within Greece is unrestricted. Stringent health restrictions are in place for everyone’s protections and people seem to be respecting them.
On June 15th international flights begin to Athens and Thessaloniki, and domestic flights provide connections. Until July 1st there are still some quarantine restrictions but as of 1/7 it is projected that international flights will re-commence to all regional airports, with random testing for visitors from specific airports, but possibly still quarantine in fixed addresses for those from high infection areas (not going to be great for UK visitors). However, the government is constantly trying to establish ways to enable UK and other visitors to come safely and to avoid the quarantine requirement. We expect more news on that daily.
The British government certainly has not helped either tourism or the economy in general. Whilst we can all understand that restricting incoming flights to the UK might have been logical 2 months ago, in conjunction with a general lockdown, to start quarantine now seems incredible not just to us, but apparently to every logical person in the UK. We sincerely hope that someone in government gets sensible and listens to the advice of the 200? Companies explaining to them clearly the disaster this blanket quarantine will bring.
Greece is understandably worried about its tourism market, which has a knock-on effect on so many other businesses here. No one knows for sure because although technically the country is open from 15/6 and encouraging visitors, practically speaking the UK represents a major portion of the market. Similarly, for us as estate agents, around 60% of our buyers are Brits, so we all need the British!
The main questions we are getting from current and prospective buyers relate of course to the current travel issues, but also to ‘what happens after Brexit’? Nothing has changed since the pandemic unless Britain delays it’s exit from the EU after 31/12/20 residence requirements will change, although again the Greek government is intent on making things as easy as possible for British residents, both those already resident, and those planning to buy a property. They have been looking at reciprocal health arrangements, which is a major concern for many British buyers.
Also, anyone investing over €250,000 is entitled to a ‘golden’ visa giving them and their immediate family residency. There are many lawyers experienced in this procedure that cannot be commenced until the property is actually purchased.
The other issue now, of course, is ‘what effect will the current crisis have on property prices’? Most buyers are telling us that ‘prices will definitely fall substantially because it isn’t just a medical crisis, it is now a major economic crisis’ but most sellers are saying ‘the market here will increase because many more people will not want to wait to buy their dream homes after such horrible times this winter’ – the reality is that it is too early to tell but it is probably somewhere in between, with each property subject to individual negotiation (pretty much as it has always been).
We have spent much of our WFH time contacting our vendors (all 600+ of them) to ask if they would like to consider a price reduction if prices are going to fall so that they are not ‘behind the market’. About 80% decided not to reduce at the moment, and the others mainly decided to consider minor reductions at the moment, and then to see how things go over the summer.
The demand here has always primarily been for houses either with gardens or near the beach (or preferably both!) but definitely people now attach a lot more importance to having relaxing space outside your door. We are getting more and more requests for videos of a selection of properties, including the surrounding area and outside space, so that buyers can formulate some thoughts before they can actually travel, or in some cases so that they can make offers to avoid the possibility of losing the property of their choice.
Overall the confidence level is fairly high, and whilst no one can say for sure, we just hope that as the virus situation improves, the market stays stable, so that an increasing number of people can find their ideal homes in the sun, to compensate at least in part, for the upsetting times everyone has experienced in the last few months.