With plenty of sunshine, mild winters and reassuringly British traditions, Cyprus is a favourite for British holiday homebuyers. Affordable property and ease of accessibility makes the island the perfect option for many buyers. Find out what to expect from the buying process here:
Buying property in Cyprus is not unlike buying in the UK, but you will need to get yourself a good independent lawyer (one who is not connected with the estate agent, developer or vendor) who is used to dealing with property transactions for foreign buyers. The usual procedure is as follows:
1. Reservation deposit agreement
The first step is to sign the Reservation Deposit Agreement which effectively takes the property off the market for a specified period of usually one month. During this time, your lawyer will carry out the required investigations at the District Land Registry to ensure that the seller is indeed the owner and that you obtain proper title to the property.
The deposit amount is usually calculated at 1% of the property price and is “subject to contract” i.e. it is non-refundable; however, it is returnable if the searches are not successful.
In the case of newly built properties, other searches before you exchange contracts could well include: a Planning Department Search to ensure a building permit exists and that the developer can legally build and sell to other entities; and a company search to demonstrate that the developer has the legal capacity to enter into contracts of sale, and that it is not been served a liquidation order.
2. Contract of sale
Once all searches have been successful, the next step is the signing of the Contract of Sale by both you and the seller. The balance of the money is paid by the agreed completion date on re-sales and in agreed stages by the developer for new-builds. Your lawyer files the Contract of Sale with the Land Registry within 60 days to secure the ownership.
3. Possession of the property
Possession of your property in Cyprus will only be complete when the title deed is actually delivered to you. At this stage you will need to pay for all the utilities to be connected.
Be aware that if the property is brand new, the title could take up to three years to be issued by the official authority. In this case the remaining purchase amount owed is paid to the seller with the delivery of the property, during which time legal security is granted to you and a contract is signed, stamped and registered with the land registry.
4. Transfer of title deeds
If, as in the case of a resale property, title already exists then you can immediately proceed to the transfer of title deeds and pay the remaining amount owed.
5. Property taxes
Real estate transfer taxes are paid by you to the Land Registry and are necessary in order to transfer freehold ownership to the name of a purchaser.
Lawyers and agents usually charge 1-2 per cent of the property price for legal fees and agents’ fees of 3-6 per cent.
- 0.15 per cent for properties under €170,860.
- 0.2 per cent, over €170,860.
Property Transfer Fees:
- 3 per cent for the first €85,430 of the value of the property.
- 5 per cent, between €85,431 and €170,860 and;
- 8 per cent, above €170,860.
For new-builds with Town Planning Permits after 1st May 2004 you will need to pay 19 per cent VAT. If it is your first private residence, you are entitled to claim back approximately 10 per cent of this fee, but the payment must first be made in full.
Avoid the pitfalls
Here are some important things to consider before you sign on the dotted line:
- Developers often take out mortgages on land or property, so if you sign a contract with a developer and there is already a mortgage, loan or claim placed upon the property by the landowner, then you are likely to become liable for that mortgage should the builder, developer or landowner declare bankruptcy. Therefore, your lawyer must check for mortgages placed on the land. If you are made aware of a mortgage prior to signing a contract it is unlikely that you will obtain the deeds in your name until the mortgage is fully paid off.
- In 2011 the Republic of Cyprus Government introduced a Specific Performance Law to give a contract of sale precedence over any pre-existing mortgage; however, to be on the safe side, it’s generally recommended that you check that no mortgages have been placed on the land prior to purchase.
- Avoid using lawyers who are also acting for vendors or builders – there may be a conflict of interests meaning they could not work in your interest alone.
- Check that any building taking place has all the correct planning permissions/building permits and utilities connections.
- Fluctuations in currency and interest rates can greatly affect the amount you pay for your mortgage. You will need to ensure that you make your exchange to euros at the right time and at the right rate – a currency exchange bureau can help get you a fixed rate which is preferable to any you would get at the bank.
To purchase your property in Northern Cyprus, the process is similar to that of Southern Cyprus but you will need to get good, independent advice.
Despite lower prices, property sales in Northern Cyprus are slower than those in the southern Greek Republic because the ownership of many properties can be disputed. A number of checks have to be carried out by the Ministry of Interior, inevitably meaning the sale will take approximately 4-8 months to be completed. Make sure your lawyer makes you fully aware of the current rules as well as the requirement to obtain consent to the transfer of property.
The process generally goes as follows:
- Find a property and agree the price.
- A contract is drawn up by your solicitor, setting down the terms of sale, i.e. price, time scale, vendor, purchaser and any special conditions.
- You and the seller sign the contract.
- You provide 10-20% deposit, pending legal checks on the property.
- Your solicitor applies for a Purchase Permit from the Council of Ministers this typically takes 4 to 8 months.
- As soon as the purchase permit is received, the remaining balance is due from you.
- Once you’ve paid the balance and the seller has signed the title deed over to you, the sale is complete.
This information is non-advisery and merely meant as a general guide to buying property in Cyprus.