What are banks doing to help customers in the current economic climate?


There are statistics to prove it, however, we don’t need a show of figures to convince us that consumer confidence in the banking system and economy is currently at rock bottom. Nationwide have recently reported a pathetically positive 8% rise in their consumer confidence index lifting it from a record low of 51 to 55 and this last week also sees the interest rate fall an astounding 1.5%, a sure move to try to re-establish our desire to ‘spend’ by the Government and Bank of England. 

But we ask what are banks doing to actively help their customers in the current market conditions? Irini Tzortzoglou, Deputy Manager of Piraeus Bank UK (PBUK), who offer overseas mortgages (Bulgaria and Greece) and deposit account facilities, comments, “One of the effects of the recent world-wide crisis has been the education of consumers and we have all come to understand a bit more about how and where banks find the money they then lend to their customers. It is clear that despite the drop in base rates, it will take sometime and possibly another intervention from central banks before we see a significant drop in inter-bank lending rates and increased lending facilities. Until these changes take place, we have found that listening to customers and trying to accommodate their personal circumstances wherever possible is easier, faster and cheaper while gaining loyalty in our customers and job satisfaction in our staff.”
Despite being stringent with their underwriting criteria, meaning that they have reduced how much and who they lend to, PBUK’s steady and conservative approach has helped them maintain their secure financial position today, even being able to expand their business through bank acquisitions. Alistair Riddle, Credit Manager for PBUK adds, “If we stopped people going into debt they could not really afford to repay, I am personally very glad and we now find that the customers have more confidence and respect for us because of this.  Having said that, there is of course a number of customers who qualified for loans which we were very happy to make but who now struggle a little or simply feel insecure about.  In these instances we try to help as much as we can.”
“Where customers such as Andrew Banks, who have kept an impeccable payment record with the bank contacted us, we in appreciation, were more than happy to assist,” continues Alistair.
Andrew Banks: “Although my personal circumstances have not changed dramatically since I took out my loan, having lower monthly installments on my overseas mortgages is making a difference to my confidence levels for the next couple of years.  I am very pleased with the positive response I got from Piraeus Bank UK”.
Another customer of the Bank, G.P. a Financial Advisor from Bristol, says:
The one year interest-only period of my otherwise repayment mortgage was coming to an end.  Because my age does not permit a long term mortgage, the monthly instalments of capital and interest would mean €975 more which would be difficult for me to find in the current economic climate.  I contacted Piraeus Bank to ask to continue to pay only interest while I might find it difficult to source a few hundred Euros more per month.  I am very happy and grateful to Piraeus Bank for agreeing to this so I can now take my time to consider my options.”
Alistair Riddle advises, “Requests to change the terms of existing mortgages never fall on deaf ears at our Bank. We do look to be accommodating where possible, but we must ensure that the fundamentals of repayment capacity and sticking within our overall product parameters remain in place. Where, due to a change in circumstances, a customer can no longer meet the existing repayment obligations, we look in depth for possible solutions. It should be noted that there are instances where the sale of a property is the most beneficial solution for the customer. In these cases the Bank would far rather work with the customer than against and we are extremely proud that PBUK has not made a single Repossession Application to the Law Courts with regards to our Bulgarian and Greek mortgage customers.”
So why is PBUK willing to buck the trend and work with its customers? In a nutshell, PBUK uses traditional banking values such as making sure that from the outset the customer really can afford the proposed mortgage via a robust underwriting process by humans not machines while understanding and believing in the markets it operates in while using plain common-sense in its approach to business and customers alike.

‘Greece is the Word’: Greece voted the ‘Top Place To Go in 2009’ by Flight Centre


Greece has been ranked in poll position in Flight Centre’s ‘Top 10 Where To Go in 2009’ list. Based on the data revealing the destinations that have grown in popularity over the last year, Greece has been voted top thanks to its offering of an affordable holiday, delicious food at reasonable prices, cheap sailing, local wine, beautiful beaches, sunshine, quaint villages… and little islands full of scenic surprises”.

