Before the lockdown measures came into force, it would take up to three visits in a week to a Citizens’ Service Center (KEP) for the head of a major property group to obtain a document certifying the validity of his signature – one of the dozens of documents even large enterprises have to collect in order to perform a property transaction.
“Were we able to electronically sign – as has been done abroad for years – our day-to-day work would have been much easier,” notes one property market official. This problem has now been resolved, with the introduction of online signature, but this alone is not enough.
Property transactions were among the economic activities forced into lockdown status. Market professionals note that there are so many procedures required and so many agencies involved that it is practically impossible to complete a transaction remotely. There could still be some progress in lightening the load of documents buyers and sellers have to obtain, so as to accelerate transactions and reduce the administrative costs for large enterprises and banks, estimated at several million euros.
Aris Karytinos, chief executive officer at Prodea Investments, which controls a property portfolio of over 2 billion euros, tells Kathimerini that “the confirmation of identity can’t even be done by notaries; while we entrust these professionals to process agreements worth millions of euros, we do not trust them for something so simple!”
He adds that the massive amount of bureaucracy in the property market does not allow for the online completion of transactions: “When you have the involvement of tax offices, land registries, cadaster offices, town planning authorities and even forestry authorities, it is practically impossible to speak of cutting red tape in transactions,” argues Karytinos.
Lefteris Potamianos, president of the Athens-Attica Estate Agents Association, says that “there have recently been some efforts to digitalize certain procedures, such as the confirmation of signatures, which is now done electronically – but many more steps are necessary to speed up the process to complete a transaction that today still takes several months.”