Athens, a modern European capital with a glorious ancient past. Situated in the region of Attica in southern Greece, the city is known for its warm and sunny climate, quirky architecture, robust nightlife, and its countless museums, archaeological sites, and theatres.
It may surprise some of you, but Athens has over five million residents; almost half of Greece’s population lives in the capital. The city also has a broad expat community. Many of Helinika’s subscribers either reside in Greece or plan on moving there for a while. And here’s where this video comes in handy. Helinika has collected a list of tips for preparing yourself before a move to the Hellenic capital. These tips include valuable information for finding long-term accommodation in Athens.
10 Tips Before Moving to Athens | How to Find a Long-Term Apartment Rental in Athens:
- Living Alone or with Others?
- Search in the Right Websites (Beforehand)
- Calculate the Final Price (All-Inclusive Rentals are Rare)
- Be Aware of the… Unfinished Rentals
- To Heat or Not to Heat?
- Choose the Neighborhood Carefully
- Try Communicating in Greek (Or Have Someone Help You)
- Wear a Smile. Friendliness > Formal Criteria
- Don’t Be Afraid to Set Your Boundaries
- Ask for a Contract
Living Alone or With Others?
Many young people who move to Greece on a budget try to search for rooms to rent in shared flats with no success. Although living with roommates and flatmates is a very common thing in northern Europe, most Greeks would rather live in a 20m² room or spend their entire lives in their parent’s house, rather than live with strangers.
Greek people view their homes as sacred places and prefer living with people who are already very close to them, such as family members, partners, and close friends. They might be more than willing to host you for some time, following the rules of hospitality, but don’t expect them to be willing to rent you their spare room. Since Greeks are used to taking care of their guests, there are not enough cultural rules to dictate what their approach should be when the stranger becomes a… flatmate. Should they make you breakfast? Do you share groceries? Do you eat dinner together? The questions are just too many.
If a shared living situation is what you are looking for, you can join social media groups for expats in Athens, where it is more likely to find an available room in someone else’s house. Although some locals are open to living with strangers, it will be a bit more difficult finding such opportunities than in other European cities like Berlin.
Greek courses online.
Search the Right Websites in Advance
Once you are ready to look for an apartment, make sure to search wisely. It is not recommended signing a rental contract before seeing the apartment in person. The photos might be far from reality. However, it is suggested to already book some viewings before arriving to Greece. You will save a lot of time and money, since you will not have to spend a fortune in hotels and short-term accommodation.
Popular websites for finding long-term rentals in Greece are spitogatos.gr and xe.gr. There are many private listings with no commission in these websites. The good thing with this option is that you will rarely have to pay a large sum of money in advance as a security deposit. Greeks really depend on “philotimo” when it comes to any type of agreement. If the flat owner trusts you with their property, they will expect you to take care of it and might not request money for the rare case you might ruin something. But be aware of breaking any unspoken “philotimo” rules, since you might end up having to move out for breaking your verbal agreement.
The other option would be to contact a real estate agency to help you with your search. That won’t necessarily add any costs to the tenant, since the commission is normally paid by the flat owner. However, you might be requested to pay a security deposit in case you decide to break the lease early or cause any damage to the property.
Calculate the Final Price
In many parts of the world, the renter is presented with a final price that includes all living costs: from the rent price and the maintenance fees, to the electricity and heating bills. The renter pays a fixed price every month to the owner and may or may not have to pay extra or receive money back at the end of the year, depending on their energy consumption. In some cases, even the internet bills are included in the final price and the renter does not have to register to receive these amenities.
Although there are listings that include all living costs in Athens, potential renters should expect seeing just the rent price when checking an apartment online. For example, an apartment might be advertised as costing just 200€ per month, however, the final price might be twice the price when all fees and bills are calculated. It is important to contact the owner and clarify these details before moving into a new rental.
Keep in mind that Athenians have to pay the “EYDAP” bill every couple of months. This bill covers the costs of domestic water supply and consumption – an additional cost that many other European citizens do not have to pay.
Also, it is often expected that the renter registers himself or herself to the electricity, water, and heating providers on their own. That means that the apartment owner only receives the rent price from the tenant and the latter pays each bill separately. Despite being a tedious monthly activity, many tenants prefer this option. They keep track of their expenses and make sure that they are not overcharged by the apartment owner.
Be Aware of the Unfinished Rentals
If you grew up in the United States, then you might be surprised when looking for apartments in Europe. That is because it is quite common to find unfurnished apartments with no kitchen or even bathroom installed in them. The tenant is expected to move their furniture and electric appliances, including their fridge and oven, whenever they move. You might be surprised to hear that many tenants actually prefer it that way. They save a lot of money per month for renting an empty flat, while they enjoy a fully personalized space they can call home.
