By Maria Evangelou, Senior Analyst of REInvest’s affiliated companyPlease click below to read the relevant article.Residential_Market_2020_REInvest.pdf
By Melios Price, Supervisor Property Management REINVESTManaging properties, whether for an institutional investor or for an individual with a single asset, requires time, effort, and knowledge. Failure to dedicate the required resources can lead to potential loss of revenue, property damage, and unnecessary time delays, turning a potentially profitable asset into a bad investment.The fundamental role of a Property Manager is to provide an end-to-end solution for their clients, ensuring that all day-to-day operations are carried out in a professional and timely manner. Clients ranging from individual owners, building tenants, Developers, lawyers, receivers, and institutional investors will see tangible benefits in hiring a Property Manager. Such benefits include:Property Health & Safety. A Property Manager can carry out inspections to ensure the property is in good working condition and any potential problems are resolved promptly.Management of 3rd party associates. Property Management companies have established relationships with contractors, tradesmen, maintenance workers, etc. which will ensure the client is receiving a competitive price with good quality. Additionally, oversight of any works carried out by associates and facilities management companies can be carried out.Document remediation and storage. A Property Manager will ensure that up-to-date asset-related documents are collected, stored and available for marketing or other purposes.Market Knowledge and suitable tenants. Through established relationships and associates, a client can be brought in contact with licensed agents in order to ensure suitable tenants are selected based on the requirements of the client and to market assets at the right price resulting in maximum income whilst maintaining a low vacancy rate.Management of tenants. A Property Manager will act on behalf of the client ensuring that all aspects of the owner-tenant relationship are managed. Emergency works, routine inspections, and tenant requests will be dealt with.Collection of rents and payments. Ensure rents are collected on time, and outgoing payments (utilities, taxes, communal expenses, etc.) are handled promptly.Reporting and portfolio oversight. Through intelligent business solutions a Property Manager will be able to provide the client with a concise and targeted overview of their portfolio ensuring their requirements and targets are satisfied.Owner representation in Committees. Represent and act in the client’s best interests during building committee formations, annual general meetings, or any other time required.At REINVEST, we aim to provide our clients with the best services possible in Property Management, Project Management, and Rentals/Sales. If you require any further information or clarifications, please feel free to contact us by telephone: 7778 7771 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The situation regarding estate agents is not healthy and it is a cause of constant differences between the vendors of real estate and that of the estate agents.Most of the wrongs were corrected in the past by the Estate Agents Law, but there are still evident problems in the relationship of the two parties, which need corrections.As not all estate agents are angels, similarly not all vendors are angels either and we have a personal knowledge on this. There are scams on either party and this article, will address some of the problems that the estate agents are subject to.Unlike in most of other countries, for someone to exercise the job of an estate agent, he must be so registered with the Registrar of the Estate Agents (Governmental Body) who in turn requires that any registered agent must have a basic knowledge of the market and basic educational requirements and to be submitted to a written test prior to registration. Registered agents must keep a proper office, have a professional indemnity insurance, and follow the rules/regulations of the Registrar.Having said that, there are all sorts of people (professional or not) embarking on the estate agency operation, ranging from taxi drivers and bar attendants, to advocates, accountants and others, who by one way or another manage to by-pass the law, claiming that any receipts that they get for a sale, is not an agency commission, but disguised under “promotional fee”, introduction fee etc. Then we have the tax authorities who will not accept such payments, to non-registered agents as being tax deductible with the vendor being in the middle (with the vendor not being able to discount such payments from his sales income).Regarding now the sales commission, the average charge is 3%-5% based on the sales price, if the agent “introduces” a willing and able buyer to a vendor (the word “introducing” is in itself one which is open to various interpretations). As you can appreciate the commission/money is a lot, especially for the upper scale of the market. You must bear in mind that the law stipulates only a 3% commission (if no written agreement), but the parties (agent/vendor) can agree to any commission, provided that is so done in writing (tax authorities will not accept more than 3% if no such agreement). For those who claim a commission under the disguise of promotion, the tax authorities will require details on what promotion has been undertaken at the expense of the claimant, whereas the “introduction fee” which is worldwide acceptable, is also questioned by the Cyprus tax authorities.In more “organized” countries, vendors/agents have an exclusivity agreement for an x period of time (usually 6 months), but, in general locals, including foreign investors/funds who operate in Cyprus, do not accept this, hence we have agents promoting a property at their own expense, but being in a small country where everybody knows everybody, other agents/interested buyers by-pass the agent and express their interest to the vendors directly in an effort to get a reduced price. So, at the end, the non-exclusive agents restrict their promotion, other provide basic information on their website, whereas others just do not bother.Trying to avoid the agent’s commission is quite common and this includes even the large multi (national) investment funds, who, if one does not follow strict procedures of their own, they refuse their obligation e.g. by not filling a certain form (they may be right but at the end of day, what is fair?).Especially during these difficult times of sales, buying directly (buyers/vendors) is to the benefit of both (doing without the commission payment by the vendor and they get a reduced price).In this scam, against the agents, we provide for your consideration the following recent examples. The agent promoted a property and a Chinese client through his advocate expressed interest. A lot of to and from followed through emails with the vendor being duly aware with copies etc. The buyer approached the vendor directly and through his advocate and both claimed that the agent had nothing to do with the deal and with the vendor saying that the agent did not have the buyer signing a certain declaration. End result is that other than the agent, the vendor and buyer are happy for saving the 5% commission reduction. Is this correct mind you? The matter now will follow the legal route with the agent placing a memo on the sale. God knows who will lose at the end.In another example in Paphos, the vendor and buyer tried to by-pass the agent who having found out he placed a restrictive order for transfer (memo), so the whole thing is stagnant. The buyer paid the amount, the vendor cannot transfer and of course the agent was not paid (standstill for the last 8 years – so all lose). A messy situation.On another occasion a Russian buyer demanded that the agent should not be present during the negotiations with the owner. The buyer sued the agent for wrong doings and his witness said that everything was in order by the agent and finally he told his witness that he was trying to get a discount through no commission payment. He even sued the agent for €70.000 in damages notwithstanding that the sale was for €140.000. End result the buyer lost his case in court; a memo was duly placed on the property and everybody is at a standstill.Part of other problems is caused by the agents themselves, trying to “steal” properties registered as such by other agents by trying to by-pass their colleague. There are numerous examples of bad behavior between agents, so the scam is not restricted between vendor and buyers, but also between agents.In ending and unless there is an otherwise agreement, it is the vendor who has the responsibility to pay the commission. So be aware vendors, that any “monkey” business on your side it is most likely that you will pay at the end. Bear in mind that only registered estate agents are entitled to a commission, so any demand by third parties have no right to claim neither their payment is tax deductible).
