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Property highlights all that is wrong

For years, our administration and banks have cleverly created a captive audience, holding householders to ransom by refusing to issue title deeds. Oh yes, there is method in this title deed madness!

DURING Cyprus’ property sale ‘boom years’, most estate agents/developers employed at least one Russian/English speaker part-time. Now they employ a Mandarin/English speaker, who is likely to be a Chinese lady married to a Cypriot.

Mainland Chinese do not speak English, and those who say they do are limited to several tens of words enunciated incomprehensibly. In fact, it would be nigh impossible for any to negotiate the purchase of a house and live in Cyprus without the assistance of an interpreter.

Selling 2/3 bedroom flats/houses at a minimum of €300,000 in exchange for long term residence permits sounds ‘crisis’ expensive to me. An additional requirement is that €50,000 per person be left on deposit in a Cypriot bank for at least three years, thus a Chinese household comprising a couple with two children would be ‘coerced’ into investing half a million euros in Cyprus before immigration issues four long term residence permits, which purportedly facilitate easier access to EU member states.

If rumours circulated by estate agents/developers of 1,700 sales so far are to be believed, Paphos should be crawling with Chinese by now, but my Paphian friends report seeing hardly any in local supermarkets or sunbathing on the beaches. Last month, a Paphos estate agent confirmed that Chinese sales virtually dried up as soon as the troika imposed the haircut and the government introduced currency restrictions.

Unlike Russian permanent residents and second home owners, who mostly live within a three hour flight of Cyprus, a Chinese family would arrive here exhausted at more than twice the cost of their Russian counterparts; I know, I’ve done both the Moscow and Beijing run. The huge disparity in journey times and costs make me wonder whether the 1,700 sales actually refer to 1,700 different purchasers or several Chinese billionaires buying up new-build apartment blocks and entire housing estates.

Last month, a small and seriously bankrupt developer’s property was repossessed by his bank and auctioned off at almost a third of its pre-crisis market value. Four houses valued at a total of €840,000 went ‘hush-hush’ under the hammer to a single Russian purchaser for €280,000; he is reported to have said that he will sit on his investment until market conditions improve?

If strictly non-resident and simply using Cyprus as a means to ‘leak monies’ hors la Chine, the Chinese are hardly likely to be present, or even represented at hush-hush house repossession auctions. And worse still is that if banking restrictions persist, they will be obliged to look elsewhere to free-up profits from their ‘in China’ enterprises.

So, while established Russian residents, numbered in their thousands, pick up the bargains, the Chinese, pay through the nose for the opportunity to do so, when only six months ago the media reported the so called Chinese influx as ‘an invasion’. Yes, elephants do fly in Cyprus as well as donkeys! But no longer do the Chinese.

This is bad news for our construction industry and banks, who now find themselves left with critical over-supply of property, currency restrictions and an ever decreasing number of willingly duped buyers.

For years, our administration and banks have cleverly created a captive audience, holding householders to ransom by refusing to issue title deeds. Oh yes, there is method in this title deed madness! In fact, if all developers’ debts to banks were taken into account, most of the island’s property is owned, on paper, by bankrupt banks.

Sickeningly, we are now paying (via troika haircuts/theft and increased taxation) to restructure our banks, only for them to become the island’s landlords, who are subject to the will of the barons in Brussels; a situation redolent of those times when our Church collected taxes for the Ottomans.

After just 53 years of ‘freedom’, we have again become members of that familiar servile feudal class formerly under imperial rule. Bravo! This is what happens when you grow too big for your boots and can’t afford a new pair.

I recently visited an estate of 4 x 4 bedroom ‘luxury’ houses with pools – summer lets at €200 a day, minimum stay two weeks – situated a stone’s throw from the beach. The developer, who spotted me nosing around, invited me to view the one he, his wife and two children were occupying during this past Easter school break.

Spotlessly white concrete, glass trolley sized manicured and characterless, situated next door to a tavern oozing the stench of burnt cooking oil denied even a mild interest. I told him that he’d never sell ’em never mind let ’em with that fish fryer next door! He pretended not to smell the smell and will walk the walk to the gallows of bankruptcy like those many deluded developers before him.

Last week, the co-operative bank told a year-long unemployed engineer, who could no longer finance his house loan of €140,000, that he would become a tenant in his own house and pay rent. In other words, the bank has seized landlord status ownership. The ‘new tenant’, married with three daughters, can see no worthwhile reason to remain in this ‘burnt-out’ island and is emigrating from Cyprus to Australia.

But Cyprus is still burning while those responsible for igniting the fire keep fiddling. The ‘barons’ gave us just enough rope by which to hang ourselves and are now watching our every move; deviousness is dead. After years of misrule, our administration will be driven to raise standards or be ‘flogged’ for inventing yet more ‘ingenious’ ways around having to do so.

