With the Bank of Cyprus (BoC) now being the island’s second-biggest private real-estate agent after the church, it might be seen as a good place to start bargain-hunting for a property in Cyprus.
Though mass foreclosures are a new phenomenon in Cyprus, seeking out bargains off the backs of those who have lost their properties to the bank, might appear callous, even though primary homes are not a target, BoC insists.
The complex issue was highlighted a week ago when the bank was forced to suspend an eviction order of a woman in Limassol, who reportedly owed them around €80,000. Representatives of the movement against foreclosures, single parent families, and politicians, gathered outside the house in Ayios Tychonas in Limassol to protest the bank’s intention to take the house.
BoC was planning to put the property, reportedly worth over €300,000, up for sale. It came to light later that the woman reportedly only uses the two-storey villa with a swimming pool for a few months every year and that she spends the rest of the time in Romania, her home country.
Bank sources said the bank was not even aware that someone lived in the house. The bailiff had to post the eviction order on the door because there was no one to receive it. The house was acquired by the husband with a loan from BoC, which has not been serviced since 2009. With interest, it had reached €94,000.
So, with a sort of clear conscience, it seemed safe enough morally to at least peruse the website of the bank’s real estate management unit (Remu).
One of the first featured offerings that hits the house hunter on the website is a staggering €9.7m price tag for a big but bland home in Limassol. You can actually buy an entire island with three villas for less than that in Belize. How about a €5.1m house in Strovolos, Nicosia? Umm, no, not as long as a castle in France costs €1.2m.
To be fair, the Remu website has a wide variety of residential and commercial properties, and plots around the island, many under €100,000. In the Nicosia district alone Remu manages 120-odd properties of which 33 are residential, 26 commercial and 64 are plots. These include finished and unfinished apartments, houses and businesses strewn across the city and outlying villages.
The question is, however, with the market improving but still depressed, who is going to buy an unfinished property, or indeed a shopping mall for €34m?
Remu is about to release its 2016 year-end report on February 28 and no one from the organisation was able to speak the Sunday Mail before then, so we turned to property expert Nigel Howarth who runs the Cyprus Property News website.
He believes one of the biggest problems BoC faces is offloading the unfinished properties, especially the commercial developments. Asked who he thought might buy a €9.7m home in Limassol, Howarth said: “A property is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it… but to be honest, I can’t imagine.” He also mentioned the shopping mall. “Who is going to buy that?” he said, though added that the bank must offer the properties at 80 per cent of the value in the first instance and cannot lower the prices for a year.
According to the latest figures from Remu, via the BoC website, during the first nine months of 2016, the unit acquired €894m in assets via the execution of debt for property swaps.
During those nine months, the bank completed the disposal of real estate assets amounting to €110m. As of September 30 2016, Remu was managing properties with a total value of €1.3bn and was servicing either completed or in progress properties for over 650 assets.
Last June, properties worth €201m in the unit’s possession were located abroad, mainly in Greece.
Howarth said much of this could have been avoided if during the ‘good times’, the bank had gone after developers who had not paid their mortgages.
“They never chased them and now they have to foreclose,” he said. “They are going to have a problem to unload large properties. They may have to sell to other companies just to get rid of the debt as they can only have the properties on their books for three years.”
Howarth also said that not only were so many of the properties unfinished as they were foreclosed from developers but those – even the finished ones – as long as they remained on the market, would cost the bank money in maintenance. “It’s a bit of a ridiculous situation,” he added. “Banks are not real-estate agents.”
There appeared to be some light at the end of the tunnel during the week when Moody’s Investors Service said that the recovery of property prices, reported by the Central Bank of Cyprus, would improve the asset quality of Cypriot banks, which was a “credit positive”.
“Recovering property prices would support the construction industry, incentivise mortgage repayments from strategic defaulters who have the capacity but are unwilling to repay and allow banks to offload real estate taken on their balance sheet through debt-to-asset swaps,” Moody’s said.
