The role of a Notary in Greece

The buying process of buying your dream house involves the work of a ‘Notary’.  This is the only way you can legally purchase your holiday/second home.  In short, it is a contract that is drawn up and authorised by a public notary, who comes within the jurisdiction of the Hellenic Ministry of Justice and refers to the Public Prosecutor Authorities. 

You the buyer, have the option to choose the notary of your choice.  You have to pay for this service and fees do vary, but our recommendations are that you find a notary who speaks English, unless you are 100% fluent in Greek, or at least the language of your mother tongue. 

The notary will check the contracts and are totally responsible for the verification and registration of the transaction in the public records, so that the buyer acquires the official title of the property, which is referred to at the notary deed.  This ensures the accuracy and validity of the agreement between the contracting parties.  The notary will also certify the identity of the parties and witness the signing of the final purchase contract, collect proof that the purchase tax has been paid, arrange for the property’s registration in the name of the new owner in the local land registry or National Land Registry, check the buyer’s tax file number and the receipt of the payment of purchase tax by the buyer, and collect any fees or taxes due. 

The notary will read through the final purchase contract.  Both the vendor and buyer (or their representatives) must sign every page included in the contract, which indicates that they’ve understood and accepted the terms of the document. If you don’t understand Greek, you should take along an interpreter, or your lawyer may translate for you. 

The work of the public notary is hugely important.  It does safeguard and guarantees the vested rights of both contracting parties and is the legal title of ownership. Bear in mind that any property purchased merely by signing a private document means that the purchase can legally be declared null and void in the future. 

However, it is important to understand that a public notary represents neither the interests of the buyer (you) nor the vendor.  The notary is merely the public official in the presence of whom the contract is read and who ensures that it is understood by both parties and signed.  It is not in a notary’s remit to point out possible pitfalls in a contract, to proffer advice or to volunteer any information on the intricacy of Greek property law – that’s up to your personally retained lawyer. 

With this, we strongly recommended that you employ your own independent, English speaking lawyer, one who will represent and safeguard your interests alone.  It isn’t wise to use the vendor’s or estate agent’s lawyer, as he is primarily concerned with protecting their interests and not yours. If you do use their suggested lawyer, obtain a personal recommendation from a client that the lawyer has assisted in the past.

Your lawyer should check that the notary does his job correctly, thus providing an extra safeguard. They will also search the title deed at the registry of mortgages to ascertain that the vendor holds the absolute deed of the property, check that the property is unencumbered, that all property taxes burdening the vendor have been paid and that construction was completed in accordance with all planning and building permissions.

Then and only then, when all the above has been checked and concluded by your lawyer and ratified by the notary, can you go ahead and sign your sale agreement at the office of a public notary– this usually takes six to eight weeks. You will need to present a valid passport and your Tax Registry Number. If you are unable to be present your lawyer can represent you if you arrange Power of Attorney.  Good luck with the successful purchase of your property.