Sunny home from home
Jan Patience explores the lifestyle and the properties on offer in Cyprus, where thousands of Britons are enjoying retirement in a gentle holiday atmosphere...
Think of a country just four hours flying time from Britain. Where the people are laid back, the sun shines on average 300 days of the year, the crime rate is low, the tax benefits for retirees excellent and where the property purchase system is the same as it is in Britain. Throw in the fact that English is spoken almost universally, banks, hospitals and emergency services are all based on British models and that cars drive on the left-hand side.
It all sounds too good to be true, but for the thousands of Britons who have invested in property on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, their dream lifestyle is a reality. Cyprus is currently a colonial homefrom- home for some 50,000 Britons and that figure is rising all the time following its accession to the EU in 2004. With property prices rising faster than they are in the UK and bank loans available for up to 70 per cent of your mortgage, it seems you can't lose by investing in property on this Mediterranean paradise.
One man who knows all this to be true and who has been living the dream for some 20 years now, is Michael Cartwright. Despite having glided past retirement age, he is still working as UK Marketing Manager for one of the island's major employers, property developers Leptos Estates. Michael, who is married to a Cypriot, lives in the hills high above Paphos. Regular working trips home to England ensure he never becomes misty-eyed about his homeland. "I've never grown tired of Cyprus," he says. "It's a different way of life but the British colonial legacy means there's a familiarity about everything. I'm still familiar enough with Britain to know exactly why people buy a home here. Many buy holiday homes, and they tend to be younger, but the majority who move here to live are older, because their money takes them further. A double taxation deal ensures their pensions are only taxed at five per cent in Cyprus and are free from taxation in the UK."
With cheap flights increasingly available and property prices for two bedroom apartments in the Paphos area starting around £65,000, buying a home in Cyprus is not only eminently affordable to people who have bought their homes outright in the UK, it is a sound investment. The Paphos area and other parts of the South are also free from the thorny political situation, which has northern third of the island and the South since 1974. Since the Turkish 'invasion', when many Greek Cypriots were forced from their homes, the island has effectively been divided.
Once Cyprus joined the EU, moves began towards a settlement with some restrictions on trade and movement over the demarcation line being lifted. Buying property in the Turkishcontrolled North can be a minefield though and is best avoided.
Buying in the South offers steady capital growth and deliverable rental yields which is all down to the fact the country has an established domestic property market, coupled with a healthy economy and an established infrastructure. Its reputation as a tourist destination goes before it, ensuring good returns on any investment.
"Buying a home in Cyprus is not only eminently affordable to people who have bought their homes outright in the UK, it is a sound investment."
Most people tend to buy through an agent or developer or a combination of both. Agents typically charge around five per cent extra. There is nothing wrong with buying directly from a seller but the land registry system, though based on the British model, is very bureaucratic and it is probably best to have a professional on hand. Legal fees are in the region of £700.
One couple who decided to take the plunge and retire to Cyprus are Dallas and David Bingham, originally from Rotherham in South Yorkshire. The Binghams finally moved out earlier this year, having bought their threebedroom villa in Leptos' Olympus Village off-plan during a holiday a couple of years earlier. Properties in this exclusive development range from £222,000 to £376,000, and the stunning cliff-top villa with pool they bought has a panoramic view down to the valleys below and looking out to sea. Close by is an 18-hole Championship golf course.
"One of the things which swayed it for me was that I would be able to fly home to see my family and friends. There are a lot more cheap flights now."
"I was the one who wanted to retire abroad," admits Dallas. "David, who is an optician, was not so keen. I kept talking about Spain but David felt it was too big and impersonal. We had been twice on holiday to Cyprus and during the second holiday, I said: 'Would you like to live here?' He was positive about it and so we came out to look at property. We looked around a bit before we decided to buy this place off-plan from Leptos. The view sold the whole idea to me, closely followed by the climate, the food, the drink and people.When we first saw our 'home' it was just a tree. We came back every three months to check up on its progress, and I'm really delighted with it now it is finished. You can't underestimate what a big deal it is to leave your old life behind and sell up in the UK," says Dallas. "Everyone talks about it but doing it is a completely different matter."
Paulette Allan, 58, originally from Bristol, bought her three-bedroom apartment in Leptos' Regina Gardens complex, near Paphos in November 2003 with her late partner Roger Cains. Sadly, he died before he could live out his dream of retiring to the sun but after much deliberation, Paulette bravely moved out on her own and carry on with his vision. "We had been to Cyprus a lot and loved it; especially the sunshine and the people," she says. "We decided we would come out on a £99 inspection trip with Leptos and look at what was on offer. We bought this off-plan for £141,000 when it was just a patch of dirt. One of the things which swayed it for me was that I would be able to fly home to see my family and friends. There are a lot more cheap flights now than there were and the flight lasts just over four hours. We came out a lot to check up on progress but Roger died just five months after we agreed to buy.
"It was a big decision to come on my own but I wanted to do it for Roger. I have been here over a year and am still swithering because I miss my family. The lifestyle is quite couple-orientated but I have actually met a few women in my position and made friends. I love the people and the way of life and I have relaxed about things a lot. There's a saying I have learned; T.I.C. It means, This Is Cyprus, and you go with the flow."
020 8883 2333 www.LeptosEstates.com
Leptos Estates are the island's second biggest employer after the government. They have successfully completed over 80 different new home developments and dealt with more than 10,000 homeowners. To receive a free guide to Buying in Cyprus or enquire about a four-day inspection priced at £99 per person, call the above number.
Information about Cyprus:
The island's informative and entertaining English language newspaper is a font of knowledge for anyone serious about moving to Cyprus. www.cyprusmail.com
Cyprus Tourist Organisation
020 7569 8800
For visa and relocation advice:
Cyprus High Commission 0870 005 6711 www.embassyhomepage.com
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