Why do people come to Greece? The weather, the landscape, the azure sea, the food, the people, the history, there are so many reasons to fall in love with this wonderful country, and what often begins with a holiday ends up as a lifelong passion.
To find a home in Greece though can be a daunting task, what is on offer may not always encapsulate what it is that we fell for in the first place, the spirit and the nature of the country itself. Many modern build houses unfortunately do not translate the culture, history and textures of Greece quite as we would like and the supply of older properties that have been kept in the traditional manner is not abundant, so how do we achieve a home that is true to our dreams of Greece? Restore!
Restoration achieves all the wish list; plentiful supply of property to choose from; lots of great locations; beautifully built using traditional materials; and the patina / textures that are such a part of Greek life; all at a great price!
The downside is that it is, of course, a task that most people who are not Greek feel is too arduous and tricky to contemplate. But fortune does in fact favour the brave and in this case you don’t actually need to be that brave!
Firstly the old houses were normally solidly built, thick stone walls and chunky hardwoods was the order of the day. The only reason they have fallen into disrepair is usually one of neglect, caused by the diaspora of Greeks, especially after World War II, the migration to the cities, and the fact that the Greek people are still getting used to the concept of selling land/houses. Previously homes were always kept within the family even when they were no longer required thus leading to neglect which is the worst thing for any structure. But it isn’t a problem with the house, just how it’s been treated.
Of course most peoples worry isn’t with the property but with the practicalities of how to organise a restoration programme in a foreign country. In Skopelos, Apostolos Dimitriadis runs an estate agency which also offers after sale services, from getting planning permits to full restoration management. “We can handle any level of involvement in your project. It’s completely up to you how much or little help you require”, he told us, but sourcing the right kind of craftsmen is all important to achieve the right result, “In Skopelos there are many traditional builders who have spent their lives working with stone, wood and limewash. It’s in their blood they have learnt from their fathers and grandfathers” This is a precious resource n itself, but they still need briefing and of course paying and unsurprisingly most local craftsmen only speak Greek! “At Skopelos Topos, (topos being Greek for ‘place’), we have architects, engineers and site managers all ready to help if needed”. The costs of restoration obviously vary with the amount of work necessary but needn’t be prohibitive and can be cheaper than new build houses or at least equivalent to. The thing to bear in mind is that you cannot build old houses you can only rebuild them.
A new build can never be built the same as an older property, it will never have the thickness of walls or the feeling and the texture of a restored house. Also older homes were normally located in the best positions (they knew what they were doing), they are often part of a community, near access roads, water, services and with shade from the elements. They certainly represent a significant cultural heritage in Greece which many people believe should be preserved. In villages with few public buildings, save the ever present church, the domestic architecture serves as the main cultural reminders of how the country developed, how people lived and the rustic style of life.
This is especially true of Skopelos which is blessed in having two traditional towns as well as a number of lovely villages. Apostolos commented “You think Skopelos Town is unspoiled but when you get to Glossa it’s like stepping into history, it’s amazing that an island should have two such gems” And indeed it’s difficult to think of another island which offers such a choice for the seekers of unspoiled Greece.
But what of the properties themselves? If we just look at two restoration properties in the Glossa area of Skopelos we will see just what potential there is. Set in the tiny village of Atheato on the edge of Glossa itself is a restoration project that could provide a beautiful small house. It needs work, quite a lot of work in fact, but it is structurally sound, near all services and with a great location and stunning views. Atheato means hidden away and it has peace and quiet but without being secluded from the main village of Glossa. The house is 65 sq meters and has a courtyard, but the addition of a balcony on the first storey would transform the property, giving it a full view to the west stretching across to Evvia and the mainland. This is a lovely property and all for the ridiculously low price of €30,000. For less than the price of many a new car you could purchase this little piece of greek culture and provide a home in the sun. But what of the restoration costs?
Virgile Tsioulli of Skopelos Topos says “I think about €60,000 should be enough to make the place perfect. It’s a small house but with lots of character which you can retain with sympathetic work”. So for €90,000 it’s surely a bargain waiting to happen. Of course there are fees etc to take into consideration but it’s a good indicator of the value which is achievable by taking on such a project.
On the other side of Glossa to the east is another property requiring a lot of work but with even more potential than the house at Atheato. This is a traditional one roomed kalivi or farmhouse which is occupiable but with the bases of two stone buildings one on either side. This could create a marvellous home in an area of Skopelos noted for looking more like Tuscany than Greece. Just one mile outside of Glossa, and about the same from the wild beaches around Perivolou, this property is again quietly situated but without being remote. It has land around it and below the road in front of it. It offers many possibilities for not much more than the purchase cost of the previous property. As to rebuild costs, well that depends on your imagination and your resources. A grand house or a rustic cottage; it’s for you to decide what kind of a house you wish to make on this beautiful island in the Aegean.Why do people come to Greece? The weather, the landscape, the azure sea, the food, the people, the history, there are so many reasons to fall in love with this wonderful country, and what often begins with a holiday ends up as a lifelong passion.