The Property Market in Cyprus
Many people who come to Cyprus for a holiday love it so much that they end up deciding to move here permanently, or at least buy a holiday home. Because of the fairly recent financial crisis in Cyprus, there are properties available that just five years ago would have cost you half a million Euros, but which are now available for say €120,000. But you can buy a small property for as little as €40,000. If you just want it as a holiday home, you could probably put a deposit on one of those and make more than the mortgage cost by renting out for holidays using AirBnB. Of course, there’d be a management cost for that if you were not living here and had to get someone in to clean up and change the sheets etc when guests left.
Of course, if you are wealthy, there are many luxury villas also available in prime locations costing well over €1,000,000. You can pay very much more for a luxury mansion with 28 bedrooms, three swimming pools, and a seafront location, with private jetty. Still, that price would be a third of what you’d pay in most places for such a property. And you would get automatic citizenship if you applied.
But what you get for your money here is astounding compared, for example to the UK, and I’m not talking about just the weather. Most builds in the last ten years include private swimming pools, or larger shared pools if you obtain a property in a complex, which many prefer rather than living in the isolation of their own private villa overlooking the sea, but usually not close to local amenities.
Of course, people have reasons for isolation, and that choice is available, but for me, there is nothing to beat being able to easily walk into town, or down to the beach, or swim in the large shared pool just outside my back garden.
For people who want to rent rather than buy, you can rent a house for about half the price you can in any major city in the UK, and the quality of the workmanship is outstanding, as a rule. Marble everywhere is common, with granite worktops, solar heated hot water so that heating water costs you nothing most of the year round, solid walls rather than plasterboard, and when the weather gets too hot, you can always put on the air conditioning, which also act as heaters in the couple of months of winter when, after you are acclimatised to the Cyprus weather, may feel a bit cool in the late evenings. Non-acclimatised Brits though, can often be seen walking around in shorts and T-shirts throughout the winter, because winter in Cyprus is like late spring in the UK.
The property market in Cyprus is basically a buyers’ market, because so many people lost money during the Cyprus recession that they were forced to sell their properties, or leave buildings unfinished. And there are many shell buildings, with a good area of land and in a good position, to be seen that can be purchased very cheaply from the banks who now own them, and finished to a very high standard, for what it would cost you in the UK to buy a small semi in a rough area of any city.
Here is an example taken from a local forum:
One thing to be wary of, if buying, is to ensure that the title deeds will be made available to you. They will be in Greek, so unless you can read Greek, have an English copy made
and countersigned by your solicitor.
So, to diversify for a moment, the house above, when finished, would be finished to the usual high Cyprus standards, with granite and marble everywhere, locks on all internal doors as is usual, and it includes an upstairs small kitchen, so you could easily make a granny flat there.
Incidentally, for a swimming pool, unless the property comes with one, or you are so close to a beach that you don’t need one, (you’ll need planning permission, which would normally be granted) having a swimming pool fitted costs between €4,000, for a smallish fibreglass pool, to €30k or €40k for a decent sized concrete steel-reinforced tiled pool.
All extras included, except for having it filled with water, which can cost about €500. Because you are not permitted officially to fill a pool from mains water. Just a side note here – fibreglass pools don’t need a liner, and are far less trouble and much faster to have fitted. They just dig out the hole, level the ground, and drop the pool in place. All pools, however, need maintenance, so best to go for one with a lifetime guarantee. For bigger pools, you might want to employ a pool-man to come round once a month, check the ph and pumps, clear any leaves or debris etc.
Back to the main purpose of this article, Property: When you look through property ads in the Cyprus marketplace, look for the words, “Title Deeds Available”. Not all adverts will have that. Of course, if you are interested in a property or land where you can build a house, it is worth talking to the estate agent in question, because although the advert may not specify Title Deeds, they can usually be made available in your name, for a small fee, or will be included in the price, if you negotiate that.
Incidentally, the process of buying a property here is usually much quicker and lower in legal fees than in the UK, but beware of high Estate Agent fees. They can charge anything from 1.5% or if you don’t negotiate, as much as 5%!
Water and Electricity: Both cost more here than in the UK, although not inhibitively so, but only for water that is in your property. The water for irrigating your plants, from an outside tap, which all places have (but don’t quote me on this) is free. Just be sure to take a water and electricity reading when you take over your property, whether renting or buying, and ensure that your solicitor (if buying) or Landlord (if renting) signs a copy of the meter readings on your agreement. You can pay both water and electricity by direct debit or online.
Banks: It is easy to open a bank account in Cyprus if you can prove funds or an income, but I recommend keeping most of your money in the UK, and just transferring enough to live on, month by month into your Cyprus account. About five years ago, to get themselves out of a financial crisis, the Cyprus government confiscated all funds over €80,000 of everyone (even builders escrow accounts) who had more than €80,000 in the banks. I don’t think that will happen again, but you never know.
