The country’s four systemic banks have evolved into some of the biggest property owners in Greece, obtaining ownership of assets worth over 40 billion euros in the past few years.
The majority are properties that came under the banks’ full ownership mainly from being the collateral used by borrowers – households and enterprises – who failed to repay their debts. There also are properties used to house bank branches that were shut down, assets belonging to banks’ subsidiaries of banks, etc.
According to bank officials, the acquisition of these properties has met all the legal requirements and they do not include assets stemming from nonperforming loans created during the years of crisis, originating, instead, from previous years.
Banks are examining various ways to sell them off – including the use of an online platform for investors – so as to be rid of the heavy maintenance costs, to capitalize on the assets and to obtain liquidity that can then be channeled into the economy through loans. Certain lenders are at an advanced stage in the creation of such a platform, aiming to launch the first auctions some time in June.
It is estimated that if banks manage to attract foreign investors this could revitalize the Greek property market, which has contracted dramatically in recent years due to the prolonged recession. From 250,000 transactions in 2007, the market dropped to just 20,000 in 2014.
Banks have already engaged in certain transactions, selling some small or large properties (such as hotels) to foreign investors. However, more extensive activity,requires other procedures, which would also be simple and transparent. Electronic auctions appear as the best way forward, as they are open, do not require the seller’s physical presence and have low costs, while also keeping out the “vultures” that take advantage of the lack of transparency in conventional auctions.
The online platforms will include all the main details of each asset, while potential buyers will be allowed to visit the properties on offer and submit their offers online on certain dates.
Bank officials tell Kathimerini that one such platform in the US has sold over 200,000 properties worth $34 million to investors from more than 100 countries in the last decade.