It seems that we are alone in the wilderness of the mess that the building industry is at and by projection the Cyprus Real Estate market.We write in this lovely paper, but as well as others (in total 4 newspapers per week for the last 40 years) on the wrong situation that the building industry is at times and we hope that some people (especially politicians) listen to us (not necessarily we claim the infallibility of the Pope, but we place our views in writing in hope to create some sort of a discussion to get things better).What is most annoying for us, is that the various associations of e.g. architects etc are not bothered neither the association of developers and even worse that of the so called Advisor to the state on technical matters (ETEK) who keep all silent and surface only if their members own interests are negatively affected.From our recent articles (last 3 months) and bearing in mind the virus effects, we have put forward our own ideas on “corrective” measures on the situation, commenting on just about everybody who does not care, including the political parties (all the worst) and sent direct letters to the various Ministers in charge. We give credit to these Governmental actions and mainly to the two Deputy Ministers, as well as the Minister of Public Works and that of the Minister of Health and we criticize others, to the extent that we suggested that a couple of Ministers should be fired for not being up to it for their job. Our articles, being not politically oriented and having in mind only the well- being of the building industry (real estate), so we are not one sided, but we dare express our personal views based on our practical knowable on the subject with our 40 years of front line experience on the matter. We believe that we can offer our experience to the market, but it seems that small politics and personal interests do not help out (which is not always a voting attraction for those hungry to attract voters for them regardless to Cyprus, to this end the voters are exploiting this, since we are used to exchange favors to voters – who indeed checks this?).So here we are, and we provide for your reminder the following headings on matters that we have raised very recently:• The “scam” of working from home (and not in practice) by employees and with this excuse getting paid in the meantime by the Government much at the loss of the business concerns and our economy.• The decision of the Government to guarantee hoteliers for the reservation fees paid (which are in fact loans) is a most dangerous situation open for exploitation – details given.• The actions of Municipalities being involved in all sorts of illegal practices, but yet the Government has no “authority” to deal with it (see the Paralimni Mafia regarding the very recent kiosk which is turned into a grill bar, who did nothing about it, as well as other shocking reported on our past experience – a disaster).• The reduction of rents which covers just about everybody even those that have not suffered a cent (see civil servants, bank employees etc and other businesses who are closed in any case during this period).• The Natura classification which cost nothing to those suggesting causes a disaster to property owners affected by the classification. Save some exceptions, this is now a national sport covering 29% of the land area of free Cyprus.• The lack of housing for rent and especially those to students. Our ideas on corrective measures was not met by any including no care, including the University of Cyprus who seems to live in its “own world” for its students for their lack of accommodation.• The wrong proposal for affordable housing which we referred to it a year ago and it failed. Who is caring now?• Various business scams ranging from the sale of bottled water and others, but the one which shocked us most, was the replacement of an electric key with the dealer asking for €1.000 and we replaced it with €36 from a kiosk!!• The non-understandable suggestions to the Employers Association on various matters.• Our letter to the Minister of Finance and recently that of the Minister of the Interior which (the latter) messed up due to the wrong information suggested his subordinates. • The mountain resorts help which is nowhere to be found despite the announcements and the replacement of a local businessman with a teacher?• The inexcusable delays by the Planning Authority which has disappointed foreign investors especially (examples given) for the mountain resorts.• The passport issue for which we have suggested penalties of €500.000/case to the wrong doings (God help us with the furious reaction by some developers, but we have had also negative comments from some legal firms).Since our Government over the recent years, does not have the majority in the House of Parliament, any Bill that is proposed at the end, it becomes a compromise, with each political party bidding who will be most likeable to its voters (forget our country we add).For those of us who are at a “mature” age, you may remember the TV series of Kojak (a Greek actor who excelled in the series Kojak), who used the phrase “who loves you baby”?We loan his phrase and ask, “who loves Cyprus”? Surely not the politicians and some of the numerous commissioners with all their hefty salaries and perks (see also the gifts/ watches given by the Arab countries and others and to the never ending visits by our House members to the extent that the Australian Government complaint that it cannot host such a large number of delegates!!).In ending, our favourite slogan is that of W. Churchill who said that “Democracy is not the best system, but it is the best until we find something better”. Presumably, Mr. Churchill did not have in mind the Cyprus Republic!!
