A turn to­wards the Troo­dos vil­lages

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Re­cently we are wit­ness­ing a grow­ing in­ter­est in coun­try homes, mostly in the Troo­dos area vil­lages. Even though de­mand is mainly for hous­ing of a cer­tain type or char­ac­ter, there is also some in­ter­est, al­beit lim­ited, for plots suit­able for con­struc­tion where we must all pay at­ten­tion to the new reg­u­la­tions for in­di­vid­ual hous­ing in non-res­i­den­tial ar­eas.

Pla­tres is cer­tainly the most pop­u­lar vil­lage for such an in­vest­ment, but the sup­ply of houses and land for de­vel­op­ment is next to nil. Also, Pla­tres has three spe­cific ar­eas which are in pri­mary de­mand: the up­per road (Ai­do­nia street), the mid­dle road and the lower road. Any­where out­side of th­ese three ar­eas, the de­mand drop dras­ti­cally, while land sit­u­ated on an un­even to­pog­ra­phy has ex­tremely high de­vel­op­ment costs.

Ris­ing and un­til re­cently ne­glected vil­lages for cot­tages or vil­lage houses is Kalopanayi­o­tis, Pe­doulas and cer­tainly Pro­dro­mos. The gen­eral rise in cli­mate is one of the rea­sons that po­ten­tial buy­ers want to in­vest at a higher al­ti­tude than the vil­lages at a lower el­e­va­tion like Mo­ni­atis or Trim­ik­lini.

The pro­file of the po­ten­tial buy­ers is usu­ally mid-in­come pen­sion­ers, peo­ple who have a spe­cial in­ter­est in na­ture, those who like to read, seek peace and quiet, and the oc­ca­sional com­pany. This has helped to cre­ate cer­tain “neigh­bor­hoods” of pen­sion­ers from sim­i­lar pro­fes­sional or work back­grounds, whereas in nearby vil­lages one can find “out­sider” res­i­dents (mainly from Ni­cosia) who have their own groups. This trend seems to be on the rise with the rate de­ter­mined by the avail­abil­ity of hous­ing for sale. In many vil­lages an amount of about 25% of homes is aban­doned or in a very poor state. There is an in­ten­tion for sup­ply, but own­ers who do not be­lieve they will find buy­ers or are afraid of vil­lage gos­sip, will not put up “for sale” signs, which ul­ti­mately lim­its the de­mand as well. Per­haps the vil­lage “mukhtars” ought to take up the ini­tia­tive to at­tract new buy­ers as this will not only con­trib­ute to tourism in the area and im­prove the in­come of vil­lagers, but will also help to find funds to ren­o­vate some of th­ese houses. Un­til now, the pi­o­neers in this field had been for­eign buy­ers (mainly Bri­tish) in vil­lages mostly of the Paphos dis­trict where some of th­ese vil­lages have en­joyed an ob­vi­ous up­grade. Per­haps a small es­tate agents of­fice should take ac­tion and the de­gree of suc­cess will de­pend on lo­cat­ing such houses avail­able for sale. To this end, the gov­ern­ment houses in the Troo­dos area that are ex­pected to be of­fered on the mar­ket for sale or long term lease as part of the pri­vati­sa­tion process, will be of great in­ter­est.

In ad­di­tion, prospec­tive buy­ers should also con­sider the im­pact of the weather con­di­tions on th­ese homes and the avail­abil­ity of handy­men or small con­trac­tors who would be nec­es­sary for re­pairs, bro­ken pipes, power fail­ure, etc. The main­te­nance costs of such hol­i­day homes is par­tic­u­larly high, as is ev­i­dently the lack of sup­ply of suit­able tech­ni­cians; for ex­am­ple, if the re­frig­er­a­tor breaks down, it is most likely that some­one will have to come from the near­est town and not a nearby vil­lage. Also, in­vestors should con­sider that the con­struc­tion costs are very high and could rise to twice that of build­ing a house in town.

There is a grow­ing trend by some city ro­man­tics to make their own wine or zi­va­nia, which is an oc­cu­pa­tion for far greater ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple than am­a­teurs who want to be oc­cu­pied with such a hobby. Al­ter­na­tively, pas­times in­clude na­ture trails, vis­its to byzan­tine churches and monas­ter­ies, all of which add to the qual­ity of life. At the same time, very few vil­lages pro­vide fa­cil­i­ties such as su­per­mar­kets, re­tail shops and restau­rants in the win­ter months, so re­tirees (even those vis­it­ing just on week­ends) would need to travel from one vil­lage to an­other to find what they want. Only a hand­ful of vil­lages have man­aged to main­tain some level of such fa­cil­i­ties, such as Omo­dos and Pla­tres. When it comes to cost­ing, con­sider the fol­low­ing: • Buy­ing land suit­able for con­struc­tion of a house will cost EUR 50 to 500 per sq. m. de­pend­ing on the vil­lage, lo­ca­tion and el­e­va­tion or lev­els.

• Buy­ing a ready house in a “hab­it­able con­di­tion” could be EUR 2,000 to 3,500 per sq.m. de­pend­ing on the vil­lage, type of con­struc­tion and lo­ca­tion of the property.

• Also, cal­cu­late a main­te­nance cost of at least EUR 1,000 a year, de­pend­ing on the mishaps that will arise from mal­func­tions and con­struc­tion wear.

So, buy­ing a vil­lage house in the moun­tains is not a cheap af­fair and one needs to have a de­cent-sized wal­let even af­ter the ren­o­va­tion of the build­ing, while the ideal age to live in such a property should not ex­ceed 75 years, de­pend­ing on the per­son’s state of health, and due to in­creased med­i­cal need, phys­i­cal strain from fre­quent walks up and down steps and vil­lages built on un­even lev­els.

A friend of mine re­cently told me that he only walks “down­hill from the monastery of Trood­i­tissa to Phoini. My wife waits for me at the end the jour­ney in the car, be­cause some­time my back aches.” An­other friend built an ex­ter­nal el­e­va­tor, only that one day it broke down when he was init and he had to wait for six hours for the main­te­nance man and the fire ser­vice to get him out. Th­ese are some of the prob­lems one will face and al­though I fully understand the ro­man­tic at heart and the de­sire to re­turn to vil­lage roots, the real liv­ing con­di­tions should be se­ri­ously taken into ac­count.

As re­gards pub­lic in­fra­struc­ture, most all vil­lages un­der­take some level of i mprove­ment works, such as con­fer­ence or ex­hi­bi­tion cen­tres, the ad­ven­ture park for chil­dren and a sports cen­tre in Pla­tres, and var­i­ous projects in Kalopanayi­o­tis, a com­mend­able ini­tia­tive from the last mukhtar and the vil­lage coun­cil.

Typ­i­cal Cypri­ots as we are, we must not forget our favourite pas­time - eat­ing, for which al­low me to sub­mit the fol­low­ing sug­ges­tions: • Sou­vla - Pro­dro­mos and Pla­tres; • Home­made food – Pla­tres; • Trout - Phoini, Pla­tres, Kakope­tria; • En­ter­tain­ment – Omo­dos; • Su­per­mar­kets – Mo­ni­atis; • French cui­sine qual­ity – Phoini. If you are still in­ter­ested in buy­ing a hol­i­day home in the moun­tains, rent a house for a pe­riod, not only to see if in the end this is your dream, but also to con­sider build­ing and main­te­nance costs, as well as fa­cil­i­ties in the area.

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