This recent accolade adds to the commendations that the country has received in recent months, with it also having done remarkably well in the World Travel Awards 2008, attaining awards for Europe’s Leading Beach Resort; Europe’s Leading Boutique Hotel; Europe’s Leading Spa Resort; and Europe’s Leading Conference Resort.
With these top awards increasing the appeal of the beautiful country, it is clear to see why the latest World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) report has also been mightily favourable for Greece. Figures for Travel & Tourism Economy GDP growth have shown a likely 3.7% for 2008, with an average 3.9% increase predicted annually for the next ten years. These figures show that Greece is a popular market, with an increasing tourist market. Irini Tzortzoglou, Head of Retail Banking for Piraeus Bank UK, who offers mortgages on Greek properties, agrees,
“Greece has always been an extremely popular choice for traditional holidays but more recently residential tourism has been gaining ground fast. The latest list of accolades achieved by the country has further still increased its popularity as one obvious but still fairly unexplored overseas property market. Accolades such as the one bestowed by the readers of Voyage magazine who voted Greece as  ‘Best Worldwide Destination’ at the 2008 International Tourist and Cultural Festival in Bejing-Chaoyang are adding to the interest Greece has been recently attracting.
“In the current economic climate it is encouraging to see such positive news announced from the travel and tourism sector. Greece is a firm favourite, and it looks likely to stay that way. There are many synergies between the travel and property industries and even if current economic conditions cast some doubt as to the absolute number of visitors expected next year, the popularity of the country is growing both as a tourism and second home destination. Piraeus Bank UK is very pleased to be in a financially secure position to assist those buyers with finance to purchase their Greek homes.
For more information on Piraeus Bank UK mortgage products and services call 0845 603 6538 or visit the website www.piraeusbank.co.uk.
——————— Ends ———————–
Notes to Editor:
Piraeus Bank is Greece’s fastest growing financial institution. Its international banking operations include an extensive branch network of over 540 branches in Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Egypt, Albania and USA, and corporate banking and specialist mortgage teams based in the City of London.
Piraeus Bank, London provides mortgage finance for property in Greece and Bulgaria, and helps buyers through the overseas property purchase process.
We offer:
§         Competitive Euro loans secured on the Greek or Bulgarian property
§         Specialist help throughout the buying process ~ in English
§         London based staff process your loan, backed by the Bank’s extensive resources in Greece and Bulgaria
§         We provide a quick decision in principle
§         Excellent foreign exchange terms on international fund transfers
(T) 0207 920 6000 or 0845 603 6538 (local rate)
Piraeus Bank S.A., London Branch, 8th Floor, Tower 42
25 Old Broad Street, London, EC2N 1HQ

Making our small print BIG


Scary! That is doubtless the feeling for many people seeking to arrange a mortgage to buy a property overseas. If it is daunting applying for a mortgage for a property in the UK, surely it must be harder yet to arrange one for a dream home or investment abroad?

The simple answer is no, it does not have to be like this. Like most things in life, it all depends on who you deal with. For instance, if you are looking to purchase a property in Greece or Bulgaria, you may well be getting your mortgage through Piraeus Bank, based in the UK.
At present, mortgages for overseas properties are not covered by the FSA regulations that cover UK mortgages. What this means is that any provider of mortgages overseas is under no requirement through UK legislation as to the level of information it provides or the service levels its customers receive.
Piraeus Bank in the UK however ensures that it provides as much information to its customers as possible, and stick to rigid and quick response times, to ensure that the customer is able to make informed decisions and always knows what information is required of him or her to move the application forward.
The whole process starts on-line. The Piraeus Bank UK website (www.piraeusbank.co.uk) clearly outlines the lending parameters for each country that it offers mortgages to, along with a guide to the particular country including tips and advice, foreign exchange, a concise guide as to the whole mortgage process and best of all, a very simple and clear tool for gaining an immediate initial credit approval for a mortgage.
Should the initial on-line decision prove positive, a full application should be submitted, along with the information as detailed within the application (standard proof of identification etc). This will allow the Overseas Mortgage Team to reply to the prospective customer within 48 hours of having received the Application.
Piraeus Bank UK realises that it is in its best interests to provide stress-free mortgages as simply as possible and therefore it even provides an email address where customers can contact the Overseas Mortgage Team direct with any concerns or questions and have them replied to within 24 hours. The Bank also makes sure that it liaises with the valuers, lawyers and vendors where possible to smooth out any issues.
So can miracles be performed? Sadly not. The full mortgage process will never be instant as there are too many parties involved – lawyers, valuers, banks and not least the purchaser and vendor, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be made easier. As long as anyone looking for an overseas mortgage remembers that in the UK it usually takes between 1 and 3 months to obtain a mortgage to purchase a UK property, plans accordingly, and is prepared to provide all the required information and documentation that is asked of them to help the process, then there is at least one Bank that is determined to make buying overseas property as simple as buying next-door.
For more information please contact the Overseas Mortgage team at Piraeus Bank UK on 0845 603 6538 or visit www.piraeusbank.co.uk.

Decision time for overseas mortgages (in principle)


With the internet now the first place most people visit when starting their search for a home overseas.  Piraeus Bank UK are now encouraging people to start their search for an overseas mortgage online too.