You may wonder dear readers, who is Jimmy Hoffa. This man was the Chairman of the Truckers Union in the USA, who was accused and jailed for a period for bribery, Mafia links etc. This was the result of an investigation that was carried out by the then Government of J.F. Kennedy with the chief investigator being Bob Kennedy.During the investigation Hoffa called a national strike which almost brought the USA economy to its knees.One of the many problems that the Cyprus Government has, is the behavior of some unions who behave in a rather similar, blackmailing manner, so that at the end the free economy of the country cannot function. With reference to Civil Servants, it is noticeable their inefficiency, indifference and the never-ending demands which cause damage against the Cyprus economy (all of us).We will report certain recent examples that we have experienced, but there are hundreds of others.• Town Planning – We have been asked by a foreign investor who wished to acquire a large building plot in Nicosia to investigate the development parameters of a planning zone that the plot fell in, that of the local commercial center (TEK). We wrote to the Planning Office submitting our own enquiries on the subject and after 2 months of no answer, despite our reminders and having then applied to the Planning Director (he called us promptly) we have arranged an interview with the District Planning Department. We had a meeting, but the local Planning Office reported to us that it needs to refer the matter to H.Q. for advice. After 40 days of waiting and our reminders, we got a call from the District Planning Office, asking us that we should submit a written request (again) for preliminary planning views. So, after waiting 4 months and bearing in mind that preliminary planning views can take anything 2-3 months or so, we came back to square one. We informed our foreign investor accordingly who gave up waiting and abandoned the project.• We now come to the unfortunate foreign investor who proposed to develop in Troodos an Adventure Park. Although his application was approved initially, he waited for 2 years to be informed what the lease rental would have been. No reply, with the Lands Office excuse that It had too much work and could not cope. End result the project was abandoned much at the loss of the mountain resorts.• The long awaited Verengaria Hotel sale at Prodromos village, got stuck again at the Civil Service bureaucracy and the long patience of the foreign (Chinese) investor pulled out from the sale notwithstanding the fact that he had paid a down payment (see the announcement of the local representative of the investor Mr. A. Pieris). So, his offer was withdrawn and cancelled much at the loss, again, of the mountain resorts.These and tens of other cases are examples of results having untouchable unions whose members cannot be fired from their job.We now come back to examine the differences that we have experienced when work usually carried out by the Civil Service, now is undertaken by private practice such as:• Airports – You may remember the almost daily strikes that the airports suffered with the most memorable one being by the luggage porters complaining that the luggage were very heavy for them to unload from the planes. A strike followed which gained them added income and suddenly the weight was not an issue (they became somehow lighter). No strikes since the privatization of the airports.• Ports – A similar situation and since privatization of the ports, be it that there are problems at this initial stage of privatization, these are solved within a short period of time.• Court Bailiffs – Court Bailiffs were taking their time to deliver the documents to the various litigants which had resulted in backhanding. Now that this service has been privatized, the delivery happens within a very short period and no cash under the table.• Land Surveys – An exclusive work by Civil Servants/Lands Office is at the top of our list in corruption and which took months for execution. Now that this survey work is done by private surveyors, the time and cost is much reduced (minimal) and it is all the best.• Building Permits – A never ending problem, be it that the Government although it tried to pass on the work to private architects, the latter are not up to it preferring to play it safe (lack of knowledge being one of the reasons).• A good percentage of local Authorities manage their business as it is their own ownership (a result of the Ottoman Empire). The local Mayors and other “chiefs” have as their priority to find “jobs for the boys” (their own voters) and they show little care about the well-being of the areas administration. So, in one case the local Mayor allowed one of the “local boys” to build a kiosk for selling newspapers and juices, within the protection zone (strictly prohibited) which became a grill bar. The District Officer protested and despite his warnings to the local Municipality, he received no reply. Now the C.T.O.- Ministry is taking some sort of action, but we are also told that it doubts its effectiveness.• The previous Minister of Education “dared” to correct the operation of our education system and the unions called a strike and demonstrated with approximately 10.000 educationalists. The Government pulled back and the Minister was “demoted”!!Etc. etc.So here we are, we are not so much governed by the elected Government, but by the unions and the other “mob” that we have become accustomed. We remember during such happenings in the U.K., Mrs M. Thatcher demolished the coal miners’ unions and since then everything is peaceful. Lovely, but then do we have the guts such as Mrs Thatcher to do it in Cyprus?Another “mob” style behaviour is that if one union strikes, then other unions who have nothing to do with the strike, call their members to strike in “support”. So, we have a problem with the Civil Service and others (see recent announcement by the Chairman of the Civil Servants that “if the Government dares to reduce their salaries/benefits, they will shut down the economy).Although we do not suggest that the local unions are anything like Mr Hoffa’s wrong doings, it brings up another important matter that of the shutdown of public services, such as electricity, telecommunication, hospitals etc. There was a proposal for these essential services to be provided a certain procedure prior to a strike, but this was not followed.In ending (although we have many other examples) is it not odd dear readers that the country which is the most affluent and most capitalist state in the world (the U.S.A.), is the one which has introduced 8 working hours per day and other measures and no other so called socialist states dare to adopt?
