In this first of a two-part special, Charikleia Stouka, founder of Alma Real Estate, shares her top tips for local buyers in today’s real estate market.

Charikleia Stouka is an accredited realtor and founder of Alma Real Estate, which she established in 2001.

Alma Real Estate is a full-service real estate agency that is mainly active in the residential and retail/office markets, and also works with business premises, specialized and industrial buildings, luxury villas and summer houses, and land sales, including whole islands.

ALMA Real Estate

117 Agias Paraskevis Street,

Chalandri, Athens

T: +30 210 6829 901

T: +30 6977 414 581

E: charikleia@almarealestate.gr

The real estate market has dramatically changed over the years, but despite the various changes, there are always opportunities and there are always properties whose value remains steady or even increases regardless of circumstances.

So if you’re looking to buy, here are some essential tips.

In the market for a home? Live it first!

Visit the property and walk through it at different times of day: early in the morning, at noon, in the afternoon, in the evening. If you find yourself very annoyed by bright sunlight, for example, you will never truly enjoy an apartment’s beautiful large veranda. On the contrary, if you enjoy that brightness and sunshine is essential for you, you will never feel quite satisfied with a north-facing living room.

While visiting the property, make sure to also have a look at any common areas—such as the lobby, parking area or garden—and try to get a feel of the general atmosphere. Notice the people who enter or leave the building. Are these the kind of people you would like to meet every day? Of course, don’t forget to ask for a copy of any regulations that apply to owners and/or tenants in the building.

Make sure to also spend some time in the neighborhood. Check out the local amenities. See the people who come to the local supermarket, and take the time to shop from the local shops yourself. Are the shop owners pleasant and kind, and would you want to be their client? Are your needs covered locally or will you need to go farther and maybe have to use a car to access the amenities you’ll need on a regular basis? Having things like 24-hour mini markets, pharmacies, bakeries, and newsagents/kiosks close to home can be a great benefit.

Observe the area after dark. Drive by the property and around the neighborhood late in the evening and in the small hours of the night, and make sure that you get the same good feeling from it at night as you do in the light of day. Sometimes a neighborhood can appear perfectly decent during the day but turn into a spot of unsavory activity after nightfall.

Find out what the municipality’s policies are on keeping the area clean and well maintained, and of course, make sure these basic services are not neglected. Be on the lookout for things like garbage collection and street lighting, and try to find out if these operate with consistency. If a streetlight malfunctions, for example, how long does it take for the municipality to change it? What time does garbage collection take place? How often the streets are cleaned? Do local storm drains work properly or is the area prone to flooding after heavy rains? Far from minor details, these things can be key to determining how invested the municipality is in taking care of the area.

Don’t forget to ask for a certificate from a civil engineer to verify the legality of the building permit and construction. Look for the General Building Construction Code (GOK) of the time the building was constructed. Check especially whether there were revisions to the original plans—for example, if the building plan was initially for eight flats and then changed to twelve flats after construction started or vice versa—and whether construction was interrupted and/or completed by a different construction company than the one that first began working on the building.

Finally, remember that no matter how thorough you are, chances are that you won’t have as broad a knowledge of real estate matters or as keen an eye for relevant details as an experienced professional. So to ensure you avoid unpleasant surprises, find a trustworthy realtor and ask the crucial question: Is there anything I should know, about the property, that I can’t see or that I’m maybe not familiar with?