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Greece Turns to EBay-Style Auctions to Unload State Property

Athens turns to online auctions to help it meet debt-reduction goals
Greece Turns to EBay-Style Auctions to Unload State Property

A legend swirls around the dilapidated mansion on Smolenski Street in Athens that the previous owner’s ghost scares off prospective buyers by moaning, “The house is mine.” The Greek government isn’t spooked. It sold the two-story house and tower, replete with palm trees in the overgrown gardens, for €434,000 ($580,000) on Sept. 17 in an EBay-style Internet auction. While he doubts the house is haunted, Andreas Taprantzis, executive director for real estate at the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF), says the building was “haunting the Greek budget,” generating “zero income, not even taxes.”

Most assets to be auctioned online have come into the Greek state’s possession through foreclosures, bequests, or donations, or after their owners died without heirs. “Many people end up with no heirs, and eventually the state inherits the property,” Taprantzis says. “The state is family for all citizens, including the ones with no heirs but with a fortune.”