We were nearing full recovery in the real estate market with positive trends, only to face now the virus situation. This, in addition to human losses, is causing now side effects on business, especially to the tourist industry and by projection to real estate.As if this was not enough, we have added problems in the near horizon such as:• Passports – A recipe which done well for a few years, is now in trouble with the E.U., placing pressure to abolishing this Cyprus Investment Scheme. If this happens the repercussions will be considerable, especially with regard to the high rise blocks, which are directed towards this market source, with a consequential effect on some of them not been completed with a clear effect on the bank’s finance (NPLs), unemployment and the lucrative income that this has produced for accountants/advocates/agents and others.• Income Tax – A joint effort by France and Germany and in general the E.U. to adopt a uniform taxation system is another cause for concern for Cyprus, especially now that the two protagonists are connecting any financial assistance to countries that have an attractive tax system (such as Cyprus) to increase their tax. The Cyprus taxation system is one of the many reasons of Cyprus economy revival and whereas the Government of Cyprus is trying to introduce more and more incentives, it seems that this will not only be halted, but to turn around (you might remember how France and Germany changed the E.U. economy indicators in the past, to cover themselves for their indicators which were not in accord to the E.U. indicators).• Russian Pressure – As if these are not enough, we have now pressure coming from the Russian Government regarding our double taxation treaty, starting from Cyprus, but leaving out (at this point of time at least) countries such as Denmark, Luxemburg etc.• Small Politics – This is another inherent problem with the various political parties opposing the Government’s measures to assist business by differing these handouts, but not reducing them with as a result the delay in the economy restart.• M. Thatcher – We wish we had a strong politician such as Mrs. Thatcher, who managed to place under control the never-ending demands of unions in the U.K. We see the various Cyprus unions causing trouble in our economy asking for more and more (and less and less working hours). The recent High Court decisions on the Civil Servants demand for €800 mil. refund got us (all the rest of us) off the hook, but so much is their greed that they have applied to the European Court of Justice. You do remember a few years ago when the then Minister of Education “dared” to introduce some alterations to our system of education, with the unions promptly demonstrated with 10.000 people in the streets – at the end of the Government pulled back and we came back to secure one. During the writing of this article, we just happened to see the story of Jimmy Hoffa, the Chairman of the Truckers Association U.S.A. A beautiful example from the USA where the Government almost came to its knees by a union• Financiers/Banks – Despite their effects and although improving, they still face problems and with the recent Bail In of the year 2013 and the near one of the Co-Op not only the financiers are not earning anything, but in addition the shareholders are called from time to time to contribute more from their initial investment. As such a loan application is now being a calvary with time required for a loan issue (from the date of application) surpassing 2-3 months.So, justifiably, dear readers, we are worried about the whole situation, especially coming to know by examples, that small countries, such as Cyprus, is the prey of the larger countries (in the E.U.), especially at times of financial strife.All these (and other) matters have their repercussions on the real estate market. It is early days to specify what the effect is in terms of reduction in demand/property values, but as an indicative estimate and as present circumstances stand, a reduction of ±10% is reasonable. Depending on the duration of the virus and the other factors mentioned above, it will get worse. The recent reports (by the Lands Office) record that sales have dropped by 70%, so you do appreciate what the results will be during the year 2021 (expected commencement of recovery not earlier than 2022). The part of the market that is expected to be least affected is the residential market directed for locals and for the average prices, within towns/periphery. Housing is a social need, either for ownership or for rental, whereas the archaic dowry system is an assistance to young couples. So, we expect that this sector of the market will be the least affected, whereas if this situation continues, there will be an increasing sale of hotels and other tourist related properties, followed by shops/commercial uses (see also side effects by the Malls competition) and to industrial units (save the small ones for use as storage). Agricultural land will remain at the rock bottom still struggling not so much to sustain their value levels, but to create some sort of demand/realization of sale. Properties which are rented for income are expected to retain their present level, since with the low deposit rates on the savings and with the retirement/pensions that are collected by mainly the Civil Servants, money will be around, be it to a smaller extent, whereas the increasing unemployment will create a difficulty as a result of which will increase demand for rental accommodation. Rental (gross) returns are on average 3%-4% for residential units and 5% for commercial, whereas industrial returns do not show a steady/average return – but on average 5% (if a suitable tenant is found).Regarding rentals, what is important to note is not the level of rental income that a tenant pays, but the ability to abide in addition to the rent his other obligations, such as common expenses/repairs etc.So, now is the time/even better during next year, for those daring and adventurers and with money available to start searching for “opportunities” which appear on the various banks’ websites, administrators, investment funds etc., who have now more difficulty to dispose their assets than before and now, we expect, to be more inclined to accept offers than before.We must point out that the Government of Cyprus, is introducing all sorts of investment incentives regarding the real estate market, such as the abolition of the property tax, the reduction of transfer fees and now added tax deductions in the event of landlords concluding a deal on the passing rent reduction for a couple of months of at least 30%.Everyone loves his own country and it is not an exaggeration that we report that Cyprus is a Paradise despite its problems. The weather, widely spoken English, short distances, low crime rate, reasonable cost of living, education opportunities at all levels and the variety of the countryside are just a few of its attraction. On a recent visit to London, we took a taxi for our appointment. After 45’ minutes we stuck in a traffic jam, so we got out and we walked for ½ hour during the rain to reach our appointment on time. If in Paris you should not walk on your own, especially after hours since the crime is evident, whereas in Milan, our experience on pickpockets was shocking.In ending and during a visit of ours in a Bedouin camp in Jordan a few years ago, literally in the middle of nowhere, our host asked us “my friends is this not a paradise”?Yes, Cyprus is a paradise, but troubles are ahead.