The newly launched Piraeus Bank UK website www.piraeusbank.co.uk has a useful “online decision system” for overseas mortgages which allows those thinking about financing their dream home to calculate how much they can raise.
It is wise, as with everything, that before you start a property search you consider what budget you are working to and if you need help from financial sources. Piraeus Bank UK’s new “online decision system” allows those looking into options for finance for an apartment or villa in Greece or Bulgaria to see how much help they can obtain in principle before committing to a purchase.
Not only this, but with all the mortgage product information you will need to fully research the financing of your second property overseas and a foreign exchange service available to make completing your final purchase as easy as possible, the Piraeus Bank UK website is the very best place to start your search for a new property abroad.
And with mortgage products to be available for Romania, Cyprus and Egypt in the coming months, Piraeus Bank UK will be helping ever-more people to secure their overseas property purchase.
For more information on the Piraeus Bank UK mortgage products and services visit the website www.piraeusbank.co.uk or call 0845 603 6538.

New Flights Schedule Egypt as the Next Big Thing



Travelling to Egypt from the UK is set to become easier for those in the North, as Jet2holidays and Jet2.com announce new flights from Leeds Bradford International Airport to Sharm el Sheikh. Commencing in February 2009, these direct flights will be the first time an airline has flown to Egypt from Yorkshire and it will open up a new holiday and investment destination for people from the region.
Egypt is a destination growing in popularity due to its year-round sunshine, medium-haul flights and affordable property for those joining the growing numbers purchasing holiday homes or investment properties in the country. For this reason Real Estate TV, the UK’s leading dedicated property channel, has chosen Egypt to form part of their ‘Next Big Thing…’ series.
This insightful series profiles regions with excellent growth potential and destinations where property prices are set to rise in the coming years. In the ‘Next Big Thing Egypt’ programme, at 8pm on Monday 7th July, Real Estate TV explores the developing property market of Egypt as well as the country’s long-established reputation as a tourist destination.
Tune in to ‘Next Big Thing Egypt’ on Real Estate TV on Sky channels 273 and 274 and on demand on Virgin TV and at www.realestatetv.tv.

Greece is set to take its star on the Hollywood walk of fame



The likes of Corfu and Crete are well known Greek islands, famous for their inimitable blend of fantastic summer sunshine, exquisite cuisine, beautiful natural landscapes, history, culture and the warm azure sea-waters which lap their spectacular beaches. But there is another side to Greece, a hidden side to the nation and in particular to its beautiful islands, and this side represents peace, seclusion, tranquillity…and for the Hollywood stars who prefer these hideaways, there is great privacy to be prized too.
It was back in 2004 that Tom Hanks, his wife Rita Wilson and their family first made themselves at home on the Greek island of Antiparos; staying in the town of Soros, they enjoyed a long summertime vacation before returning to America and sharing their secret with other Hollywood families. Famous names since associated with this lesser known island include Jennifer Anniston, Prince Albert of Monaco and Brad Pitt – so what’s the appeal of Antiparos? 
Well, the appeal for the famous names who arrive each year is the relative seclusion and solitude achievable on the island which is only reachable by ferry from the neighbouring island of Paros for example. But the greater appeal of the destination lies in the almost unrivalled beauty of the place. The sea around the island is jade green rather than the indigo blue usually associated with the seas around Greece, and on the island itself the striking landscape is a picture perfect backdrop to the sleepy villages and communities dotted across this perfect paradise.
Now that the name of Antiparos has become associated with big name Hollywood stars, interest has been sparked on the island with holidaymakers and holiday-home hunters alike, and who can say what the future holds for the financial fortunes of those who are buying beautiful property on Antiparos today? They could just rival those of the people who have already bought on Skopelos… Skopelos was another lesser-known Greek island that has suddenly become popular with the Hollywood set. In fact, it’s Tom Hanks again who’s made the island famous as he’s a producer behind one of the biggest and most hotly anticipated summer 2008 movie releases, namely ‘MAMMA MIA!’ staring Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Julie Walters and Pierce Brosnan…and the movie was filmed on Skopelos! 
Once the film hits the big screen this July and moviegoers the world over see for themselves how stunningly beautiful and perfect the island is with its pristine beaches, pretty white washed houses, ancient cobbled streets, blue waters and blue, blue skies, Skopelos can expect an invasion of holidaymakers and holiday-home buyers too!
Property on this beautiful island doesn’t yet come with a Hollywood price tag though. Within 5 minutes walk from the island capital of Skopelos town and only 500m from the beach is the Skopelos Village Apartments project. Created in the grounds of the Skopelos Village Hotel, one of the island’s finest, the apartments will offer discerning buyers the opportunity to enjoy the best of both worlds – the personal character of your own home and the luxury of hotel services and facilities. The project is on target to be ready for occupation by the end of this year.  The apartments are beautifully situated on the bay opposite the capital town/port of Skopelos.  Owners can walk into the town in under 10 minutes.  The new properties range in price from €97,000 for a one-bedroom apartment to €149,000 for a two-bedroom maisonette.
According to Irini Tzortzoglou, Deputy Branch Manager of Piraeus Bank UK, the local branch of Greece’s major financial institution, Piraeus Bank S.A.: “if you want to beat the crowds now’s the time to discover hidden Greece, explore the lesser known islands such as Skopelos and Antiparos and perhaps even buy yourself your own Greek island villa in the glorious sunshine”. 
If you’re specifically investment minded you can take great delight in Euromonitor International´s Travel And Tourism in Greece report which backs up the strongly held local belief that Hollywood’s love affair with the nation is pushing up tourism arrivals.  The report states that “tourism demand is experiencing an upwards trend.”
Irini Tzortzoglou goes on to comment, “Piraeus Bank UK is perfectly placed to assist the British, Irish and expatriate buyer looking to finance property in Greece with its range of competitive euro denominated mortgage products as well as its hugely popular ‘High Value Invest Product for Greece.’ This product is designed for those with minimum income levels of £75,000 who require financing or refinancing for property in Greece valued at over €500,000.”
For more information on the Piraeus Bank UK mortgage products and services call 0845 603 6538 or visit the website www.piraeusbank.co.uk or for further information on the Skopelos Village Apartments then please contact Aegean Blue on 0845 838 5108 or visit www.aegean-blue.com.