Finding a property: When I first decided to move to Cyprus, I stopped in a hotel for a month, to allow me time to find a place. A friendly estate agent showed me around six properties, including a couple that were bargain priced, but up in the hills, that I turned down. Finally, the last one he showed me was perfect, with three large bedrooms, including a master bedroom with ensuite bathroom and shower with a large balcony overlooking the sea. The other two bedrooms overlook the swimming pool. There is also a family bathroom with bath and shower, and a a downstairs toilet. Of course, I claimed the master bedroom as my own. The house had all major appliances (common in Cyprus), a top of the range kitchen, marble and granite everywhere, and a private garden that was basically a desert, but now looks like a tropical paradise. In Cyprus, almost anything will grow, and grow quickly, and there are many places supplying garden furniture, water features, and the usual garden ornaments. For my rock garden, I drove up a mountain road and picked up fallen granite rocks from a hillside. Others, I gathered at beaches, and for pebbles, they are easily available in multiple colours from any garden shop.
The legal stuff: Buying or renting – when renting, you don’t need a solicitor. Just make sure you are happy with the agreement, and ensure that you have it signed by both parties in an English language copy.
When buying, you will, of course need a solicitor. It’s worth shopping around. They all speak English. Some will charge a fixed fee. Some will charge a fee proportional to the value of the property you are purchasing. All will do a thorough job of investigating the property to ensure that there are no legal restrictions, access rights, water and electricity supplies, and the usual warnings if any apply regarding anyone else who may have a historical claim on the land. If you buy a property with land most solicitors will be able to tell you if it would be possible for you to build more properties on the land, and there can be a big profit on that because of the difference between the cost of building, and the price you can sell for. As in the UK, it’s best to choose a good location. Nobody wants to look out of their bedroom or lounge window and see a brick or concrete wall!
A Warning: And this is a strong and meaningful warning, never buy a property in the Turkish occupied sector. They are available for incredibly cheap prices, but they legally still belong to the Cypriots (or their descendents) who owned the properties before they were driven out or killed by the Turks. One day in the future, especially since Turkey has aspirations of joining the EEC, the Turks will either leave the area or the border will be removed, and Cypriots will claim their property back. Whether or not you happen to have bought it from a Turkish citizen, it never belonged to the Turk in the first place. Think of it like buying a stolen car. When the owner tracks it down, that car still belongs to the owner.
Moving to Cyprus: I’m not about to recommend a moving company, because I’ve heard good and bad stories about them all, but some are better than others. The one thing I have to say is that you can pay between €6500 and €2500 for exactly the same service. They will pick up your stuff and pack item and deliver it door to door, and this includes vehicles. Be sure to cover your contents with your own transit insurance though, because most firms have in tiny print that your materials are not covered in transit unless your container goes overboard (a very rare occurrence. Good shippers will also cover sorting out all the documentation, road tax and insurance for your car (for a fee), and drive it to your house from the port, usually Limassol, where the container lands. They will also usually store your furniture etc free of charge nearby until you have your property ready for it.
Be aware, and this is something to investigate before you decide to bring your car to Cyprus, that cars with an output of CO2 above around 138mg/litre cost an additional €80 per gram above that figure. This would make it inhibitively expensive to import a large engined car. For example, you’d have to pay about €40,000 to import a 4.2 litre RangeRover or equivalent. You can buy one here a few of years old for that. For a RangeRover or similar, that would be just ‘run in’.
As in the UK, Road Tax is proportional to the size of your engine, with costs being similar. Fuel prices are also similar or perhaps a bit cheaper than in the UK. The same for car insurance, and here most insurance companies don’t ask if you have points on your licence, or any recent accidents.
Penultimately, if coming to live here, bear BREXIT in mind! Once you get a property, whether you rent or buy, it is worth applying for apply for permanent residency immediately. You’ll still have to live here for three years before it will be issued, but apply anyway. Whatever BREXIT brings, it’s highly unlikely that the Cypriots will throw Expats out even without residency. They depend on Brits for their income, including the million British tourists who visit Cyprus every year, and it would cause a huge diplomatic crisis if they started throwing people out, as well as a Cypriot recession!
However, who knows what the future will bring?
And finally: These days everyone wants internet access, and the internet infrastructure in Cyprus is good, but as with everywhere, you get what you pay for. Usually a mid-range price similar to prices in the UK, will get you good streaming video. So you’ll be able to watch Netflix and Amazon video. And a set-top box costing around €120 will get you all the UK and sports channels. No extra charge, although if you get one with a contract you are guaranteed to get a better signal because they will have more antennae. Up in the hills and mountains you usually have to rely on a satellite dish for internet access. Most upland places will already have a satellite dish installed.
PS: Don’t forget to bring your driving licence. Until you become a Cypriot Resident, it is perfectly okay to drive using that, and as I mentioned previously, at least they drive on the same side of the road as in the UK, so you won’t get confused at roundabouts etc. Traffic lights are the same, road signs are bilingual, there are zebra crossings, and the usual filter lanes on motorways and so on. Be aware though that back streets may be cobbled, potholed, and not well lit or have no lighting, and some people have a habit of wearing dark clothes and crossing the street without warning. Also, Cypriot drivers have the habit of pushing their horn if you even slightly delay setting off when traffic lights change, (don’t pick up that habit please!) or for any other reason you can think of. And they might cut you off a lot, so drive safely and (again) be constantly aware until it becomes second nature to know the local habits.
By the way, there are as yet no fixed speeding cameras in Cyprus, but you may occasionally come across a policeman with a hand held speed gun.
Also, don’t take my word as the final word on anything. I just am here to give you information based on my experiences here. But things can and do change so do your own due-diligence before embarking on anything important.