Those who deal directly with the tourist industry (worldwide) have a most difficult job and many dilemmas to take a decision upon.According to the Deputy Minister of Tourism Mr Perdios, he expects at best (if the virus “goes away” over the next 2-3 months) the tourist arrivals will be reduced from the last year (4 mil.) to now best at 2.4 mil. foreign visitors. The direct hit will be borne by the hotels, at first instance, and restaurants etc to follow and of course all the others who base their business primarily on tourism, including the sale of agricultural produce and down the line industry to our own business, that of the building industry.The easy part for the hotels is to apply to the Government to cover some of their losses, including the payment of salaries for non-working staff (for all), but then who is the Government dear readers? All of us tax- payers and others. Where is then the Government going to find this huge amount of compensation money (in addition to the hotels and all the other business). Yes the Government can secure E.U. loans and issue of bonds, but then these must be paid back at some point of time, which means, in addition to the possible increase in taxation (the main attraction of our tax system for local and foreign business) whereas, as if this is not the end of it, we have the Russian Government threatening us to cancel our double taxation agreement. We will replace the hotels income to the extent possible, using the locals as part of internal tourism heavily subsidised, but then with the employees and business running in the red will they have enough money to support summer holiday? Our previous article on the subject was referred to a cap on the internal tourist visitors to be 60% for the beach hotels and 40% for the mountain resorts (so the latter might have a chance to survive).Unlike other countries, where tourists can drive from one country to another in Europe, we only have one means of connection that of the air transport. Yet even these Cos (airlines) are running into trouble and we note that one after another airlines go bust and we will have many more going down this route?So, let us come to the various dilemmas:• Any sort of business who lets its staff go, when business comes back to some sort of normal levels, will the staff be there? (this applies especially to the tourist industry which in any case we had a problem with staff finding at all levels of their business even during the year 2019).• We now have the hoteliers suggesting that the pre-paid reservation fees (some of which are given as a loan to extend/upgrade the hotels) that those pre-paid reservations should be discounted for future bookings, but then the hoteliers will have the cash to absorb these future discounts? Others suggest that these reservation fees should be guaranteed by the Government for their obligation for the refund (why?). So here we are with only one hotelier having obtained a loan (called free bookings) for €15 mil., so in total with others and as a rough estimate we expect the guarantees to be around €80 mil., why should they rest of us pay?For those who want Governmental guarantees, even if we are to accept this, they must place their properties under mortgage for the benefit of the Government (huge problems if they do not pay, will any Government undertake their forced sale?).• Then we come to a more serious dilemma, that of the virus. If a hotelier/restaurant etc guest infected by the virus (not due to the hoteliers’ lack of measures – but then how do you establish this?) within the establishment will he be entitled for compensation? (see compensation appetite especially by the British tourists in Spain as an example). The answer is, get an insurance, but then what insurance Co will cover say €100 mil. damages/ compensation demands? At this point of time there is not an insurance Co who can undertake this (one of many reasons why hoteliers will not operate this year is the fear of these compensation payments to their guests – even if they have the virus prior to their Cyprus visit – all sorts of scams – see recent food poisoning by some con-artists.• At the end of the day we must bear in mind the banks’ situation regarding their NPLs which will increase, whereas the much-expected sale of bad loans to foreign investment Cos will not happen. The situation brings us, we hope not, to the Bail In of the disastrous 2013 year and more recently that of the Co-Op (a near miss).As a “light” suggestion, but with some substance, where is one keep his money safe of confiscation? We wonder if it is the time to have these insurance Cos considering the construction of safe boxes, duly secured, and insured and with a separate ownership title (similar to the private stores/parking for apartments). Far-fetched you may say, but the facts of life are there. Sending one’s deposits abroad (if you can) is an option, but do these foreign banks have the sustainability of protection?
We are considering what stand to adopt on the proposal submitted by the Traders’ Association and others, regarding the possible rental reductions due to the virus situation.This is not an easy job and it needs extensive discussions and thought is required as to who will benefit (if reduction) and what will be the basic general (if any) the % on the business people/current rent, on the rental passing etc.For our part Civil Servants and those of the semi-Governmental bodies, banking employees, those with the minimum Governmental income (E.E.E.) and others including pensioners, should not benefit from any reduction, since their income has not been reduced by a cent (mind you we just got off not to repay these Governmental servants of €800 mil.Business owners who can show that their business circle is reduced by more than 25% will get support from the state. So, we do not think that it is reasonable to get in addition a rental reduction.There are businesses that have increased their business operation, such as take away, delivery business, supermarkets and delivery firms should be excluded.There are businesses which in any case are either closed or no operation during the winter/low season, especially those in the tourist areas. So, when we refer to the 25% income reduction, it should relate for the whole year and not for a special season.Then we have who will vouch for this 25% reduction. Being the people we are in Cyprus and with a small percentage of businesses have updated detailed audited accounts, the check for the reduction to be certified by auditors, who will bear also the responsibility of correctness.As a general stand we say that business that will be assisted by the Government, they should be looked upon with some limited sympathy.Regarding rents and their possible reduction (see Greece with a flat 40% reduction on rentals – shocking), we should differentiate those business/individuals who pay market/near market rents and those who are paying a lower rate than the market level. If we are to take the statutory tenants and for those properties which are let to refugees at well subsidized rental, why should they benefit?The never-ending non-paying tenants will grasp the opportunity to excuse themselves for not paying the rental, notwithstanding the recent freeze on eviction of 3 months.Business/individuals who own their own property and notwithstanding the non-payment of rent that the business has used its own cash (see opportunity cost) and/or have borrowed to buy their property, why should they be in disadvantageous situation, as opposed to those who are tenants?These and other circumstances are not easily formulated and implemented. So, shall we take into account from now on the “personal” circumstances of each tenant and landlord and what will these thousands of landlords do, who await their rental to survive themselves, studies cost for the children and loan repayment? How can assess the “personal” circumstances?If anyone gets the benefit of rental reduction, it should mean that when the prevailing situation is over, the rents to be returned to their original level and if business improves, will not the landlords ask for a higher rent? (to be fair on both sides).So that we can start “talking” on the subject, our initial stand is as follows:• Civil Servants and bank employees those on a fixed salary income from the Government such as pensioners etc, not to have the benefit of the reduction.• Non E.U. business/individuals not to benefit.• Touristic business in the tourist areas including hotels not to be benefited, unless prior the reduction of the 25% on the circle of business is proven and this for the whole year – bearing in mind that the winter season they are not operating anyway.• For residential units the tenants which have not been affected from their salary zero discounts.• Commercial units/offices to have a maximum reduction of 20% for a 3 month period (unless they get a Governmental subsidy – no firing of staff) and this if they are paying market rents and if business circle is reduced by 25% over the year.• For those whose income is reduced and for residential units, to get a discount of 20% for 3 months only (depending on their income reduction) subject to the above exemptions.• Touristic areas and including hotels to benefit with a 15% reduction (subject to the above).Etc. Etc.At the end of the day the best solution of course is the possible agreement between landlords and tenants, but bearing in mind human nature, each of the two sides will try to gain/save as much as possible.This is a start, but so that we can illustrate reduction, as an example we provide the following:Is an apartment 2 bedroom at Neapolis area (Limassol) with a paying rental of €350 p.m. (current market rental of €700 p.m.) is claiming a 50% reduction of rent because he been affected both financially and psychologically!! The landlord is a retired person who uses his rent in part to cover his children cost for their studies abroad. So, the tenant has stopped paying any rent in order to place pressure on the landlord to accept the 50% reduction – Is this not an exploitation?
