Having just returned from vacation, I think fondly back to past trips, comparing the food, accommodations and the real estate that we “almost” bought on many of those holidays.

Being a real estate junkie, it’s so hard to visit beautiful places and not want to live there. Paris is the worst for me. I slow down to look in all the real estate sales office windows, finding the one that looks most suited to our lifestyle, taste and budget.

But ouch–not this year! With the Euro at an historic high, prices of condos in Paris have hit the stratosphere. A “studio” in a building in a “nice” neighborhood–with an elevator–starts at about $395,000 EU (or $495,000 U.S.) plus closing costs. It’s even pricier than Manhattan.

So it came as a real surprise this week when I read W magazine (at the hairdresser) only to see a little story saying that the Greek government has finally opened up the ownership of real estate to non-Greeks. The W story went on to say that both Madonna and Richard Gere were supposedly interested in the same island (can’t they share?).

Over dinner that same evening, one of the dinner guests coincidentally happens to be half-Greek. “You can still buy an island for next to nothing,” he said as my face lit up. W didn’t seem to be pushing those properties. The one they specifically mentioned for sale was belonging to the granddaughter of Aristotle Onassis at a cool $360 million. Very fabulous.

This intrigues me as I am the first to complain when I’ve “missed the boat” on a fabulous real estate opportunity. And, desperate for my own island, I can’t resist spending some time on the Web searching for available houses in Greece.

Well, you can’t believe what your $150,000 EU will buy you: ocean view, electricity, new construction, and walk to a nearby beach.

One of the more informative sites gave this overview about the property prices in Greece:

  • $10,000-$15,000 for old stone houses

  • $10,000-$15,000 for building plots near the coast (They advise checking with the coastal department about minimal lot sizes for buildings.)

  • $30,000-$45,000 for coastal apartments

  • $100,000 and up for villas

There was a quick note that if your property exceeds a certain value it may be subject to an annual 1-2 percent “wealth tax,” but the details of this were rather vague.

But get this: The costs for closing on a property in Greece are 15-20 percent of the purchase price. YIKES! What about bundled services? (Are you listening settlement services companies?)

So, where are these places? Do I have to go to the Olympics now in order to have an excuse to be on vacation in Greece to look at houses for sale?

Believe it or not, the Web sites with properties for sale also have an Expedia pop-up as well as flight prices and other information (including tickets to the Olympics). Now this is what I call vacation home buying.

Julie Brosterman is a consultant to the real estate technology, mortgage and servicing industries. After she spent 15 years in the title insurance industry, the Internet “spoke” to her and she has never looked back. She lives in Los Angeles and can be contacted at juliebrosterman@hotmail.com.

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