Andrew Watrous is promoting his villa on Paxos, after transferring to the Greek island from Devon 35 years in the past together with his spouse Liz and 5 youngsters. He describes mornings waking the kids early and strolling throughout the secluded seashore in entrance of their home “to swim out to the rock opposite and watch the dolphins” earlier than canoeing to the native café to top off on pastries. “The whole vibe is relaxed and bohemian,” says Watrous, 66.
“In Paxos’s three towns [Gaios, Loggos and Lakka], fishermen continue to fish in the way they have for hundreds of years and the pace of life is like being in a time warp,” says Watrous.
But in some respects, the island is unrecognisable from the way it was 35 years in the past. Since the pandemic started, super-rich patrons have been paying unprecedented sums to lease, construct or purchase on the island. Watrous rents his villa out for €21,000 every week in summer time. It is on sale for €5.5mn, a worth that places it on par with the costliest properties bought on Paxos — two €5mn gross sales final yr went to British patrons, says Savvas Savvaidis, president and chief government of Greece Sotheby’s International Realty. “Before that, the record price for Paxos was €1.8mn,” he says.
Watrous has nearer ties with Paxos’s transformation than most. His late father, a former head of the BBC’s African service, started renting the villa close to Loggos within the late Fifties, and later purchased it. “This was before electricity, when drinking water was limited. It took five hours to get to Corfu by boat,” says Watrous of a crossing that now takes half an hour by hydrofoil.
His father anticipated the affect a brand new airport in Corfu — which opened in 1963 — would have on driving tourism to the islands, and he left his job to launch the Greek Islands Club, a vacation rental assortment that included the primary rental properties on this tiny island, which is simply 10km lengthy by 4km large.
Today, Savvaidis says his patrons within the Ionian Islands usually have budgets between €5mn and €20mn — and that such purchases shall be at the least their fourth house.
His company experiences a 300 per cent rise in transaction ranges within the Ionian Islands since 2019 — and annual worth will increase of 4.5 per cent in 2020 and 6.8 per cent in 2021. The Ionian market is fuelled by rich overseas patrons, he says, fairly than “rich Greeks” (who are inclined to desire “status symbol” Mykonos). “[Foreign buyers] want a pristine island, with no noise, no neighbours. They want to look at the sky and see the stars, and they want a house that will blow their mind,” Savvaidis provides.
British and American patrons dominate demand for villas on Paxos, the place costs have risen 15 to twenty per cent because the begin of the pandemic and demand has been notably sturdy prior to now three months, says Sarah Marzocchi, an affiliate at Savills Greece in Corfu. “It feels like everyone is in a rush,” she says.
While Golden Visa patrons — who obtain a renewable five-year residency in return for a minimal property funding of €250,000 — are considerable on Corfu (“where you’ll need at least €400,000 for a decent two-bed apartment or a small villa”, says Marzocchi), Paxos tends to draw life-style patrons. “It’s less densely developed than Corfu,” she says, “but much of the land is protected greenery so there are very few plots.”
Then there are the logistical hurdles to beat: “If you buy a plot and build your own home, it will take about two years due to the issues of getting materials from Athens or elsewhere in Greece, and navigating the small rural roads. Prices are also high. What costs €1 in Athens will cost €4 to get to Paxos.”
Wealthy patrons and their huge homes additionally pose environmental challenges on a small island reminiscent of Paxos. Italian occasions supervisor Marina Tomacelli, 44, has identified the island all her life. The founding father of the Paxos Biennale — the newest version of which takes place this summer time, when worldwide artists will create free, open-air artworks in coves, olive groves, even bus shelters — lives in a former wreck she renovated throughout lockdown in an olive grove in Bogdanatika, close to the tiny capital of Gaios.
She says she is commonly shocked to search out locations she didn’t know existed on Paxos — “a hidden valley, or monopati, the old donkey paths that have been restored”. But what come as no shock each summer time, she provides, are the water shortages.
