Greece is among the countries in Europe with the highest number of empty apartments, found a study released by the Institute for Research and Social Change – Eteron.
According to the Athens-based research company, there are currently more than 750,000 closed apartments in Greece which could have been used to address the rising housing problem exacerbated by the Airbnb phenomenon. Indicatively, in 2022, the number of properties available online for short-term tourist rental increased to 144,857 from 136,658 in pre-pandemic 2019.
According to Eteron data, in 2011, 31 percent of all homes in Athens were empty or not in use, 28 percent in Piraeus, and 28.2 percent in Thessaloniki. At the same time, the lack of availability of long-term rentals has sent rents soaring: up by 50 percent in Athens compared to 2017 and by 30-40 percent in Thessaloniki, Patra and Volos.
According to RE/MAX Hellas, average rents increased by 12 percent in the October 2021-October 2022 period and more specifically by 8.6 percent in Attica, 11.4 percent in the center of Athens, 13 percent in the southern Attica suburbs, and by 15.1 percent in Thessaloniki.
Eteron describes the high number of vacant homes in urban areas and the non-utilization of available building resources as “scandalous” particularly at a time of increasing housing problems.
However, one of the main reasons many owners prefer to keep their properties vacant has do with poor legal coverage when it comes to tenants who fail to pay or cause damages as well as the inability to find funds to maintain or renovate.
Additionally, many of the apartments, particularly in urban areas are used occasionally by owners as secondary homes. And lastly, many of the homes that appear to be vacant are being used for undeclared Airbnb activity or for personal professional use.
Many Greeks chose to withdraw from the long-term market and to rent out their properties as Airbnbs in order to secure higher income, particularly in high-demand areas such as central Athens and Koukaki, which drove rents upward. In 2019, home sale prices in Koukaki rose by 93 percent and rents by 58.5 percent from 2016 to 2018, a result of the Airbnb boom. Some neighborhoods like Psyrri are now evolving into exclusively tourist areas with more buyers investing in short-term rentals, boutique hotels and accommodation facilities.