Hey you, sneaking a peek at this article whilst The Boss thinks you’re crunching digits. Been dreaming about working from home except... your home is a villa on the Côte d'Azur? An apartment in Spain? A cottage in rural Portugal? Us too, so we’ve devised this guide to buying property in Europe.

You’ve seen the headlines: for the price of an espresso in Milan, you can buy an entire holiday home in Sicily. But the much-publicized one-euro home scheme isn’t just about purchasing a property in Italy, it is about putting a down payment on a dream. 

Potential owners drawn in by fantasies of sunlight streaming through peeling wooden shutters. Folk moonstruck over church bells ringing through old cobbled streets. The slow life. Morning dips in the Mediterranean; evenings on wrought-iron balconies overlooking centuries-old Nero d'Avola vines. Yes, the casa rustica might need work, but you don’t have to be Michelangelo to paint a ceiling, right?

With the pandemic allowing many of us to work remotely, purchasing a foreign bolthole for the 9–5 could now be a reality. Here’s everything you need to know about buying a house around the Mediterranean.

Two medieval stone buildings linked by a brick archway
Find a medieval stone property in Italy © Simona Bottone / Shutterstock

Buying a property in Italy

What’s for sale?

In some small Sicilian and Sardinian villages, where younger generations have fled to the cities in search of gold, there are still crumbling honey-colored homes for sale for a nominal €1 fee. However, the most popular rural regions to buy a holiday home are in Tuscany and Le Marche (from €150,000 for a 3-bed chalet; €335,000-plus for something finished), where secluded farmhouses, often shrouded by soft morning mists, regularly come onto the market. 

Abruzzo, which spills out onto the Adriatic Sea, offers bucolic beauty but for more than half the price. Two-bed townhouses that need a lick of paint start from €16,000; characterful stone farmhouses from €100,000 and up. Around Lake Como, prices can be ear-wateringly high, but if you head inland, you can still find one-bed palazzos from around €95,000.

Typical Tuscan stone house surrounded by a stunning green vineyard
Tuscany is popular with those looking for rural holiday homes © Janoka82 / Getty Images

How to do it

The estate agent will act independently for the buyer and seller. The buyer may have to pay a Proposta d’aquisto (Purchaser's Proposal), a bank check held in escrow, to secure your offer. Mortgages are available to non-Italians, but can only cover a maximum of 80% of the purchase price.

You'll then need a solicitor to help draw up a Compromesso (an initial agreement) as well as a deposit of 20–30% of the purchase price. Your solicitor will take care of the searches for the property and help you get an Italian tax code number, which you’ll need to sign the Rogito Notarile (final contract). Before exchanging, you’ll need to pay the estate agent, the notary, IVA taxes and Stamp Duty. This usually totals around 10% of the property price.

A stone house stands on a hill looking down towards the sea with boats out on the water and the coastline stretching into the distance
Some properties on the French Riviera have extremely high price tags © Sabine Klein / 500px

Buying a property in France

What’s for sale?

Quite simply, everything. From country estates with Champagne vineyards and tumbledown châteaux waiting for Prince or Princess Charming, to alpine ski lodges and quaint half-timbered homes that inspired Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, France has it all – including French Riviera price tags so obscene that they overshadow the GDP of some nations.

While prices fluctuate regionally, the average price for rural properties remains around €170,000. There are plenty of bargains too. In pastoral Creuse, for instance, a wheat-chewing département where the average price is €59,700, you can get two barns that need a makeover, plus land, for under €15,000. In the sunbaked Alpes-Maritimes, which includes Cannes and Nice, the average price is a shade over €435,000; while the sleepy island of Île-de-Ré has 3-bed apartments from €175,000.

A village surrounded by vineyards
There's a 10-day cooling-off period for property purchases in France © CroMary / Shutterstock

How to do it

Once your offer has been accepted, you will have to sign a Compromis de Vente (sales agreement) which has been drawn up by a notaire, a legal specialist who works for the state. Buyers will then have a 10-day cooling-off period where they can pull out of the sale, before paying a deposit (usually 10%) to the notaire if they wish to go ahead. 

Around three months later the buyer signs the Acte de Vente (bill of sale) at the notaire’s office to complete the purchase. Mortgages are generally available for up to 80% of the property for EU residents; 50% for non-EU residents.

Pink and red flowers growing from the white walls on an old town street
Spain is a top spot for second-home ownership © Botond Horvath / Shutterstock

Buying a property in Spain

What’s for sale?

Drawn in by sumptuous curls of golden sand and turquoise waters that shimmer like a jeweler’s disco ball, it’s the beach that gets potential buyers hot under the ruff in Spain. The Balearic Islands are top of the pops when it comes to holiday homes – though thanks to some exclusive villas, average prices are higher than the mercury in July: Formentera (€2,000,000-plus); Ibiza (€1,630,278); Mallorca (€1,592,836); Menorca (€314,903). 

