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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 09 June 2018
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 9 JUNE 2018 7 NEWS Kiki Fotiadou with husband Yiorgos Loukas (at rear) and daughters, Elena (L) and Dimitra (R). Greek diaspora to get dedicated website to sell their property back home RAYMOND GILL The Greek diaspora will soon have a dedicated website that allows them to sell – or buy – inherited property in Greece. Petros Gyftopoulos and his wife Myrto Levidi. ties I'm currently engaged in, like mushroom growing and landscape design." For Kiki Fotiadou, who migrated to Australia with her family in 2013, the problems that drove people away in the first place from Greece still remain. "Honestly, I don't think this will come to an end soon, if not ever. It's a vicious cycle, we see it happening all over Europe, not just Greece. “I believe the approach followed with the bailouts and austerity measures has not contributed to rectifying things, [and is] keeping the country back, in fact it's made them worse," she says referring to issues like corruption or bureaucracy. Kiki's story is also typical of many Greeks. Born in a small town near Sydney, Kiki moved to Greece with her parents when she was two months old, and only came back five years ago with husband Yiorgos and their two daughters, Elena, now 17 years old, and Dimitra, 11. "I've always had this dream to go back and live in the country I was born. The economic crisis prompted me to realise this. But above all, we did it for the kids' sake." Kiki and her husband were the owners of a printing business in Thessaloniki, a city defined by its student population. "We both had jobs so it wasn't a matter of us being unemployed or anything. But I would come across young people, students at the shop, on a daily basis, and the overwhelming majority of them would say their plan was to go abroad and try finding a job there. I started thinking that if my kids are going to end up doing the same, we might as well migrate all together as a family. "We knew that they would have a better future here [in Australia] at least in terms of job prospects. Not that things are rosy here, but, compared to Greece, it is definitely more likely for graduates to land a job,” she says. “Look, Australia is of course a capitalist coun- try with everything this political economy system implies, yet it follows social welfare policies as well, something missing from Greece. This facilitates access to more opportunities," she says, further explaining that the whole family has benefitted. Kiki has just started pursuing a career change, taking up a naturopathy course, something she is adamant would not have been an option available to her back in Greece, where making ends meet is the foremost priority. Meanwhile, she adds that even if things were to change in the country, they wouldn't think of going back, at least for now. "We've built a life here all these years. Of course, I do miss Greece, my family, friends and this sense of solidarity existing among people. But at the same time, I know that the concept of home is not bounded with a specific country. When you are surrounded by people you love, home can be anywhere." Although the internet is flooded with online property portals marketing glamorous Mediterranean getaways to wealthy foreigners, a new site called greekrealestate.gr to be launched by 1 September aims to connect buyers and sellers on all types of property in Greece. As Greece slowly emerges from its financial crisis and Athens wins a reputation as a new enclave for hipsters, the wealthy diaspora living in Australia, USA, Canada and Germany will be able to buy and sell their Greek assets more efficiently. "At the moment the way to sell property in Greece is like putting up a small sign in a forest rather than a billboard on Eastlink,'' says greekrealestate.gr co-founder, Melbourne real estate agent Stavros Ambatzidis. "In Greece, a milk bar or a deli can be where property is sold.'' Ambatzidis is a corporate director of the O'Brien Real Estate franchise business but he worked as a real estate agent in Greece from 2006 to 2008. He says there is a growing hunger among the diaspora for a more sophisticated way of selling Greek property by using professional marketing methods that are standard in their own countries. As Greek property prices begin to creep up – particularly in Athens and the islands close to the capital – Ambatzidis says the timing is now right for this kind of site which he set up with two Greek Australian partners, one who works in IT and another who is a recent arrival to Australia. "We have about 300 listings so far – properties on islands, in Athens and Thessaloniki, in villages or plots of land. Our sellers can be in Melbourne, Chicago, New York, London or in Germany. We go where the money is. That's who our market are." He says that the second and third generations of Greek emigrants are increasingly looking to do something with the property siblings have inherited but until now found too difficult to off-load. Buying and selling property is excessively bureaucratic in Greece but Ampatzidis' idea is to provide a service that provides guidance for buyers and sellers. A two-bedroom apartment in central Athens in need of renovation can now sell for about €80,000 and a renovated one might sell for €200,000. "That's about a half the cost of an apartment in Paris,'' he says. Although the site will be a portal for non-Greeks to buy property, he warns that any prospective buyers will not be able to get a mortgage without having a Greek passport. Ambatzidis has bought a property on one of the islands but he has no plans to sell it soon, if ever. He advises that anyone buying property in a holiday destination – be it Mykonos or the Gold Coast – needs to be wary about buying property for a quick turnover. Unlike apartments in city centres close to jobs, hospitals, airports and education, remote holiday homes have fewer buyers to stimulate higher prices meaning they often take a long time to sell. Melbourne real estate agent Arch Staver, who has no association to greekrealestate.gr, agrees. A second-generation Greek Australian and the director of Nelson Alexander Real Estate in Fitzroy, Staver says his clients often ask him about buying a holiday home in Greece. "I say exercise caution – particularly now with what is happening in Italy and the threat that it could drag Greece into another EU debt situation, or if Greece ever left the EU and your property is valued in drachma,'' Staver says. But he recognises the appeal of owning a piece of Greece. "I know that when I visit the Greek Islands I often think 'wouldn't it be nice to have a place here?', but my limited knowledge of the property system there is that it's less than easy to understand.''
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