We are wondering dear readers what to suggest to the estate agents/developers, who now have plenty of void time in their hands and books. We feel that this “dead” period of demand and no deals, must not be left unexplored and use this time to improve oneself both in the marketing approaches, as well as the internet skills and with the target to widen the potential clients’ horizon.When one decides what to do and follow a certain path, bear in mind the costs involved and every effort must be weighted to potential costs, since, nowadays, income is running thin, in addition to the possible disappointments by the numerous clients, nowadays, with the Nos.• Improve your computer skills through own education and seek the assistance of the more computerized staff and outsider others (if it costs, get a “reasonable” cost comparatively).• Improve your listing techniques, invest in a good quality camera, giving as much information as possible (including zoning, potential development suitability and suggestion, details of building, stipulate if title available, existence of leases and terms etc etc).• Explore the websites of other big players such as Gordian, Altamira, Remu, APS etc. and acquaint yourself of the details and more importantly ascertain the asking sales price vis-à-vis, the prevailing ones. Bear in mind that these big “boys” are as desperate to sell as you are and nowadays are more eager to respond and cooperate with possible discounted offers.• Learn how to adopt the visual tours listings avoiding however the exaggeration, which might lend to mislead the client, e.g. by just showing the best part of a property only.• Express your opinion whether the asking price is reasonable including the potential for appreciation and not use expressions such as “dead cheap”, comment on the new statutory tenancy evictions period 2-3 months (most important for investors – purchase for income) etc.• There are many properties for sale and we suggest that you concentrate yourselves to those that are the most marketable and/or within your capabilities and your wide clients want. It is a fact that high end properties bring in a higher commission if concluded, but they are more difficult to sell and time consuming.• Place your “For Sale” boards, since we find now owners are more willing to accept this than before, especially for those ones that have financial difficulties, squeezed the financiers or otherwise. Similarly attempt to get exclusivity sales period of 3-6 months (not generally so far accepted, but now the situation is different).• Depending on the duration of the time of the prevailing virus situation and the side effects that this has on locals and foreign investors income and needs, review the asking sales prices at intervals at say once every 2-3 months.• Concentrate yourselves if your clientele is locally based (Cypriots) to the ordinary residential units suitable for locals and enrich your listings for the popular holiday homes especially in the Famagusta region.• Do not encourage your clients not paying their rent. There is a misconception on this since rents are not discounted only postponement. The non-payment of rents will last for the next 2-3 months. Non-payment of rent is not “gifted”, but tenants will be called upon to pay later on, by which time, if the total amount due mounts up, the tenant may not be able to cover this and the eviction of 2-3 months still remains.• Explain to your potential clients the new provisions of the statutory tenant law and bear in mind now the Brexit, the British Cos/people are no longer protected (like any other non E.U. citizens).• If you are taking a client for a tour, make sure that you secure a travel permit for yourself, as well as for the potential client (and check how many people you can take with you in one car).• Do not over emphasize the virus situation, which is already scary, by adding your own “stories” on the subject. Yes, if you are asked you must reply with honesty your own opinion, but do not overdo it by saying “it will pass very soon”, or such likes. If you are selling properties at Paphos, do not add your own comments that “Paphos is the worst affected area by the virus”, “the hospital is closed” etc.• If meeting a client do not appear at the time of inspection with a mask. This alone will scare the client (you own risk mind you) but reading the various reports, the masks do not necessarily work for third parties. Just in case keep with you unused 3-4 masks if needed for you and asked by the client.• For those who are “supervisors”, bosses etc, show your leadership and be supportive with your staff, going to the office and not keep yourself at home protected. “The leader must be at the front” (Napoleon the Great).• Make sure that upon visiting a property, it has disinfection, as well as paper towels for washing hands etc. Do not do as a salesperson did, place a zivania drink (strong alcohol basis) and encourage the visitors to have a couple of shots!! (see Poland on confiscated illegal vodka, which is now used as a disinfectant base).• Desperate situation brings up all sorts of ideas, such as Lebanese cannot take their money out of their country. “We will pay you in Lebanon and if you accept, we will buy” one client told us. This entails possible illegal exporting of money, as well as other consequences.• Present yourselves with a positive attitude (not overdoing it mind you) and be properly professionally dressed (no jeans etc), but participate with the client’s concerns and share their concerns and not push through the sale, something which will put off clients by realizing that you are just there to get a sale regardless. Be as honest as you can.• Sending a letter/email to your clients to remind them that you are there for them, if they need anything, offering your assistance, especially to the foreign people/clients, both to the existing and recent clients of yours (it will do wonders).Etc. etc.IF AT THE END OF THE DAY DEAR COLLEAGUES/ESTATE AGENTS, LEARN SOMETHING ELSE – START COOKING AT HOME!! WHO KNOWS YOU MIGHT HAVE A TALENT IN THIS AND IN ADDITION YOU BOND WITH YOUR FAMILY!!!
