Retiring to the countryside and rural investments
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.