“During lockdown, people have been building big James Bond-like modern villas with huge swimming pools, and they rent them out to people who don’t care how much water they use,” she says. “Local people feel very strongly about water, and also about overuse of plastic and too much waste. It’s crazy consumption society put into a small island and we don’t have the infrastructure to deal with it.”
Another native resident, Victoria Turner, who has lived on Paxos on and off for 40 years in a “tiny house on a cliff edge above Lakka bay”, remembers studying to gather her every day quota of water as a toddler from the sterna (the underground tank). “There was no refilling it. We had to be meticulously careful not to waste water,” she says.
“I am astounded by the number of swimming pools, power showers and labour-saving devices in luxury villas on an island with a desperate water shortage,” provides Turner, who, as government director of the Ionian Environment Foundation, co-founded by Ben Goldsmith, is creating an initiative on Paxos and Corfu to encourage villa house owners and different companies to adapt their properties to preserve water and power, and to put in waste separation and composting services. It will, she hopes, “reduce the negative environmental impacts of the tourism from which they thrive each summer”.
She can also be hoping to deal with the automotive downside. “Paxos is handed over to visitors in summer. It becomes impossible to park here and the small winding roads are dangerously busy,” she says, citing the instance of Chalki, an Aegean island whose rent automobiles are all electrical and charged by photo voltaic power.
But Turner acknowledges the dilemma locals face. “They care, of course, [about the environment] but they also understandably care about making a living during a very short working season to survive through the winter.”
“What has changed [since the pandemic] is the purpose for which rich foreigners choose Paxos to build a villa,” says Spyros Vlachopoulos, Paxos’s mayor. “Today, they are not looking for a place to rest but a place to invest . . . Investors of this kind are not particularly interested in the environmental footprint of their buildings, and unfortunately tend to go beyond the existing rules. And constructions of this type require very large amounts of water and energy, and significantly burden the infrastructure of the island.”
Vlachopoulos acknowledges that the native financial system has benefited from overseas property patrons “in difficult times”. He provides: “I think we are at a crossroads where there is no tension between investors and locals, but there is concern about the development of the real estate market in future. We are always on the alert to intervene appropriately, if needed.”
But Andreas Kouroupis, co-founder of the environmental safety group Volunteers of Paxos, says there’s “indifference” amongst some locals, and the native authorities, in preserving their land. “There is a complete lack of interest. The development in the last five years has been very fast . . . New buildings are not following the traditional character and colours of Paxos. The thirst of the locals for money is resulting in the fast destruction of Paxos’s nature.”
What you should purchase . . .
Four-bedroom villa, Gaios, €1.25mn
A two-bedroom most important home with two visitor homes within the grounds. The property, which has 270 sq m of residing house in complete, has a lovely backyard and is a five-minute stroll from the closest seashore — and half-hour from Corfu by ferry. Available with Savills.
Two villas, Kastanida, €1.4mn
Two two-bedroom properties on Paxos’s west coast with improbable sea views. The properties each have their very own swimming swimming pools and roof terraces. The mixed residing space is just below 400 sq m, with a complete plot dimension of about half an acre. Available with Chestertons.
Eight-bedroom villa, Loggos, €2.8mn
A waterside villa and visitor home which have been divided into separate flats. Dating again to 1865, the 245-sq m most important home has a big patio with views of the ocean. There is 439 sq m of residing house in complete. Available with Greece Sotheby’s International Realty.
Buying prices in Greece are about 8-8.5 per cent of the property’s worth, together with a 3 per cent switch tax.
In Greece’s recalculated actual property values, which decide how a lot switch tax patrons pay, the Ionian island of Ithaca has risen most in worth — by 250 per cent to €2,100 per sq. metre. Mykonos rose 229 per cent to €3,950 per sq m.
Greece granted extra golden visas (1,035) than every other nation in 2021. Two-thirds of candidates have been Chinese and the scheme raised €311mn, in line with Enterprise Greece.