Re­tir­ing to the coun­try­side and ru­ral in­vest­ments

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As the up­com­ing Christ­mas hol­i­days start to creep up on us and we’re all in a trav­el­ling mood, I vis­ited Pla­tres, which brings out its par­tic­u­lar graces dur­ing the win­ter months. Its slow but steady devel­op­ment, up­grad­ing of ser­vices and in­fra­struc­ture, such as the new sports and cul­tural cen­tre, the Ad­ven­ture Park, etc, have much to con­trib­ute in mak­ing the place more at­trac­tive. How­ever, the vil­lage re­mains sub­dued in terms of at­tract­ing tourists and visi­tors. Gone are the times when va­ca­tion­ers from the ma­jor towns would move there for 2-3 months in sum­mer. Now, is lim­ited to the week­ends, with same-day visi­tors and to some ex­tent hol­i­day­mak­ers who ben­e­fit from the so­cial in­sur­ance grants. Un­for­tu­nately, this imag­i­na­tive project for ‘so­cial tourism’ con­ceived dur­ing Arch­bishop Makar­ios’ pres­i­dency, which was de­signed to sup­port moun­tain re­sorts has al­most dis­ap­peared from the moun­tain ar­eas, as grad­u­ally the op­er­a­tors of the sea­side ho­tels also moved in and even­tu­ally grabbed the bulk of this group of sub­sidised hol­i­day­mak­ers. Since then, the ho­tels in the­moun­tain re­sorts have gen­er­ally suf­fered be­cause of the pref­er­ence for beach ho­tels whereas the re­gion’s flag­ship ho­tel, the For­est Park, de­spite the best ef­forts of its own­ers, is show­ing signs of ag­ing and di­min­ish­ing glory of the past. To this end, it is a shame to see the tra­di­tional ho­tels in Troo­dos, Pla­tres, Kakope­tria and Pe­doulas take a turn for the worst and close down.

The prop­erty mar­ket for the moun­tain re­sorts is made up chiefly from Ni­cosia (50%), Lar­naca (20%) and Li­mas­so­lians (30%). Va­ca­tion­ers in terms of hol­i­day homes are mainly in the area of Mo­ni­atis/Sait­tas (15%), Pla­tres (10%), Kyper­ounta (5%) and the re­main­ing ar­eas of Pe­doulas, Kalopanayi­o­tis, Pro­dro­mos and other vil­lages ac­count for 70%. In­vestors or buy­ers of moun­tain re­sorts are mostly aged over 60, rel­a­tively af­flu­ent and com­ing from the busi­ness and pro­fes­sional sec­tors. The aim is mainly to buy tra­di­tional houses for restora­tion, or the pur­chase of land (500-plus sq.m.) to build a hol­i­day home. Old houses in the heart of the vil­lages have seen in­creased de­mand from Cypri­ots, al­beit there is a some de­mand from for­eign buy­ers, but very lim­ited, mainly due to a sup­ply short­age. Su­per-lux­ury homes have been built mainly in the Mo­ni­atis-Sait­tas area and to a lesser ex­tent in Pla­tres, while the other moun­tain re­sorts have rather aver­age-qual­ity homes.

The dis­tance from ur­ban cen­tres has played a ma­jor role in the devel­op­ment of the moun­tain re­sorts. The new Li­mas­sol-Sait­tas road (ex­pected to be com­pleted around 2020) will add to the de­mand in the area and might also in­crease the in­ter­est for re­tire­ment homes by Cypri­ots and for­eign­ers, but the present eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion makes the year 2020 dead­line very doubt­ful. Un­like for­eign­ers, very few Cypri­ots have dared to re­tire to the moun­tain re­sorts, while those who tried, aban­doned the ef­fort fail­ure de­rives from sev­eral rea­sons.

• Cypri­ots love com­pany and can­not be alone for long. Un­like for­eign­ers, who might re­lax with read­ing a book, lis­ten­ing to mu­sic, study­ing na­ture and var­i­ous tra­di­tional hand­i­crafts, tours of the area, etc., th­ese are not is­sues of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est to the Cypriot.

• The close re­la­tion­ship a fam­ily has with its chil­dren and grand­chil­dren, even the lim­ited busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties, limit the time spent at the re­tire­ment home.

