After a two-year pandemic delay, the time had come for Nick Hados and his husband, Ken Cook, to find an apartment where they could retire. The couple, who live in Little Havana in Miami, had fallen in love with Athens, spending their vacations there in a tiny pied-à-terre they had owned since 2016. But by early 2022, they wanted something big enough to live in full time.
The right apartment would also be their ticket to Greek residency. As American citizens, they couldn’t move to a country in the European Union, which limits tourist visas to 90 days. But if they spent 250,000 euros, or about $267,000, in cash on Greek real estate, they would qualify for a five-year renewable visa, known as the golden visa, so they could live in the country year round. (Beginning in May, buyers will have to invest €500,000 in some parts of the country, including Athens, to qualify for the visa.)
“We love traveling, and we want to be somewhere where we can pop to Rome or London or wherever,” said Mr. Cook, 58, a retired corporate quality director. “We said, ‘OK, let’s do this.’”
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The couple had grown attached to Athens, a vibrant city steeped in history, and one that felt family-centric, embracing everyone from the very young to the very old. Wander down a narrow, meandering street and you’re as likely to encounter a Byzantine church as you are to pass a family out to dinner at 10 p.m. or a couple dancing in a neighborhood park. The country was particularly meaningful for Mr. Hados, 59, who is of Greek descent and speaks the language.
“It’s just chock full of creativity here. There’s a lot of young people, a lot of energy,” said Mr. Hados, an architect. “In Miami, old people, they don’t go out, but here, they go out. People of all ages are walking around all hours of the day or night.”
The couple also saw Greece as a place to retire affordably, with a lower cost of living. As retired Greek residents, they could spend less on taxes, food, healthcare and other living expenses. The couple set their sights on Pangrati, a trendy neighborhood in central Athens favored by artists and full of restaurants, cafes, parks and civic gems like the National Gallery of Athens. The hilly neighborhood also offered streets with fantastic city views, and Mr. Hados wanted an apartment with a view of the Acropolis and the Parthenon.
“It is like having a view of the Eiffel Tower,” he said. “It is Greece.”
But what’s a view without room to enjoy it? So they added outdoor space to their list of must-haves. Whatever apartment they chose had to be within walking distance of the city’s historic sites. And it had to cost no less than €250,000 to assure them a golden visa.
In Athens, unlike in the United States, real estate agents do not have exclusive listings, and many homes are sold by the owners. So the couple did not work with a real estate agent. Instead, they scoured various real estate listing sites.
In January 2022, they sold a commercial property in Miami, securing the funds to pay for an apartment. With the money in hand and their options narrowed to a few finalists they found online, Mr. Hados flew to Greece in February in search of their ideal home.
Among their options:
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