“We didn’t choose Plakias, Plakias chose us.”
It was in 2020, when retired business owner, Albert Salden and his wife, Ine de la Brassine, from a village in the far south of the Netherlands, called Born, bought a home 2,304 kilometers away in Plakias, southern Crete.
The decision was prompted by cold business criteria but later evolved into a flow of warm emotions, becoming one of the best financial moves, Albert, aged 62, says he ever made.
The three-bedroom home was built from scratch, just the way the couple wanted it, offering spectacular sea views, an outdoor covered kitchen, an infinity pool, and comfort and luxury seen in most style magazines.
“For tax reasons it was wise to invest my pension in foreign real estate. Because I have been traveling to Greece several times a year for 30 years, the choice for Greece was obvious,” says Albert.
“We had never been to Plakias before, but when we saw the bay area for the first time, we immediately fell in love with the beautiful surroundings. Plakias is a nice place that is not too crowded. Everything you could wish for is there, or close by. The only thing missing is mass tourism and we don’t mind that at all,” he says.
Few spots in Greece provide what Plakias does. Some people even call it Crete’s best kept secret.
Plakias, Preveli, and Asomatos are spots along the southern coast that feature among the best natural beauty that Greece has to offer, just over 30 minutes from the beautiful port city of Rethymno.
In Plakias Bay, beaches provide splendid swimming waters that even many Greeks are not aware of, while the traditional villages in the surrounding hills offer a combination of picturesque sceneries, hospitality and tavernas serving some of the best food you will taste in the country.
Albert’s villa is located in the village of Mariou, just above Plakias. The number of homes for sale in Plakias and Mariou are limited due to construction limits kept in place by the Greek government to avoid overdevelopment of coasts from taking place, as seen in other Mediterranean countries.
However, well priced beachside villas and homes for sale can still be spotted in the area, which is surrounded by mountains to the north. Plakias’ blue-flagged sandy beach is one of the longest in Crete and offers a variety of facilities such as ramp access to the water for people in wheelchairs.
Positioned among olive groves and the rugged mountains of Crete, Mariou is a far cry from the lush green flat meadows in the municipality of Sittard, just north of Maastricht, where the village the couple lives in is located. The cultural gap separating the two countries was also evident when they made the investment at a time when the pandemic was spreading across Europe. But Albert and Ine decided to look beyond the differences and focus on what connects them with Crete and its people.
“The fact that we have our own language where we come from shows we are quite different from the rest of the Netherlands. Our character is closer to southern countries. So, we see a lot of us in the Greeks.” says Albert.
“There are, of course, many differences. Things are less well organized, there is a better infrastructure in the Netherlands, among other things. But that’s actually a lot of fun. If it’s the same everywhere, then we would stay at home and not go on holiday anymore.”
After having made their decision, the building work began.
The dream of owning a home by the beach under the Greek sun started taking shape.
It was a smooth process, though there was one legal issue regarding the size of the land that arose. The inhouse team of Elxis’ lawyers took care of it and we didn’t have to worry about it all, says Albert.
“On TV you often see programs about people who buy, build, or renovate a house abroad. A fixed part of these programs is that all kinds of things go wrong. Mainly because people are not prepared. We were, certainly because of the good support provided by Elxis throughout the project,“ says Albert.
Since then, the couple has settled into its two-homeland lifestyle. When Albert and Ine are not using the home in Crete themselves to relax and enjoy the warmer temperatures, they rent it out. The home is called Villa Oniriko (which means dreamlike in Greek) and has proved to be very popular with tourists looking for short term accommodation. Data shows that Crete is among the most popular holiday destinations in Europe this year, which promises to be a big tourism year for the whole of Greece.
The home has started paying itself off and is more successful than Albert and Ine could have imagined.
“In August 2021 we were able to start renting out the villa. That was after the coronavirus and we had no idea what to expect. Would people still travel? But right from the start the rental went well beyond expectations. For the first year of rental (2022), we are fully booked for the entire high season. We really couldn’t have imagined that,” he said.
But like all experiences, one does look back to see what went right and what went wrong. Doing business in a new country can pose many challenges. Working with Elxis was a key part of making the home purchase – and rental – in Greece successful, says Albert.
If he had the chance to do it all again, would Albert change anything? What would he improve upon?
“I really can’t think of one thing I would do differently,” he says.