Lawyers, eh? Gotta love ’em.
If you’ve ever seen some old Charles Dickens type story with lawyers sitting in dark wooden rooms with shelves of dusty books behind them, well that could be Greece in 2019. Let’s just say the way lawyers work is a little different from anglo countries.
Some surprising things about Greek lawyers…
They’re social animals – they love to dine out on your dollar!
They like to get out of their offices and go and meet sellers’ lawyers for a chat and a coffee. But guess who’s paying for that? One foreign investor we know (we’ll share his story one day) racked up a bill of thousands of euros because he didn’t stop his lawyer from going to view properties and negotiate with sellers.
That’s your job! Never let your lawyer do the running around. Do it yourself or get someone local. You only need a lawyer to get the paperwork right not visit a 1 bedroom flat and tell you if it’s worth buying or not.
You only need the lawyers to put the paperwork together once we’ve agreed a deal. If you give them free rein, they’ll be dining out on your dollar whether there’s a deal to be done or not.
They like to mess up a deal for you
It’s quite normal for lawyers to get in the way of a deal on the basis that they’re protecting their client. Frustrating but the easiest way to deal with that is to get the lawyer to the table as soon as possible – don’t wait until everything’s been agreed.
Don’t send them your money!
They don’t have client accounts – for all the talk of anti-money laundering and ‘know your client’ (remember Greece is in the AML paranoid EU) the answer lawyers give when asked ‘where do I transfer my money to buy this property?’ is ‘send it to the seller’! Because these lawyers are not bonded to hold client money separately, they don’t want the money going into their accounts. This breaks all the rules you probably ever came across but this is Greece. Now, don’t send the money to the seller before they sign the contract and you’ll probably be fine.
How do I find a good Greek lawyer for my real estate business?
Bigger is not always better. One of the best lawyers we’ve used is a one man band who specialises in criminal law, but – he’s also a property investor with his own sizeable portfolio. So what’s good for him is good for us.
Just google ‘english speaking Greek lawyers real estate’ and you’ll find lots of them. Many of these english speaking lawyers will have overseas experience and therefore be a bit more up to date with entrepreneurial investors like us, but really you just need someone who understands the process.
Not all Greek Lawyers are equal
Googling ‘greek lawyers’ in Chrome from the UK brings up a Google Ad with the wonderful headline ‘Greek Lawyers You Can Trust’. Just think about what that says for a moment. Right.
What does it cost?
It depends what you use your lawyer for, but they will usually have fixed fees for a lot of the basic stuff, from getting your AFM and power of attorney set up to carrying out due diligence on property titles. We’ll be writing a piece on the costs of a deal very soon, but as a guide you can expect to pay between €300-500 for a PoA or AFM, €300-500 euros for the title search (the really important bit before you sign a contract) but then the search fees usually roll into the cost of the full transaction. The best thing about breaking out the title search is if the results come back with a bunch of problems, you can stop the deal right there and limit your abortive costs.
Don’t forget the notary
As a buyer you have the right to choose your own notary. Why does this matter? Well the notary is the one who checks all the contracts and paperwork, signs and seals them and enters them into the official records. Without an agreement being notarised its worthless in a court of law. The notary charges a percentage of the value of the contract. It’s high, but it’s like risk money for them. Once the notary signs and seals the document, they’re on the hook if anything wasn’t done properly. The flip side is you know your contract is protected.
We’ll be going into more depth on the blog soon about the role of the notary and how important it is to have your own and one who understands the kind of contract you want to do.
Once you get your Greek lawyer, keep them happy!
Getting the right lawyer is often a matter of trial and error. We went through several lawyers and many thousands of euros before we found our guy. And we found him when we weren’t even looking. He was one of our sellers!
Once you get the right lawyer in place everything gets so much easier.