Making The Most Of Your Overseas Property During The Credit Crunch


There has been much media interest of late into the travails of the majority of the world’s financial institutions following the unravelling of the bundled debt packages that included much sub-prime debt. It is anticipated that further announcements will be made over the coming months as further losses are reported.

If the effects turn out to be as bad as some analysts predict, with the American economy facing its worst recession since the ‘great depression’ and reports suggesting that UK estate agents are more pessimistic about the UK economy than at any time over the past 30 years, the credit crunch should not be taken lightly by any means.
There is a current silver lining however for those with an interest in overseas mortgages in the Euro-zone. Since the Northern Rock debacle became public in late 2007, the Sterling exchange rate has gradually weakened against the Euro, such that record lows are now being hit. Alistair Riddle, Credit Manager for Piraeus Bank UK explains, “This means that if you purchased your property more than 7 months ago, any equity that you may have in the property will be exaggeratedly bigger in Sterling terms. This could be of use if you face UK negative equity, are looking to jump up the property ladder if UK house prices slip or if you need a deposit in the UK to cover the shrinkage in loan-to-values that banks are generally currently offering.”
Alistair further comments, “It should be noted that just because your overseas property is now worth more in Sterling terms, to release funds you either have to have had equity in the property in the first place or are able to sell the property (naturally bearing in mind any applicable taxes for doing so). If you are looking to take some equity out, it is critical to remember that as the debt level in your investment rises, so does the repayments on the debt and this cost must be factored into your calculations. If you are renting out your property and are receiving constant rental streams, preferably in the currency that you have borrowed in, then this is ideal as there is no exchange rate risk.”
What if you wanted to purchase an overseas property and are now concerned about the worsening strength of Sterling? Piraeus Bank UK Head of Retail Banking, Irini Tzortzoglou, responds, “As with all investments, what and where you buy is very important – so long as you do your research fully and understand and accept the risks of purchasing property in a different currency, then there remain affordable properties to be purchased abroad. If you believe that the UK housing market is set for a tough time over the coming months or the medium term, perhaps the opportunity to purchase bricks and mortar in a different country will prove attractive. Certainly, we have not seen a slow down in the volume of applications for mortgages to purchase properties in the overseas markets that we provide mortgages for purchasing properties in.”
In summary, Piraeus Bank UK offers the following tips to making the most out of your overseas property during the credit squeeze:
  • A Euro mortgage on overseas property can be utilised whilst the Sterling exchange rate is in a weakened position
  • UK buyers can release equity from their overseas properties to: 
    • Alleviate negative equity on a UK property
    • Generate a larger deposit to purchase UK property using a mortgage
  • Renting the overseas property should be explored as a means to reduce or fully cover mortgage repayments
  • First time buyers can consider purchasing in countries where property price increases are expected to be higher than in the UK in the next two-three years so as to get on the property ladder.
For further advice on Euro mortgages or if you are looking to purchase property overseas contact Piraeus Bank UK on 0845 603 6538 or visit www.piraeusbank.co.uk.