Vultures rule the roost

Throughout Attica, there are about 300 vultures preying on auction sales of seized property. As a group, they are representative of all sectors of society. There are those who go for valuable properties and charge up to 15,000 euros to withdraw from an auction. There are those who prefer smaller properties and who earn a mere pittance for the two hours the auction lasts – about 150 euros. They may range from real estate agents to florists. And since the profession is highly profitable – and tolerated by the State – it is handed on from father to son, and daughter. The vultures virtually rule the auction world. When a television crew went to a town hall last year to film an auction, a chief vulture said: «Get out, otherwise we’ll shove your camera up your a… » But how do they behave inside the (usually drab) room where the auction takes place? The vultures turn up bearing a large amount of cash and checks (since each auction session usually deals with a number of properties). The checks are given to the notary public as a guarantee so that they can take part in the auction. The right to participate is valued at a third of the initial bidding figure. All vultures submit a check as a guarantee, which they can then use as a lever in the game of withdrawal from the race. When there are outsiders in the room (the debtors, their relatives or other interested parties), they take them aside and the bargaining begins. «What will you give us to withdraw from the auction? We have a prospective purchaser but if you give us something, we will leave.» In other cases, the vultures, through a «representative,» come to a prior agreement with the interested party, who is an outsider. He or she acquires the property at a very high final price (often close to the real value of the property, if it is a home), counting the commission paid to the vulture. When the battle is fought among the vultures themselves, prices are much lower. A few months later, the property is sold on the open market and the vulture makes a killing. In recent years, Albanians have also joined the ranks of Greek vultures.