When travelling with airplanes, the stewards go through the routine of explaining what the passengers should follow in the event of the plane having troubles and explain to us, the passengers, that when we hear from the intercom “brace-brace”, we should follow a certain procedure and in the event of having to abandon the plane, floor lights come up to guide the passengers towards the emergency exits.Although we are not in a plane, the virus has produced many negative effects on the Cyprus economy and by projection to the real estate market. The precautionary measures that our Government has/will be taking have as a goal to reduce the effects of the virus, not only to protect the health of the people, but to protect also to the extent possible the economy, which has only started to revive. We hope that the virus will be beaten within a short period of time, but then no one knows when (the experts opinion varies from July this year to next year).It is admitted that the foundation of the Cyprus economy is tourism which will not reach the number of 4.0 mil. of last year. And with the bookings recorded early this year, we will “suddenly” have this reduced at best at 50%, which will bring everything upside down. This inevitably affect seriously the economy and the expected growth of 3% p.a. does not seem that it will be attained. In terms of tourism this will affect all the other competitive countries of ours which have a similar problem, so we are more or less in the same boat, but then, we have the real estate market/building industry, being the third largest foreign/earner which in relation to other countries they do not have. We are also told that the virus has difficulties in surviving in hot weather. So, and notwithstanding our discomfort on the hot weather temperature, there is, here, a positive effect.The measures taken by the Government and in addition to the reduction of tourism (blocked travel, cancellation of our connection, have quarantine etc.) we will have repercussions regarding the Cyprus Investment Scheme, the reduction of income from the employees and business, the outstanding debts by developers and others all of which are expected to reduce demand from locals as well as from foreign buyers. So, there you go, another blow on the Cyprus Investment Scheme and its demand for visas/passports, whereas the reduction/uncertainty of income by the locals, will also affect the local real estate demand/market to buy.Will this cause a reduction in sales prices of real estate? In our opinion definitely yes, with the extent of the reduction depending on the time frame that these measures are in place and if a vaccine is found, the reduction will be much less (nobody knows).This again will increase demand at least for this/next year for rentals, especially for residential apartments in all towns possibly increasing rental levels further. To this end the new restrictions of the Airbnb (in addition to tourism reduction) will increase somewhat the supply at least for the summer season, having a sort of a counterweight to rental levels/demand.It is certain that business/Government will suffer, but on the other hand the various measures (e.g. working from home) is an alternative which if successful might be to our benefit with a new way of doing business and which might be adopted post the virus era (less office space requirement, internet conferences etc.). If successful, there is no turning back which might at the end will work to the benefit of the economy.At this point of time will there be “opportunities” for the reduced sales prices? Yes, we expect so depending always on the time frame, especially for those units that are directed towards the foreign market. On the other hand, bearing in mind the expected postponement of purchases by locals (until the situation is stabilized) rents for the local market will go up again.We often report in our articles that the plight of other competitive countries has helped Cyprus economy (Egypt, Turkey, Yugoslavia/Serbia, Russia etc.). This time however the circumstances are different since we have in addition to the above, the “oil war”, that is going on between Russia and Saudi Arabia, which has dropped oil prices at a historic low level (reducing income for the Russian investors, in addition to the other factors).The world economy is now in trouble and it seems that yet again real estate in Cyprus remains the only “stable” investment in terms of returns and security of asset/rental income (for the local residential owners).We have to wait and see as circumstances change almost on a daily basis, whereas the recent giving in by the Government to accept Cypriot students coming from the U.K. is not an example to give us confidence that our Government has the guts to carry on its “no discount” protection program.A very recent announcement is that rents should be reduced (nothing official mind you) for a (?) period or to postpone the fast track eviction of non-paying statutory tenants. This measure, be it temporary, will place this income in line with the other income/salary reduction, but at this point of time and until we know the details, it is not expected to reduce returns of real estate to the extent that it will direct investors to other investments (if any).
This is a theoretical approach on our part and not a wishful thinking, but with the prevailing changes of Government (the Ministers), we hope that real estate matters will get better (it cannot get worse we suspect) treated with an increased care and attention by those in Government.• If we were in charge, our first job, would be, to implant into the minds of the civil servants that they are there to help and interpret the laws and regulations on a rather “loose” basis for the benefit of the citizens, so that applicants/buyers and others are helped and not exploit unwary people. This is most important since our experience so far is quite the opposite. Unfortunately there are “Little Hitlers” in the civil service around in large numbers.• Push through the Building permits, by changing the procedure, as well as the procedure for the title issue. As the system is at the moment, it is exactly the same, a system that existed 60 years ago. Short and summary procedures to be undertaken by the supervising/private practice architects and engineers for the permit issue (adopted in part in part, but private architects are not up to it, so it is not widely used). Similarly the titles could be issued/prepared by qualified engineers and save matters regarding serious omissions and building issues, the rest to be provided with some sort of a “temporary title” to be corrected in future (but nevertheless it is a title which could be sold, mortgaged etc) – adopted in part now, but with a bar on transfers.• Push through the common expenses law which regulates the cohabitation of numerous owners in a single project. A pending issue over the last 15 years. A proposal has been submitted now and approved into a law, but it is half ended and most provisions are unworkable.• Set time limit for replies by the Civil Service/Authorities. Non reply within the time limits to count in favor of the applicant.• Put a halt on the uncontrolled building density transfer from Natura areas and other, since it destroys the local planning plans.• Limit to the minimum the Natura areas which places such a big financial burden on the country, something which we cannot afford. As an example the Paralimni Lake of around 600 donums is classed as Natura in order to protect a certain water snake which lives there. We think it is more correct to fence a 200 donum area and move the snakes there fully protected and if need be fed etc. As matters stand at present, this decision will cost the Government around €60 mil. and another €100 mil. for Akamas (still pending the long waited 25 years old plan). There is a confusion whether areas that are classified as Natura can be developed. In our opinion they cannot, yet we have received a letter from the Environment Department that these areas can be developed subject to restrictions – Permit us to disagree based on experience.