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I’m moving, because ... I’m getting poor

05 February 2012 / 17:02:20  GRReporter
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Greeks are running away. The economic crisis is driving them to migration, both internal and external. Some leave the cities and return to their villages. Others empty out their expensive suburb apartments and return to the impoverished neighbourhood of their parents. If the crisis has not affected them so much, they stay in the prestigious neighbourhoods, but move to cheaper apartments. Anyway, now the available real estate is immense. There are also those who emigrate at an old age for the second time. Estimates from the first eight months of 2011 show that the number of people, who have moved, has increased by 15 -20 percent.

He left for Australia during the 1950s. He lived and worked there until the middle of the last decade. Now a pensioner he has returned to his homeland to spend the rest of his days there.

"Years ago, when he returned to Greece we took care of the transportation of his things. Recently he moved his household belongings back, this time to Australia," says Nikos Falieros, head of a transport company.

This time, the emigrant has moved to Australia permanently, selling his beautiful house in Marathonas and all his other properties.

"As he said he was receiving a pension of about 2 000 Australian dollars and it was not enough to pay his taxes here in Greece. Surely they would have soon imposed a tax on his pension as well", notes Falieros.

“Immigrants who had returned and whose families are still abroad, leave for Germany, Canada, USA and others," he added.

According to him the number of people who are moving has increased significantly. "Up until last summer I believed that the increase was 15- 20 percent compared to previous years. The difference is that in 2006 and 2007 - the golden period of relocation – we were moving them to penthouses in expensive suburbs, and now we are moving them back to Kipseli and Patisia,” explains Falieros.

Moving with ... a pickup truck

In recent months, although many people have been moving, most of them prefer to do it themselves without hiring a moving company.

"The most they would ask for is a lift or a worker. They have no money even to move", underlines Falieros and agreeing with him is also the chairman of the Federation of Regional Freight Transport Thanassis Poulopoulos. "We charge 300 Euros in order to move a three bedroom apartment with four employees, and still they prefer to do it by themselves with pickup trucks or any other vehicle they can find", says Poulopoulos, adding that for the last year the market has been dying out.

"Lately, even transport companies are moving to the country. Many colleagues have returned to their villages, because there are no jobs," he says.

Those who do not have villages to go back to, try to "squeeze into" smaller and cheaper homes, in studios or even basements.

A typical example is a transport company in Athens, which has a storage area of 1,500 square metres and it is already full. As the boss says, the warehouse holds the furniture of about 200 families. "Many families are not moving from three bedroom apartments to studios. In such a case there is no room for all their furniture in their new home and they leave it in storage with us. But they cannot even pay the 100 Euros per month storage costs for a three bedroom apartment", he said.

However, many people leave their belongings in storage, because they leave to work abroad.

"When someone has friends who can help him find a job abroad, he leaves. Also the ones working in multinational companies – they try to get transferred. Recently I had a client who left for Dubai," said Falieros.

Return to the native places

The ratio of moving from Athens to the countryside and vice versa has changed as well. As Thanassis Poulopoulos says: “If in 2010 from 100 relocations, 80 were to Athens, then in 2011 - 80 were to the countryside."

A typical example is a 40-year-old man, head of a family, who was fired late last spring. Several days later his wife was left unemployed as well.

Chased by their debts, without thinking, because they had no choice, they left Athens and went to Agrinio, where they had a tumble-down house, so as to begin their lives again.

"When we got there and I saw the house - no doors or heating - I was shocked, I asked him: "How are you going to live here with two small children?". "I will try to patch it up. By winter it will be habitable," he replied. In any case, he still has not paid me the money for the move", says Poulopoulos.

From four to two bedroom apartments

Over the past three years, as claims the Chairman of the Federation of civil contract brokers Ioannis Revitis, the financial parameters of the homes of Greek citizens have decreased by approximately 15 percent, independently of whether they are for sale or rent. "In this percentage I include those who have either sold their apartment and moved to a smaller one, or have left the high-rent apartment and moved to one with a lower rent, and also those who have negotiated a rent reduction", indicated Revitis.

45-year-old Tina has chosen to return to her own small apartment where she was living as a student, although she is still working as an accountant at a private school and her husband has a small law firm.

Both still have their jobs but their income has decreased significantly. The salary at the school was reduced by 25 percent, and customers in the firm are very few. "We were renting a 70 square meters apartment and the two bedroom one we own - less than 50 square meters - we gave to my sister. Although we have a kid in high school, we decided to go back to the two bedroom apartment," says Tina. Her sister moved to her mother’s home and the three-member family settled in the two bedroom apartment. "Our son lives in the one bedroom we have and we sleep on the couch in the living room. Fortunately the apartment has a large balcony, which we closed off and turned into storage. We could not manage to pay two rents - for the apartment and the office", concludes 45-year-old Tina.

And all this given that during the last three years, according to Revitis, prices both in sales and rentals of real estate have fallen by nearly 30 percent (7 percent in 2009, 8 percent in 2010 and 12 percent in 2011).

However, as noted by the President of the Hellenic Federation of property owners Stratos Paradias, in respect to offices, “there are more uninhabited ones than rented ones. At the same time an increase in the tax assessment was announced...".

The same is confirmed also by Nikos Falieros. "A record relocation has been noted also in companies. When they used to have a staff of 50, now half have left and companies look for smaller and cheaper offices. It is enough to take a glance at the empty buildings on "Syngrou" or "Kifissias' Avenues," he says.

Overall, according to a study conducted by "Kapa Research", presented at the 29th Congress of the Hellenic Federation of property owners, the income of owners (94 percent) in the last two years has been reduced either because the property had remained unrented, or because rents were reduced and this reduction reached 20 -30 percent in more than half of the cases.

The crisis eats...square metres

Moving to your father's house or to your children's home, workplaces, which, if not closed become apartments... Such cases are occurring more and more often. Meanwhile, apartments and shops remain vacant, and owners who still have tenants are willing to make generous rent reductions in order to keep them.

Here's what two ladies say, who because of the crisis have been forced to introduce changes in their lives related to their home.

Αnna Evangelidou

"I offer my services for free”

About a month ago Anna Evangelidou, businesswoman, decided to move her office to her home. "I had the bad luck to start a business in the midst of the crisis. When two years ago I told the owner of the apartment where I live that I wanted to use it as an office as well, he asked for an increase in rent. I decided to rent a studio and accept my clients there. The rent was 350 Euros, overheads - about 150 Euros per month, both means that I could no longer afford. This is how I decided to move my office to my home. This time not only did the owner not request an increase, but when I warned him that I would leave, he reduced my rent by 100 Euros ", says Anna. "Everyone tries to restrict their fixed costs and rent is one of the most significant ones. Personally, in the midst of crisis I sometimes prefer to offer my services for free to those who need it, hoping to keep my customers until the situation improves."

Stavroula Kotaki

"We have still not seen the last act of the drama”

Stavroula Kotaki has not moved because of the crisis itself. "My mother was living in her own home. She rented it out and moved in with us. One reason for this decision was the financial aspect of things," she says. "That does not mean, however, that our income increased, quite the opposite. Tax increases and all other additional charges such as property taxes followed, resulting in the disappearance of the additional income from the rent", she notes. Stavroula is the director of the Social Service in Iliopouli Municipality, a service, which due to the economic crisis started accepting more visitors. “Cases such as domestic violence have increased significantly and we associate this with the crisis. Also, residents in nursing homes have decreased, and this is because many families have decided to take back home those older people in order to have the extra income from their pensions. In any case we still have not seen the last act of the drama. Things will keep getting worse."

Tags: crisis Greece apartments rent moving poverty poor
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