Of course, changing residence is not something that Athenians do that often. Greeks get very attached to their homes, whether they own the place or not. Although many Americans sign one-year leases and change their flats regularly, Athenians will only do so when necessary. If, for example, an additional member enters the family, or they need to move to another part of the city for work.
It goes without saying that there are plenty of fully equipped or even fully furnished apartments available on the market. If you are moving to Athens as an exchange student just for a couple of months, you should opt for a fully equipped or even fully furnished rental. The rent price might be a bit higher, but you won’t have to buy and resell every single item in your apartment.
Greek courses online.
To Heat or Not to Heat?
Situated in the sunny and warm Attica region, the city of Athens has mild winters with little rain and rare snowfall. Temperature varies from 8 to 12 degrees Celsius in the winter and, in certain cases, it can go up to 20 degrees. That means that it can be quite cold during the winter months but, for some, heating is optional.
This is something you should keep in mind before signing a lease, since many buildings in Athens have central heating. In this case, tenants meet at the end of the summer and vote on whether they are willing to pay for heating the upcoming winter. In low-income neighborhoods, tenants often choose not to heat, which may cause disagreements between neighbors.
Lastly, there are many apartments that have no heaters installed at all. Each tenant is free to purchase electric heaters and use them at their own cost. If you prefer relaxing at home in t-shirts and shorts all year long, you should take this into consideration. Clarifying the heating options before signing a lease is crucial.
Keep in mind that the Greek culture is slightly more collectivistic than most western cultures; when moving to an apartment building you might have to attend meetings and discussions with the other tenants and vote on important decisions. Athens is the birthplace of Democracy after all.
Choose the Neighborhood Carefully
This rule applies to any expat who is planning on moving to a foreign big city. Athens is more than the historical center you may have visited during your summer vacation. There are working class neighborhoods, usually in the western part of the city, and upscale, expensive areas in the northern and south-eastern suburbs. The city center is also divided in hip, forgotten, and upscale neighborhoods.
Are you going to drive or use public transportation? Is having a garden important to you? Do you prefer living by the sea, in an urban landscape, or by the mountains? Would you rather stay in a busy and noisy street next to the best bars and cafes or in a quiet residential area? These are a few of the things you should consider before choosing your Athenian neighborhood. If you are not sure where to start from, watch Helinika’s video dedicated on the coolest neighborhoods of Athens.
Try Communicating in Greek
If you have ever visited Greece, then you might have noticed that the great majority of business owners are fluent in English. This is true for most of the locals, especially the younger population. But what about the average middle-aged Athenian who doesn’t work in tourism and never had to communicate in English? Well, in this case, you might find some obstacles.
If you don’t speak a word of Greek, you may have to contact a real estate agency to find an apartment for you. They are used to having foreign customers and they will handle all communications with the owner. If this is not an option for you, consider asking for help from a friend who speaks Greek.
Keep in mind that speaking the local language is important for integrating yourself in any country. Consider signing up in a class and/or joining Helinika’s Udemy course for learning Greek.
Wear a Smile When Viewing Apartments
As mentioned earlier, Greeks focus a lot on human relationships and do trust verbal agreements. Before going to an apartment viewing, remember that, although formal requirements, such as income, do play a role, it is your character that will determine whether you are a good fit for the apartment building. The owner will want you to look friendly and trustworthy. So don’t forget to put on your best smile.
Remember that it is very common for tenants to hold meetings and make arrangements with each other regarding the building’s maintenance. Asking about the neighbors and making small talk when you see them is a good sign.
Set Your Boundaries with the Owners and the Neighbors
Neighbors in Greece are indeed expected to interact with each other. But, sometimes, they might get into each other’s business. You might notice that the old woman on the ground floor knows when you leave or come back from work. You might get some comments about your music taste from your next-door neighbor and some uncomfortable questions from the owners.
It is important to set clear boundaries between you and your neighbors. It all comes down to honesty. Do you dislike having unexpected visits? Are you playing a musical instrument and need to practice during the day? Are you uncomfortable when neighbors question your guests?
You need to set your expectations straight and communicate them with the other tenants in a diplomatic way. Remember that Greeks often prefer indirect ways of communication. Being very direct, such as telling your neighbor to mind their business, will be perceived as rude and inconsiderate.
Ask for a Lease Contract Before Moving In
Some renters in Athens take the risk and move into an apartment without a lease contract. This is risky for both the owner and the tenant and it is usually a verbal agreement between people who already know each other. As an expat, you do not want to take such a risk. Always ask for a lease contract before moving into a new space, whether you know the owner or not.
General Moving Tips for Greece:
- Choose the Location Carefully
- Start Learning Greek
- Learn about the Culture (in a Non-Academic Way)
- Find Your Expat Community
- Join a Class/ Start a Hobby in Greek
- Burst Your Expat Bubble
Read more on how to integrate yourself in Greece.
Marialena Perpiraki is a journalist and writer from Athens, Greece. In 2020, she founded Helinika as a cross-media platform.
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