• Put an end to the setting of minimum sizes of residential units, something which increases the cost of housing by approximately 30% (and as such the Government must provide handouts, subsidies and use Government land in order to reduce the housing cost for the lower income groups). Its proposal of affordable housing is not working, as we have predicted 1 year ago (see our previous analysis on the subject) providing a solution.• Encourage increased building height especially in seaside areas, thus preserving the environment and provide increased seaside views – see now the “army camp” housing estates 2 floor height that exists in most valuable beach land.• A complete rethink on the golf courses. Basic requirement will be to retain the 400 donums required for public green to be used for sports uses in one-two places in the project – or this to be located with other suitable areas by the developer. The developer to construct the sport installations and maintain the same for 5 year before passing it on to the local authority (a previous suggestion of ours now being adopted).• The annual property tax and the owners municipal taxes etc to be charged individually to the buyers (be it without title) and not as a whole, blocking the procedures for transfers and so that sales are not hampered. An old proposal of ours. Now adopted in part but not for the Municipality charges, so we are back to square one.• Use the private sector in all stages of real estate development/procedures subject to spot checks by the local authorities/Lands Office.• Set up a “people’s” complain office towards any member of the public can apply regarding any complain on real estate and of course to follow up and reply within a set time – Non replies by the authorities to attract penalties, depending on the time of the reply. Applications to be subject to a fee payment so that he cost of the service is covered. Already exists but with regard to other matters not for the building industry).• Financially support the Cyprus Investment Authority whose income and added expenses will come from a fee charge to those who actual benefit – A sort of success fee.• Enter into negotiations with Banks and other financiers regarding interest rate charges, especially on delayed payments, so that already distressed people are not penalized, pushing them under, much earlier than otherwise.• Encourage development in agricultural areas within the peripheral areas of towns, in order to increase supply and lower prices. This scheme to be based on cost plus basis so that the benefits pass on to the people not only to the developer and others (submitted previously in a detailed article of ours under the heading Urban Consolidation).• Alter the affordable rental/housing that exists at the moment to be changed based on our written representation to the Government and the political parties since the existing proposal is not workable. Etc etcMost important to appoint a deputy Minister of the Interior whose responsibility will be the permits/real estate/building industry – see the deputy Ministers of Tourism and Shipping, who have done wonders for the benefit of the economy.These and many others are some of our own ideas which need to be addressed in a bad situation which came about based on the British system of Government which was introduced 60 years ago to meet present day requirements. Invite foreign experts to advise us on such matters who will look at our property matters with fresh ideas.What we are worried is that none of the recent presidential and House members candidates touched upon such down to earth matters, restricting themselves to the political situation and the state of the economy – Most important as these matters are, life is going on and we must also cater for the everyday living. We have written to the candidates at the time on the subject and from what we understood is that “they do not bother”!!
Recent press reports refer to a British buyer who has acquired a house from a developer, the developer claiming that the buyer did not follow the payment terms etc and he proceeded to unilaterally cancel his sale contract and sold it after to another British person.The odd thing about this unfortunate story, is that notwithstanding that the first sales contract was duly deposited at the Lands Office, the developer sold it to a third party. How can this be possible, since we assume that the second buyer also deposited the sales contract with the Lands Office, by which procedure the Lands Office should not have accepted the second contract deposit. If this is the case, the developer should have asked the courts for an order cancelling the first sales contract, remove the deposited contract and give to him back possession of the property (in order for him to resell).If this did not happen we would suggest that there is something wrong along the line (or that we do not know the full details).What the press reports suggested is that the original buyer sued the developer, but he lost his case in Court and he is now appealing to the European Court of Justice, since his appeal to the High Court in Cyprus has also been rejected.This is the worrying part, in the sense that if the E.C. of Justice decides for the original buyer, there will be questions regarding the fairness/correctness of our own justice system and Lands Office procedures and we expect that several legal points will be raised on the subject.It is a sad story for both sides, since on the one side that of the original buyer and on the other the 15 year old legal case that must have cost in addition to money, both buyer and the developer aggravation and in addition to the psychological effects on both. It will be interesting to read the decision of the E.C. of Justice when it comes about and it is this sort of cases when published extensively, as this one has, will have repercussions on the Cyprus investment program, as well as to the wider real estate market, both for locals, as well as foreign buyers and investors, increasing their destruct for the market. This is another case of delayed justice which Cyprus is plagued with which adds to the whole market a negative name.In a previous article of ours, we have pointed out that although estate agents bear responsibility for wrong doings (for items that they need to check, such as existing impediments prior to a sale, physical and legal characteristics of the property sold etc) and for which they are required to have a professional indemnity insurance (in case of wrong doing), the developers are not required to have a certain classification (unlike the contractors) as to their capability, be it that classification will not protect necessary the buyers – a top rate developer can do as much damage as a low rate one, but it will help towards the buyers caution/ awareness.Of course we are not taking sides in any decided legal case, but we have to be very careful as Cyprus real estate is the 3rd largest industry in Cyprus (building industry) and this is one of the reasons that we suggest to our clients to appoint an independent advocate to examine the sales contract, carry out an investigation on the buyer’s behalf and give him an independent advice. It is also a fact that in few cases the advocates are in one way or another connected with the seller (the disadvantage of a small country) and for this reason we suggest that advocates are asked to sign a committed statement for the buyer, that he (advocate) has no connected interest with the seller etc.If we are to adopt the Trip Advisor procedure in the internet which is widely used for restaurants/hotels etc and adopt the same for real estate sales (developers/agents/ advocates etc), It can be done, but then extreme care is needed, since if an accusation is not correct/does not stand up in court, the “accuser” may be called upon to pay damages for libel etc which could range from a few thousands to few hundreds of thousands (and for which at the end of the day it will not do restitution to the accusing party other than getting his complain out of his chest).Our memory is long in the sense that it brings forward the Property Action Group, whose aim was to clear the issue of titles and permits. It did produced some results mind you (we initially played a promotional part on their part, but as their action became not to our liking later, we withdrew).We are here to help distressed people in our industry and our 800 letters reported in our Q & A Column is there for anyone to study.