Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Looking for Land, a Pipe Dream?

For weeks now we have been looking for the ideal piece of agricultural land in our area to purchase, well off a main road, 

Muji helps me out;  "a road like this is about all me and the cats can handle, Mom"
so we can build a wooden house, and relocate the cats we alter and assist to live there with us.  Most of the cats are in imminent danger of the seafront road, and it would be wonderful to provide them with sanctuary.  This is our dream, anyway, so we have set about to make it come true.
What that will involve, we don't know.  Maybe we will just find the perfect piece of land, build a house on it, bring the homeless and feral cats there, and feed them and look after them.  Maybe it will turn into something more, a charitable foundation, and land and sanctuary we could leave behind in a trust for the animals.  Nik and I don't have children, and whatever we leave behind we would like to leave for the animals and the Church.  We have even thought of turning it into an artist colony as well, where artists from all over the world could come, pay a small lodging charge for a seasonal stay, and help out with the animals.  Artwork is a great way to raise money for charity - and artists are notoriously charitable.  There are many ideas running through our heads, including operating a luxury kennel on part of the land  I owned a pet sitting business in the states, but here kenneling is more in demand, so that's an idea.

the perfect piece of land and not far from the sea, maybe artists would like to come and lodge?

Where we are there is a great deal of agricultural land situated behind us.  This land is less expensive and the build factor is less (only 10%), than land zoned for building plots for houses (25-110%).  You can build a house on agricultural land, but it must be deemed a movable structure.  A wooden house fits that bill.  You can also have animals on specific agricultural land that is zoned for animals.  That fits our bill as well.

it's mostly farmland behind us

one of the agricultural fields behind our complex

So we have spent part of our weekends for the last couple of months looking at land - land for rent and land for sale in and near our village.  As anyone who lives in Cyprus knows, people ask outrageous and unrealistic prices for the land here, just sending out feelers to see what they can get for it, perhaps not even being serious about selling or needing to sell it.  This is a problem when you are looking for properties, because you have no idea what the real prices they have in mind are, and you don't want to pay too much!  In addition, the banks are rather arbitrary in their valuations and possibly open to shenanigans.  And then you have the problem of "Black Money" which is illegal, but many Cypriots require.  There is also the problem of obtaining title deeds to the property, because the seller may not even have them himself!  Lastly, the inspections here are minimal and often nominal.

Cyprus is a country where the natives are land rich, cash poor, and the citizens happily live off credit.  They are really in no need of selling their land.  This compounds the problem for the foreign buyer who usually comes here with no land, little cash, and no desire to run up credit.

It is so different in the United States.  It is difficult if not impossible to overprice a piece of land, because for one thing, no agent there will waste his time trying to sell an overpriced piece of land.  They have too many other pieces to sell, and they do indeed work for their money there, (unlike here where you are lucky if an agent even calls you back).  And, also, no bank is foolish enough to value a piece of land at more than it is worth, for their own safety.  And, thirdly, you have something called "comparables" or "comps" you can rely on to know if the property you are interested in is fairly priced, and so you have a firm hope that when you sell your house you will get your money back.    So there are many fail-safes in the United States.  The problems experienced in the housing market there recently originated from a different problem; that is, loaning people more money than they could afford to pay back, enabling them to buy houses they could not afford.

To give you some idea of the discrepancy in prices of agricultural land we have found in our village alone, we have been given prices which vary from 18,000 per skala to 80, 000 per skala.

6 skala atop this hill are for sale, but he is asking 80,000 Euro per skala

This piece is 5 skala and he is asking 60,000 Euro per skala, and it has water

this 10 skala piece is a little further out, has water, but no electricity, and he is asking 18,000 per

Another option is renting a field; we have been offered one 5 year lease and one 10 year lease on two plots of land and the rent is cheap.  Our biggest expenses would be building the house and supplying water and electricity to the property, which is expensive for land which is not an investment, but still not as expensive as some of these properties for sale.  And then we would have to either leave the house behind when the lease was up and forfeit it, find a way to take it apart and take it with us, or work out a deal with the property owner to leave him the house in exchange for a discount on our rent.

One other very important thing to consider when shopping for fields is whether hunting is allowed in the area.  Even where it is not, you will often find hunters shooting unchecked by the local authorities.  We do not want to be in a hunting area.

Muji says no to a hunting area
So, these are our options at the moment.  We have gone far beyond the land for sale signs, which ususally indicate a high sell price, to talking to a local farming goods supplier;  he knows the farmers well, and hears first of who wants to sell.  He has been a great help to us.  It seems word of mouth is the way to go when looking for property in Cyprus.

Any thoughts? Opinions? Advice? Experience?

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