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One third of land in debt-ridden Greece is up for sale

John Kolesidis / Reuters

A man walks next to policemen outside an Eurobank branch in Athens, March 21.

One third of all land in Greece is up for sale as the debt-crippled country tries to raise money from state assets, a state official reportedly said Wednesday – but little of it will help those wanting to snap up a dream home in the sunshine.

Greek authorities are touting billions of euros worth of government-owned land in order to finance international bailout loans totaling $227 billion over the next few years.

However, most of the sites are in industrial zones or tied to facilities such as airports, highways and energy firms, according to a report by Turkey-based news Web site Hurriyet Daily News.

The report said Greece is targeting its immediate neighbor, Turkey, as potentially a large source of investment.

“One third of Greek land is on sale,” the report quoted Panos Protopsaltis, head of the Privatization Program of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund, as saying.

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The organization is offering some 50 billion euros worth of assets for sale, and hopes to generate nearly 19 billion euros in cash by as early as 2015, the report added.

A truck assembly plant, sewage works and ports are also up for grabs, along with land on some of the country’s islands popular with tourists.

But tough rules on property transactions in Greece, coupled with an absence of spare land in the most sought-after areas, make it unlikely the country will see a huge influx of private buyers looking to take advantage of the 30 per cent drop in house prices over the past three years.

“Unless you have the cash to buy outright it is very difficult because the Greek banks simply aren’t lending,” UK-based property investment consultant Simon Conn told msnbc.com. “In addition, there are requirements such as having the legal documents translated into your own language. Also, buyers need to be careful. There is a reason a piece of land or building plot is up for sale in the first place; if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

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There are also concerns Greece could suffer further economic difficulties in the future, making it a risky proposition for anyone wanting a holiday home in the sun.

A spokesman for Internet property site Rightmove Overseas told msnbc.com: "When the Greek economy first hit the news back in June 2011, we saw a jump of 50 per cent in searches for Greek island based properties compared to the month before. Greece has been in the top 10 most popular countries ever since, potentially fuelled by speculative investors looking for a low priced investment opportunity.

"However, we see Greece mainly as an opportunity for experienced investors; if you want to buy an office block in Athens, rather than a retirement home overlooking the sea, then now is a suitable opportunity."

Cartoon: Greece bailout

Greece has recently received the first installments of its rescue loans, including $7.8 billion from countries that are in the Euro currency zone and a further $2.1 billion from the International Monetary Fund.

In exchange for the support, Greece has agreed to deeply unpopular austerity measures such as cuts to wages and public services, including hospitals.

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