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What makes for a successful, hassle-free move to Athens?

My 19 years of living in Greece as well as 10 years in the real estate business have provided me with some valuable experience - most importantly that living in a city like Athens can be a joy. Many people panic at the idea of relocating to Athens, but not to worry, life bustles along here and, frankly, Athens is a city that is easy to understand. One major difficulty is its transport network, which is less developed than that in other European capitals. In fact, it only has three subway lines, as well as one much older underground train system, the so-called "Electriko" in Greek, which runs from the northern suburbs down to the southern port of Piraeus and is the oldest line in Greece, established in 1869. Of course, there is an extensive network of buses and, for residents of the city center, the tram network, which also serves the southern suburbs as far as Glyfada. And there are the electric trolley buses as well, so all in all, there is a fairly dense, if disperse, transport grid. One should remember that each area of the city has its own nucleus: It is possble to find everything neccessary for daily living quite close to home. Of course, there are some districts that are mostly residential and, in these cases, a car is essential. But contrary to popular belief, driving in Athens is far less frustrating than in other capitals.
Ideally, one should allow three to four days for any initial scouting visit to Athens to get a basic idea of the capitals main districts and the trip should take place two to three months before the planned relocation date as most tenants give two months notice before departure. It is likely best to take the opportunity to visit without children in tow, especially if they are of a young age, as these visits are often more tiring than one can imagine.
On the scouting trip, one should take the time to discover ALL the possible areas that may be of interest to you. Often one gets advice from friends or colleagues already in the country whose intentions are to "help" with your search. Certainly, any information is welcome, but keep in mind that you alone are able to comprehend what is best for your family. In fact, some quite lovely neighborhoods are overlooked by the expatriate community... Feel free to examine in advance a map of Athens, identify what areas you may be interested in, from where your childs school may be, or work, or other interests and then fan out to help choose the area you may want. Try to visit some neighborhoods not suggested or preferred by the ex-pat community but which neverthe-less could be perfect for you And, finally, remember that although a European capital, Athens still remains a Mediterranean city: It is possible that you may have to adjust your requirements when considering architectural style or age of construction. It is crucial that we should in no way compare what we are used to at home with what one finds in Athens or elsewhere. It is also certainly one of the charms of expatriation to discover a different way of life.
Concerning the details of any lease when renting an apartment or villa in Athens, one should examine the fine print and get all information concerning added expenses (i.e. shared costs, electricity and other utilities) in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises once the contract is signed. But this is also the role of a good real estate agency. And finally, there are no stupid questions when it comes to moving countries because the guidelines are not the same and, at least at the start, nothing is clear!!
Ellen Sannier Director Mobilia real estate