Villas in Crete: how to save 40% + on your booking cost.
The purpose of writing this is to introduce villas in Crete as a much better and cheaper accommodation option than hotels; also, I want to show you a couple of tricks to make your villa stay in Crete cheaper – way cheaper, no matter the villa you choose. It may not be easy to follow at first, but I will do my best to explain in the simplest possible way.
The role of the Property Manager.
One of the key job roles in the villa rentals market in Crete (and everywhere else) is that of the property manager. People like me cover a big knowledge gap for Crete villa owners; we fill their shoes in more than one challenging areas, on their daily routine with their Cretan villa. We coordinate reservations coming from platforms and we find new renters outside rental platforms, helping Crete villa owners increase their bookings and revenue. We do the communication part with the renters on their behalf, ensuring everything is settled by the time they arrive. This is a ton of work, but new technologies help us speed things up and make the path easier to walk through every season. The job of the property manager is difficult; it covers many specialties including Management Sales CRM Finance Law Communications Marketing and Digital Advertising. Some of the most skilled of us are also experts in web design site development and search engine optimization. There is also a lot of pressing while the season in Crete is running, with all the arrivals, the departures, and the payments. But things ease up a little sometime between the middle of Autumn and until the middle of Spring, allowing us to do other things – like new contracts.
Villas in Crete: The local market.
There are now more than two thousand villas in Crete with pool for rent. The island of Crete started to rent villas as early as in the mid 80’s, well before the advent of Airbnb and all the other rental platforms – a true pioneer in Greece. Back then the properties for rent in Crete were few; even in the beginning of this Century where I started my career as property manager, the number of villas with pool in Crete for rent was not exceeding 400. With the pick of vacation rentals around the year 2010 more villa properties in Crete became involved in renting, and many new were built-hence the two thousand plus villas I mentioned before.
Villa types in Crete and how they can affect your rental costs.
Right, you may find this a bit hard to understand but I want to show you how villas here work, and this will also show the background logic on how to save money and prove my point.
There are three types of villas in Crete to rent:
• Those that are illegal, or at minimum, not legally registered in any way.
• Those that are legal, unlicensed but registered to the Tax Office as properties of individuals (private owners, ordinary citizens like you and me), having their own registration number starting with the 3 letters: we call it ‘AMA’
• Those that are legal, licensed by the Greek Board of Tourism, and registered to the Tax Office as properties part of a Legal Entity (a company) of the Hospitality/Accommodation sector. They too have their own registration number starting with the 4 letters ‘MHTE’ (pronounced as ‘mietai’).
You do not want to stay at the illegal ones; it is rare to find totally illegal villas but there are areas in Crete where they build villas without a construction permit and on land plots that have unclear ownership status. Most of those start as illegal and go legal after a few years’ time. Such properties become useful for renting and ‘emerge’ for a short period mostly when the booking capacity on the island reaches 100% on the busy season (July-August) only to disappear by the end of the high season.
Here are the confusing parts:
First: A registered villa belonging to a private individual owner can ALSO obtain a license from the Greek Board of Tourism, without the need to operate a legal entity (a company). It is not compulsory anymore by the Greek Law to obtain a license to operate (but it used to be, until 2013 – nowadays you can be totally legit if you just register your villa property to the Tax Office as a vacation rental and as an ordinary individual, and it is free of charge; you just receive your AMA number and you are fine).
Also, the MHTE license costs money (around 700€). But (and this is a big ‘but’) smart owners will apply for the license and get one immediately and prior to accepting their first reservations, because it protects them legally for some forms of cancellation and fee compensation in case something goes wrong with a booking. In other words, the Greek State will protect them via this license in case there are Legal claims by renters for refunds – at least, for bookings made outside rental platforms. Any claims for such bookings will drop automatically in any Greek Court. This is a huge benefit for owners. Still, having a MHTE license means that the owners are also obliged to adhere to strict standards regarding insurance fire protection and cleaning.
Second: those villa owners who have a legal entity (company) for their villa (and a MHTE license-it is compulsory to issue one if you have a company behind the villa) will have to add 13% VAT on their rental rates. So, any price you see for this type of villa has a 13% VAT in its rates (which also happens to be transparent to some vacation rental platforms). The owner will have to pay this 13% VAT from his/her bookings to the Greek Tax Office every yearly quarter and after receiving the booking money from the renter.