• The lack of ser­vices such as, doc­tors, su­per­mar­kets, car me­chan­ics, tech­ni­cians, gen­eral re­pairs, etc., does not help ei­ther.

• De­pend­ing on the age of the buyer, the inevitably many lev­els of the yard or the house does not help and the in­stal­la­tion of a lift is a must, while the lack of proper main­te­nance, is an­other mat­ter, as are gen­eral main­te­nance costs.

De­spite all th­ese ob­sta­cles, and some vil­lages which sur­vive on a core num­ber of locals, there is po­ten­tial for a bet­ter life to re­tire to the moun­tain re­sorts. Hav­ing dis­cussed the is­sue with sev­eral Cypri­ots who have re­tired to the moun­tain re­sorts com­ing mainly from the towns, al­low me to present the fol­low­ing ‘tips’ for fu­ture re­tirees:

• Dis­pose of your house in town, oth­er­wise you will be liv­ing in both your houses. If you have a large house in town and want a pres­ence there, down­size your prop­erty sell­ing the house and in ex­change buy a sim­i­lar sized apart­ment for your town vis­its only.

• In­ves­ti­gate who else has re­tired to the area you like, to see if there is a po­ten­tial of “good com­pany.”

• Find out if there are res­tau­rants or other places that are open through­out the year. The vil­lage it­self might not have one but a nearby vil­lage might have a big se­lec­tion, as is the case of the area be­tween Pla­tres and Omo­dos.

• Ex­plore the na­ture trails, lo­cal monas­ter­ies where you can seek friend­ships that might even de­velop into spir­i­tual con­ver­sa­tions.

• Take an in­ter­est in forestry and na­ture gar­den­ing, fish­ing

af­ter a while. This in the dams, find out and take part in the lo­cal cul­tural and other tra­di­tional ac­tiv­i­ties.

The moun­tain re­sorts are not nec­es­sar­ily in­ex­pen­sive when it comes to the prop­erty mar­ket. Plots, if avail­able, in Mo­ni­atis are around EUR 100- 120/sq.m., in Pla­tres EUR 300/sq.m., in Pe­doulas EUR 170/sq.m., etc. As re­gards the con­struc­tion cost, this will vary dras­ti­cally, de­pend­ing on the al­ti­tude and the lev­els or in­cline of the land.

When es­ti­mat­ing the cost for a home, you must also cal­cu­late about EUR 2,000/sq.m. if you have gra­di­ents of if you need a re­tain­ing wall, in­clud­ing the cost for heat­ing and pos­si­bly a garage.

Fi­nally, I would like to in­di­cate that the Pro­dro­mos and Pla­tres ar­eas are more re­stric­tive than oth­ers, while the lack of good-sized lo­cal pop­u­la­tion have re­duced the de­mand for more “per­ma­nent” res­i­dents for re­tire­ment. Un­for­tu­nately, Pro­dro­mos vil­lage failed to at­tract new in­vestors, not just be­cause of chang­ing cli­matic con­di­tions, such as the lack of snow, but also the ef­forts by the Ger­man owner of the Columbia, who bought the Beren­garia Ho­tel to turn it into a su­per-lux­ury ho­tel spa was faced with all sort of ob­sta­cles mainly due to the lack of wa­ter and the in­abil­ity of the author­i­ties to as­sist. Mr Sheller even­tu­ally sold it and there­after the Beren­garia re­mains a ruin, a mon­u­ment to Cypriot nar­row-mind­ed­ness and the to­tal ab­sence of gov­ern­men­tal in­ter­est.

A sim­i­lar fate awaited the pro­posal by the Had­jiIoan­nou fam­ily to set up a univer­sity in Pe­doulas. Per­haps if th­ese two projects were suc­cess­ful, re­tir­ing to the coun­try­side would be eas­ier.

Re­gard­less of all the above, I take my hat off to the pres­i­dent of the Kalopanayi­o­tis coun­cil who has up­graded the i mage of this vil­lage with qual­ity in­vest­ments in an area that is be­com­ing pop­u­lar by at­tract­ing visi­tors, al­beit on week­ends. The flow­ers in the streets, the glass el­e­va­tor and the new spa, as well as agro­tourism are only some of the projects that the vil­lage should be proud of. An ex­am­ple to b fol­lowed by oth­ers, I hope.

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