FIGURES released this morning by the Department of Lands and Surveys reveal that a total of 2,030 contracts of sale were deposited in favour of overseas (non-Cypriot) buyers at Land Registry offices throughout the Island during 2010 compared with the 1,761 contracts deposited during 2009.
With the exception of Larnaca, where sales fell 4.8% compared to last year, sales were up in all Districts. Nicosia performed particularly well with sales up by more than 46%. Nicosia was followed by Famagusta, where sales were up 16.5%; Paphos, up 16.3%; and finally Limassol, where sales were up 12%.
Although the numbers are encouraging, the 2,030 properties sold to non-Cypriots last year is only a fraction of the 11,281 sold in 2007 and less than the number sold 8 years ago, before the property boom started.
During the year, many reports of problems have been appeared in the English language press. For example:
- In April, the Supreme Court ordered Nicos Papacleovoulou, a Paphos-based lawyer, to pay around €120,000 to his former clients in money lost over a property contract prepared over a decade ago.
- In May, around 100 members of the Leptos Buyers’ Action Group and their supporters staged a peaceful protest by marching along the Paphos seafront to the port demanding their Title Deeds.
- In June, Armonia Estates Ltd and Pantelis Leptos backed down in a libel action against property rights campaigner Denis O’Hare.
- In August, Larnaca-based K & M Famagusta Developers were reported to be under investigation by the police for alleged property fraud.
- In October, a judge at the Famagusta Court found property developers Christoforos & Marios Karayiannas and an employee of their company guilty of causing British home buyer Conor O’Dwyer actual bodily harm as a result of their assault on him in January 2008.
- In November, ITV sent a crew to Cyprus to report on the Conor O’Dwyer case and several other cases involving British buyers in Larnaca, Famagusta and Paphos. It was reported that shots were fired while the crew were filming at Frenaros.
- In November Adrian Mills, a British property developer, was tracked down by the BBC to a village in Gloucestershire having fled Cyprus after taking an alleged €2.5 million from his customers.
- In November, MEP for Scotland Alyn Smith sent a personal letter to President Christofias asking for his help in cases involving the exploitation, extortion and fraud of his constituents.
- Two property developers were reported to be bankrupt leaving buyers at the mercy of the banks.
- MEPs asked a number of searching questions of Cyprus in the European Parliament.
Sadly, few of these problems have been reported in the Greek language media and the Greek speaking population is generally unaware of the appalling situation.
Quite naturally, many Brits are now looking elsewhere for their place in the sun and so property developers have been extending their sales networks into mainly non-English speaking markets, including Russia and the Middle East.
This year yet again, the Cyprus government has announced its intention to introduce legislation designed to better protect buyers from the ‘crooks’ and cowboys that plague the Island’s property industry.
Whether that legislation will be passed by Parliament and whether it will prove successful remains to be seen; we will report on any developments as soon as the news breaks.