But they hugely benefit from:
a) having much lower Tax rates (starting from 20%) compared to the private owner (who pays anything between 35%-45% Tax without having the ability to justify and deduct expenses from it),
b) deducting expenses from their Tax (like rental platform commissions, property manager fees, other operating fees like electricity water gardening personnel etc.). They can also deduct the mentioned expenses’ VAT from the total VAT paid to the Tax Office every yearly quarter. Thus, leaving little Tax and VAT to pay in the end for the villa business!
If you want to save money on your rental costs, it makes sense to go after the private owners. The other type of owners, the ones with a company usually do not have any reason to give you a discount. Or do they? read on and you will see what I mean.
Of course, private villa owners will happily take a straight booking from you because within their prices, they have a generous margin for paying their commissions and fees for vacation rental platforms and property managers. Not to mention the margin that some owners have for discounts!
You can achieve a rental cost reduction between 20-50% depending on the season you are after, but I would say with the highest confidence that on average a 25%-40% is feasible no matter the season you are after. And for a 20% discount I would also say in all confidence that they will not feel a thing. Try this with a hotel and see what you will get!
The mentioned discount applies to all cases where the rental price of the villa seen on the villa’s website (if any) is roughly the same with the rental price on the rental platforms. If the rental price on the villa’s website is lower – compared to the rental price seen in the platforms – you will have less of an opportunity for a discount, but you still have good chances to reduce the cost.
Finding cheaper villas in Crete
If you decide to give it a try and chase a good discount for a villa you must spend some time in conducting a thorough research and you also must make some calls.
The first rule of the game is this: in normal times the further away you are booking from July and August, the better your chances in striking an exceptionally good discount. Usually, the prices for a villa in Crete are divided into three zones; the first price zone is for the months of July and August, the more expensive zone, as this is high season. The second is for the months of June and September, the mid-season. And the third is for May and October, the low season.
The second rule is to start your research as early as possible. Do not leave it for last minute because you will want to have ample time for research and to finalize your decision on which villa in Crete to choose out of those you have short listed. On the other hand, do leave it for last minute if special circumstances are in effect, for instance, travel uncertainty due to a pandemic – in this case you will have a large inventory to choose from, and plenty of opportunities for a booking in the high season: you should be able to grab a last-minute discount on a great villa without too much difficulty.
So, grab a coffee and look for your favorite villas in Crete by going to booking.com. When you select those that you like, save them to your favorites. Mark at least a dozen. And then start looking for the following signs:
• They are on the renal business for at least 3-4 years.
• They have VAT and city tax on their price; you find this when you pretend that you reserve the villa, in the section ‘Your price summary.’
• They give you a discount because you are a member of the genius program.
• They have a MHTE license number displayed on their listing (cross check in Airbnb and Vrbo where you will find the number on their listing page)
You should not have any trouble in finding many opportunities. So, let us do the math now shall we?
By subtracting the 13% of the VAT and the 10% of the discount, you are already at -23% off the normal price. You could subtract an additional 16% which is the commission of the site, provided that you can bypass the online reservation process. So, this is a saving of 39% so far.
With this in mind, contact the owner directly. Find the site of the villa, or the Facebook page of the villa or the Google My Business page, and send them a direct message, or even better, call them directly and talk to them. Usually, the owners of the villas will get paid by the rental platforms at least a week after you check-in; the quicker they get paid by you, the better your chances in making a deal with them.
So, if your stay is for a week or less, you can ask them to book on a price which is -39% off the total price, asking for a deposit equivalent to two nights stay paid ‘now’ by bank transfer, and the remaining balance paid at check-in in cash.
If you stay for a longer period, like for two or three weeks, you can ask for an additional discount, with the same payment terms, but this will have less chances of success for a booking in the high season, unless special circumstances are in effect. You can bargain for an additional 5% maybe for a long booking in the mid-season, or even a 10% for a long booking in the low season.
So the discount from the normal price can reach 49%! The owners will usually accept the offer because of the convenience of cash, and the opportunity of keeping some of the rental cost off the books. This is for villa owners with a company; for private owners you will not be able to reach such a high discount (there is no VAT), although it will be easier to strike a deal with them, but you need to make sure that your offer is right. So for private owners you will ask for a 26% discount and an additional 5-10% discount depending on the length of your stay and the season with the same payment terms.