It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation and a few moments of indiscretion to destroy it. How long will it take our present administration to rid itself of its badly soiled name; a few years or another lifetime? I’m betting on never unless we remove those responsible for bringing the nation to its knees, one that will now be compelled to accept a lose/lose solution for us to the Cyprob. Bravo!

Readers' comments

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  • steve says:

    The banks will not issue title deeds because this enlightens their debt. They are hiding the debts to remain solvent long enough to get a bail out.

  • Ben Ones says:

    The Chinese are not stupid, they will not invest in a third world country like Cyprus, they will invest in first world countries like Singapore, Hong Kong and cities like London where they will be treated fairly without tons of corruption.

  • Pippa says:

    As the Troika is here again this week, perhaps some one with authority could have a word in their ears about the lack of any progress on the TITLE DEEDS fiasco, as our president seems to have ignored this all together.

  • Steve says:

    There are sound financial reasons why thousands of “owners” who have paid for their property do not receive and will not receive title deeds any time soon. The immovable property taxes for the majority of individual properties would be zero or close to zero in the case of ownership by individuals, but until the estates and apartments blocks are subdivided, the developers who have title pay large amounts of tax and later it is up to the individual owners, when they eventually receive title deeds, to convince the tax authorities to pay back overpayments made. In total, these are huge amounts of money that the state will forfeit if title deeds are issued promptly.

  • terry says:

    So, Hermes Solomon, after all you are saying corruption is still rife and the bail out monies are going astray, and they at the end of it all default and go cap in hand for another bail out. But when are we going to get our TITLE DEEDS.

    terry

  • Whirlybird says:

    I was on the understanding that President Putin sent out a government directive that all Russians are not to buy any properties abroad, any that do have are to get rid of their foreign property by selling it (and not to relatives.) Does this directive include or not Cyprus?

  • Janner says:

    And still the Government remain silent on the real issue of title deeds. The ticking time bomb of debt and NPL’s cannot hide forever Mr President!

  • Costas Apacket says:

    I umderstand that Greece is offering a similar or better, lower cost deal to the Chinese so why should they come to Cyprus?

  • Jill says:

    We keep hearing that the reason we have bankrupt banks is the Greek debt. Is this the new ploy by the new Government to cover up yet again, that developers owe millions (at the very least) in mortgages. WHY ON EARTH DON’T THEY ISSUE THE TITLE DEEDS NOW?

    Why can’t this new Government, who keep assuring everyone, they will not tolerate corruption, bring to book those involved in the many property scams, non-payment of taxes, bent lawyers,corrupt officials etc? AND MAKE IT A PRIORITY TO GET THE TITLE DEEDS OUT TO THOSE WHO ARE ONLY TOO WILLING TO PAY FOR THEM.

    Perhaps, in this way, they might gain the trust of the people. At the same time, millions of euros will be paid for transfer of the Title Deeds.

  • Richard says:

    Do the Chinese not have a search engine working behind the ‘great firewall of China’?

    If they do – they need to get on it – and pronto!!

  • Maxwell Raymond Hannah says:

    Every civilised country in the World ,when you buy a House you will automatically receive your Deeds to your House. I just cannot see what is so Difficult in doing the same here in Cyprus, so sad that THEY cannot see further than the end of their noses,

    Come on MR Cyprus President put it right for us ,you will be rewarded with all the trust you can handle from US the people who choose to live in this Country by choice.

    Maxwell

  • andyp says:

    On the other hand the printing industry is doing rather well.

    As I write I understand that all roadside signs and brochures are being reprinted in Amharic.

  • aggisdemetri says:

    The Land registry should behave like a Land registry and should only be in the business to issue titles once a contract has been deposited.

    If the property in question has any additions etc’ this should be taken up by the planning office, at least the government has received duty’s on registration.

    This is the practice in the UK.

  • Mike says:

    So where are all these Chinese saviours? First the North Europeans, then Arabs, then Israelis, then Russians now Chinese, who next? or will the penny drop and those of ‘artful ways and special circumstances’ realise that you can fool some of the people for some of the time but not all of the people all of the time.
    Do Mercedes make a rear wheel drive donkey?

  • Andrew says:

    Let us not change our ways, let us target the Chinese instead. This must have been the rallying cry at the latest developers convention. Drive around Paphos and you will see nearly all the developers are advertising in Chinese. However the good folk of China must have been reading their fortune cookies, because they are nowhere to be seen.

    Hermes Solomon you have told it the way it is. Well done.

  • The views expressed in readers' comments are not necessarily shared by the Cyprus Property News.

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