Greece: When Bob Simpson left his native Aberdeen, a bustling port
in northeastern Scotland, for a sleepy coastal suburb of Athens, he was
keen to trade his job in offshore oil drilling for a more relaxed life
in a warmer climate.
later, he says he has gotten more than he ever hoped for.
closer to the Greek capital have been choked by residential and
commercial development, the sparsely populated Lagonisi remains
virtually unspoiled and the value of his home has soared.
very lucky - we're in the midst of olive groves and vineyards, but we
can be in central Athens in half an hour and at the airport in 20
minutes," said Simpson, 57, during a recent tour of the property,
some 30 kilometers, or 19 miles, southeast of the city.
Simpson and his Greek wife, Sofia, also 57, paid the equivalent of €60,000,
or $80,000, for more than 8,000 square meters, or 2 acres, of land, set
in a valley between the mountains and the coastline of the Saronic Gulf.
They spent the next 10 years building their five-bedroom villa in
stages, finally moving in 2000.
As for the
cost of construction, "I gave up counting after a while," Bob
investment appears to have been a smart retirement plan: The property
now would be worth €3.5 million, according to Holystone Property
Development and Management Consultants, a local real estate agency.
peach-colored villa, a blend of traditional and modern Greek styles, is
surrounded by a large garden with orange, lemon and grapefruit trees, as
well as a swimming pool and tennis court. But tennis has taken a back
seat to golf, which the couple, both avid players, practice in nearby
Glyfada, an affluent suburb with one of the few courses in the country.
spend a lot of time in the garden: When not entertaining friends, they
prune. "It's pretty low maintenance - we do most of it ourselves,"
Bob Simpson said.
house is spread over 400 square meters, or 4,300 square feet, its two
wings linked by an internal bridge. Inside, there are stone floors
throughout the villa and large windows that bathe the rooms in light.
bedrooms on the first floor open onto generous balconies with sweeping
views of the surrounding olive groves that stretch to the sea. Three of
the bedrooms have their own bathrooms and there are two additional
also has a studio apartment in the attic and a self-contained apartment
and airy conservatory on the ground floor.
real estate agents, a steady number of foreigners and Greeks are
expressing interest in building such luxury homes in Lagonisi, which,
with just 400 or so residents, remains one of the few coastal suburbs of
Athens with room for development.
for upper-end villas in Lagonisi is still strong despite a projected
drop in many other areas, in line with the economic crisis," said
Tim Hughes of King Hellas, an Athens-based international property
attraction is that the location is secluded, yet accessible, he said.
And demand is expected to sharpen even more as restaurants and boutiques
are being added to the main waterfront area and the road leading to the
airport is being improved, he said.
estimate the cost of building a luxury home in Lagonisi at €1,500 to
€2,000 per square meter, or $187 to $248 per square foot, similar to
costs in much of Athens and the Aegean islands but cheaper than in
affluent suburbs of the capital, where space is restricted and
construction is more expensive.
As for land
prices, they "vary wildly," depending on the size and
location, Hughes said. Sale prices also vary according to the plot's
size and location. Most top-end homes sell for €1 million to €3
million, he said.
said the experience of building the villa was relatively stress-free. He
hired an architect and civil engineer at the outset and found tradesmen
for the smaller jobs by word of mouth. Overall, he attributed the
success to constant supervision: "We were the project managers; we
were here all the time," he said.
against paying for work in advance - "you'll be bumped down the
list of priorities" - and said that Greece's notorious bureaucracy
and the tendency to bend rules can be daunting. "It's tough not
having reliable guidelines - the truth often depends on who you talk
patience seems to have paid off. The house now rents for £5,500, or
$8,000, per week during the peak summer period.
decided to advertise their home for rent after accommodating the U.S.
equestrian federation's delegation during the 2004 Games in Athens.
"The Olympics got us started," said Bob Simpson, who relies on
an agency in Britain to organize rentals. "Our guests enjoyed
themselves so much that we wanted to do it again."
also has found another way to use the property, thanks to the
connections of their 29-year-old daughter Julia, a fashion stylist. The
occasional splashes of orange and blue paint on the villa's otherwise
white interior walls are the work of a Greek television production
company, which will be using the house as the set of a new TV series,
due to air in early February.
transforming his home into a TV set had been unexpected but most welcome.
"It's been a lot of fun," he said, "and it's another way
of making the most of the house."