Naturally prices dip where the In Crowd ain’t and apartments with shared facilities cost less too. But the islands have plenty of decent turnkey flats from €135,000. Property investors have upended the market in Barcelona (city average €443,255), but go north along the Costa Brava, a coastline of sleepy fishing villages and motorway-sized stretches of amber sand, and options are more affordable. Funky three-beds start from €110,000 and two-bed apartments with a shared pool from €130,000. 

Houses and apartment buildings line a waterfront. A small white boat is anchored in the foreground
In Spain, a deposit must be paid on acceptance of an offer © Carles Quintana / Shutterstock

How to do it

Once an offer is accepted on a property, the buyer must pay a deposit (usually 10%) and sign a Contrato Privado de Compravento (preliminary contract). Buyers also require a Número de Identificación de Extranjero (foreigner identification number), which is available from the Spanish embassy, or from certain police stations in Spain.

Mortgages for non-residents are available in Spain, but banks will only lend up to 70% of the purchase price. Once everything is in place, buyers sign an Escritura de Compravento (contract of sale) in front of a notary and pay all outstanding fees (usually 10–15% of the sale price).

Houses with colorful facades cover a hillside in Greece
There are over 200 habitable islands in Greece © Timofeev Vladimir / Shutterstock

Buying a property in Greece 

What’s for sale?

There are thousands of property opportunities in Greece. From a slew of crumbling (possibly condemned) houses from €15,000 that have plenty of potential, but the air of an abandoned air raid shelter, to entire hotel complexes that will set you back – gulp! – €37 million. But with 227 islands to peruse, the choice is Herculean. 

With prices from €7000, some opt for buying land and building something themselves, but with so many existing private villas and farmhouses, the sweat and labor might be better invested in a two-bed apartment in Athens, where prices tick up from €100,000. The most popular places to buy are the islands of Crete (reasonable doer-uppers from €45,000; liveable three-beds from €95,000), Zakynthos (€225,000 and up) and Mykonos (three-bed villas over €400,000).

At the other end of the market, you can get your paws on an exceptional, eight-bed modern villa with its own hammam, chapel and separate staff house. But it is priced the same as a decidedly underwhelming Premier League midfield soccer player.

A cobbled street with an old square stone house on the corner
You need to prove your connections to the country to buy property in Greece © Nejdet Duzen / Shutterstock

How to do it

Almost anyone can buy a property in Greece, but non-EU residents will have to declare to the Ministry of National Defense how they will use the property and show that they have connections to the country – even if it’s as a holiday home. Mortgages for non-nationals are available for up to 70% of the sale price.

On agreeing a price with the estate agent, the buyer will then have to appoint a solicitor to start legal proceedings and lay down a 10% deposit for the property. The buyer also needs to open a Greek bank account and deposit all the money required to buy the house, plus any additional fees. They should then contact the Internal Revenue Service in Greece to get a Tax Registry Number.

The buyer has to hire a notary who will oversee the exchanging of contracts and will have to submit a certificate to show that they don’t owe any money to the Hellenic Fiscus (tax office). A solicitor can help with this.

White and orange houses line a waterfront and are reflected in the water
Find anything from a palace to a ruin in Portugal © Juampiter / Getty Images

Buying a property in Portugal

What’s for sale?

With cooler-than-thou cities, ribbons of soft terracotta-coloured sand and frothing Atlantic surf breaks, property prices in perma-popular Portugal have risen to a national average of €359,497. A gruff two-bed villa in Lisbon (average house price €592,709) could be yours from around €199,000, but prices soon climb to €7.5 million for a 20th-century palace. Property prices in and around Porto (average €308,013) have shot up thanks to investors, and three-bed houses now start from €257,500.

But for some, the dream home is a little nearer the beach. Bargains like this €119,500 dated flat can be found along The Algarve (average €454,030), but you’ll need €175,000 and above to buy a property near the sea on the Costa de Prata – though cheap wrecks start from €20,000 here; liveable properties from €45,000. The Alentejo is where you can get something traditional with change from €65,000.

An aerial view of a village with red roofs, with a river running by at the bottom of the hill
There are no restrictions on who can buy property in Portugal © alexilena / Shutterstock

How to do it

To buy a property, you'll need to get a Número de Contribuinte (Portuguese tax number) from any Finanças (finance office). Deposits are usually 10% of the agreed sale price and the buyer will need to hire a solicitor to read over the promissory contract ahead of signing it. Banks will only lend up to 70% of the value of the property to non-residents, but there are no restrictions as to who can buy.

The exchange of contracts occurs in front of a notary with the remaining balance being paid off at the same time as well as stamp duty (0.8% of the purchase price), plus the notary and land registration fees (typically no more than €600).

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Has COVID-19 killed the city break?  

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