Once we had decided to buy a second home to spend our holidays in with the children, we asked ourselves “what exactly do we want?” We decided to make an analysis for ourselves as to what would be wise.
The first question is what exactly do we want during the holidays and what do we want in the future. Our children are still young, 8, 12 and 14 years old and do not have many demands yet, but that will come when they get older. We would like to take them with us for as long as possible. If you start from one place to go on holiday, there must be something you can visit in the coming years. The children will also come of age when they want to go to a disco or lounge around.
A second question was: “What do we want after the age of 65, when we want to live more permanently in a sunny country? Even then you don’t want to get bored of a place quickly.
A follow-up question is: where do we like to go on holiday? What are we looking for in a country? What is the national character like? Do you always have to be afraid that something will happen to your house or can you leave it alone for a few months with peace of mind?
Also, as a future second home owner, you are looking for a piece of security, not to be confronted with the horror stories that you read in the newspaper every now and then. What kind of security can you build in and what happens in a country or region? Will your house be built according to the local requirements? Is it allowed to stand on that spot and has a legally valid building permit been issued?
Terrorism is also becoming more and more common, unfortunately also in holiday resorts. what about in the place where you want to build?
Price levels also play an important role. Of course, there are many beautiful places in Europe and beyond. What will you pay for your dream home in those different places? Are groceries and eating out affordable?
Travel and travel costs also play an important role. Do I absolutely want to travel by car or would it be more convenient to travel by plane? Do the costs, travel time and comfort of the car versus the plane outweigh each other? In our situation, the difference in the price of houses between the two areas we wanted to choose from was so big that we could have spent the difference flying up and down the country with the whole family for another 50 years.
Once you have chosen your country and region, the next step is to decide on the exact location and your requirements. Do we want a sea view, should we be able to walk to the beach or the city? Do I always want to rent or buy a car, or should I be able to do without? Do I want the hustle and bustle of the city or the peace and charm of a village? What should the facilities in the village be? Do I want to be able to walk to the supermarket and restaurant?
The tranquillity of a particular location is also important. How far away should the next houses be? Are there busy roads nearby? Are there many obstacles in the view and what is the chance that they will be there? A location is often visited during the day, but it is a good suggestion to go and have a look in the evening and let the atmosphere and sounds sink in.
Then of course there is the choice of contractor or project developer. Reputation is one thing, but positive references are even more important. Does the company have a representative in the Netherlands and what do you agree on communication? What can be changed in the house and what are the costs. What are the delivery dates and is there a possibility for compensation or termination if it takes too long? You also need to be clear about how “fixed” a price is and what the completion level of a house is. Will you need to have everything tiled afterwards and will it have a kitchen or bathroom that you like?
Of course, you don’t have to have a house built like we did. Especially now, there is a lot for sale so ask yourself the question do I want to build or do I buy something existing that may not be to my liking but that I can move into in the short term.
Second home fairs are, of course, an excellent source of inspiration for buying a second home, but it is even more important to go and have a look, take a holiday somewhere for a few weeks and have a thorough look around.
Of course, everyone has their own preferences and needs and there are probably many more questions you could ask yourself. The important thing is to make an important decision that you feel good about now and in the future. Take time to analyse what you want and find out where you can best fulfil your requirements. After all, a Dutch expression states: “Look before you leap”.
For ourselves, we answered these questions as follows and decided to build a house in Crete.
We had been enthusiastic Greece-goers for years during our holidays, so it was obvious to include Greece in our considerations. We also thought about Spain (too crowded at the Costa’s) and Italy (detached houses are twice as expensive here) because they are a bit easier to reach by car.
When I saw an advertisement by Elxis in a copy of Greece Magazine at a car glass repair shop, I quickly made an appointment with them. During the first meeting, they took away a lot of my doubts by saying that they would actively guide me through the whole process from purchase to completion. They were also able to make appointments for me with various contractors and inform them in advance of what I was looking for.
Once the choice of Greece was made, the second question arose: where, which region? I like to see a lot of cultural things but my children prefer to go to the beach, a lake or an amusement park. They are still small now, but I expect that later they will want to go out as well. On the one hand, I find peace and quiet important, but on the other hand, I also like to look for the hustle and bustle of the city. Sea view from the terrace was also a requirement.
The conclusion was that it should be a large and versatile island. Unfortunately, one of my favourite islands, Santorini, fell by the wayside – too small. The largest island we had ever been to was Crete and we always found Crete to be very versatile. The east side of Crete was not suitable for us because it is very touristy. The west side has two large cities, Rethimno and Chania and we decided that our dream house should be in one of these two regions.
Via Elxis, we quickly made an appointment with the project developer. After talking to the director about construction methods, his philosophy on locations and the ready-made designs, they showed us a number of possible locations for construction. I also visited a number of houses that were ready or almost ready. Of course, I also visited other builders and locations and considered buying a piece of land first. However, the developer’s concept appealed to us the most. Most of the locations they offer are at the edge of a village and not too far away from the town of Rethimno.
In the end, it took us about a year before we finally made our decision during a visit to the Second Home Fair. We eventually signed two agreements. One with the project developer for the construction and one with Elxis for the supervision. Elxis also instructed the local Greek lawyer who, among other things, arranged the transfer at the notary. A Dutch translation of all contracts was also provided. We made further agreements with the construction company about things like the tiling, the kitchen and the bathroom. What struck me was that the “extra work” for the house was actually minimal because a lot was already included as standard, up to the exterior lighting and tiled terraces.
In the summer of 2008, our house was delivered on time and as agreed, including connections to water and electricity. It has indeed become the dream house that we had in mind and we have already spent several enjoyable holidays in it with our children. It is situated on the edge of the quiet authentic Greek village of Prines, about six kilometres from Rethimno. On the one hand the peace and quiet of a village without tourism and on the other hand the hustle and bustle of the city, exactly what we were looking for.