When undertaken properly, purchasing a property in Cyprus is a pretty straightforward process. However, I am regularly approached by individuals who have purchased in Cyprus and have encountered some sort of problems with their property purchase and they need me to help them to clean up the mess!
The truth is that almost always, the problems could have been avoided had the purchasers known the process and avoided the pitfalls!
Let me tell you my top 10 pitfalls to avoid when buying a property in Cyprus and hopefully your purchase will move forward smoothly and without hitch.
Pitfall 1 – Not appointing a lawyer
Well I would start with this, wouldn’t I? But I cannot stress enough how very important it is to appoint a lawyer! I regularly meet people who have signed a contract presented to them by the developer and come across major problems because the contract does not protect the buyers. A property is a major investment – would you buy in the UK without legal assistance?
Pitfall 2 – Appointing the developer’s “pet” lawyer
The number one rule for good practise as a lawyer has to be that you cannot act where you have a conflict of interests and acting for both seller and buyer in a transaction is about as big a conflict as you will find! If the lawyer is not independent you can rest assured that the contract that is drawn up will not be drafted in your favour, in fact it will probably be heavily weighted in favour of the developer! Appoint an independent lawyer!
Pitfall 3 – Rushing in
Most developers and agents will put purchasers under considerable pressure to “sign up” as soon as possible. Whilst you do not wish to miss out on the home of your dreams, do take time to consider your purchase carefully and make sure that you make an informed decision about the purchase.
Pitfall 4 – Failing to consider the costs
It is really important to calculate the stamp duty, legal fees, disbursements and transfer fees that will be applicable for your purchase early on so that you can budget your purchase accordingly. If you are buying through a mortgage, you also need to be clear on the cost of the mortgage from the start.
Pitfall 5 – Handing over a reservation fee without written reservation terms
If you hand over a reservation fee to the developer, make sure something is put down in writing (ideally by your lawyer) to say how much was paid, the circumstances in which it will be refunded and that it will come off the full purchase price for the property.
Pitfall 6 – Signing a contract of sale without due diligence having been undertaken
If you are buying a property in Cyprus an encumbrances search and (where appropriate) a Company Search or credit reference search against the selling company are essential. A contract of sale cannot be properly drawn up without taking into account the results from these searches.
Pitfall 7 – Failing to get everything in writing
Your contract of sale outlines your agreement with the seller – make sure everything you have negotiated is put down in the contract of sale, particularly any agreed extras.
Pitfall 8 – Failing to deposit the contract of sale
A Contract of Sale must be deposited at the Land Registry within the timeframe specified by law. You will lose certain (very important) legal rights if this is not done.
Pitfall 9 – Failing to stamp the contract of sale
A Contract of Sale must be stamped within the timeframe specified in the law – otherwise you will be liable to pay penalties.
Pitfall 10 – Failing to make a Cyprus Will
Cyprus Law will govern all immovable property situated in Cyprus. The Cyprus Law includes an element of forced heirship – but certain categories of foreign purchasers are entitled to bypass these rules and make a Will to pass the property as they wish. It is very important to consider your Wills as soon as you buy a property in Cyprus.
Most of the potential problems encountered when buying property in Cyprus could be avoided if you consider (and avoid) the above pitfalls! Above all (and certainly the most important of all steps) is to get some independent legal advice from a lawyer that you trust – a good lawyer should take care to avoid the other pitfalls for you!
By Louise Zambartas LLB (Hons) Law
Louise is a dual qualified practising English Solicitor and Cyprus Advocate and has established The Law Offices of Louise Zambartas; she lives and works in Limassol. I am grateful to Louise for allowing me to publish her article; I urge all Cyprus property buyers to follow her sound advice.
Over the coming weeks, I’ll be publishing more hints and tips by Louise. In the next one, she’ll be giving us her top legal tips on making a Will in Cyprus.
The Law Office of Louise Zambartas is a specialist team of Cyprus Property Lawyers comprising English Solicitors and Cyprus Barristers dedicated to dealing with conveyancing in Cyprus and associated legal work.