Through loan restructurings involving debt-to-asset swaps, Moody’s said BoC, whose property now makes up 6 per cent of its total assets, would be facilitated by a gradually recovering property market, which would reduce the likelihood of the bank recording losses.
The real estate market showed signs of recovery last year partly on incentives given by the government to property buyers and partly on an increase in loan restructurings involving debt-to-asset swaps. Total property transactions rose 43 per cent last year to 7,063. Residential property prices rose marginally in the third quarter of 2016 compared to the previous quarter.
For Remu properties for sale click on https://www.remuproperties.com/
From castles to islands: what you can get for 9.7 million euros
This house is described as a luxurious detached villa, part of ‘The Residence’ development, located in the Saint Raphael area in Limassol.
The villa covers a total area of 454 sqm and consists of an open-plan living/dining/breakfast area, a separate kitchen, a laundry room and a guest WC with shower on the ground floor and four bedrooms all with en-suite bathrooms. The master has a walk-in closet and a hot tub on the first floor. All the bedrooms have a balcony with sea views. The villa also has an incomplete basement (266 sqm) which will consist of a wine cellar, a hot tub, a home cinema, theatre, a plant room and a bathroom, which is finished. The property comes with exclusive access to a landscaped garden with a pool, and two parking places on the ground floor. The total land area 1,095 sqm.
Price: £8m. (€9.5m)
Kestrel House, St George’s Wharf is described as a contemporary duplex with four bedroom suites, large reception room and modern kitchen with separate dining room, all decorated to a high specification. Each room has a view along the river, from the London Eye to Battersea Power Station and outside space is plentiful with a total of three terraces and four balconies. The building has a 24-hour concierge, secure underground parking, shops, restaurants and a gym.
Finca in Camp de Mar is a luxury villa of Majorcan style on a plot of 210.000 sqm above the golf course of Andratx with panoramic views of the mar and the mountains. The property consists of five bedrooms, all with en suite bathrooms. There is also an independent apartment for guest or staff. The villa is equipped with underfloor heating and air conditioning providing various terraces, some of which are covered, Mediterranean gardens, a pool area and a garage for 2-4 cars.
A manorial palace in the heart of the Dalt Vila within the historical walls of the mediaeval town. It was built in 1740 and renovated in the last few years. Located in a Unesco World Heritage Site it offers a roof terrace of 240 sqm with views over the old town, the harbour, and the Ibizan country side. Access is through a great reception hall from which a grand stairway leads to the upper floors. The palace consists of four en suite bedrooms, a master suite with private lounge room, dressing room and bathroom as well as a cinema room.
Casa Blanca sits at the top of the cliffs overlooking the coastal town of Tossa de Mar, with panoramic views of the Mediterranean. Built on the rocks it was designed by visionary Catalan architect Josep Maria Bosch Aymerich on 1,088 sqm including multiple open plan living areas, indoor and outdoor kitchens, an outdoor cinema and even a “floating” office. It has been featured in many TV ads including one with Antonio Banderas. Some rooms have floor-to-ceiling glass walls open out onto the Mediterranean. The outbuilding offers a chill-out area which can be completely opened onto the garden with its heated infinity pool. There is also an additional guest apartment with large terraces as well as two en suite bedrooms, a summer kitchen with BBQ, dining area and shower facilities for the pool. It also has an outdoor cinema and parking for six cars.
Price: $10m (€9.5m)
A 6,471 square-foot loft apartment in the West Village that has a ‘Great Room’ a big library, a large kitchen downstairs. Upstairs has an open study overlooking the room below plus a master bedroom with en suite, two more bedrooms, a large bathroom, and a laundry room. If you were feeling brave enough in the current political climate you could live at Trump Tower in Manhattan where you could get a three-bedroom apartment for around $11m.
Almost every castle in France comes in well under the €9.7m tag. In some cases you could buy two or three for that price, for instance the completely renovated Puy L’eveque in the Occitanie region which has 22 main rooms including 10 bedrooms, sits on seven hectares of hilly and landscaped grounds. The whole of the buildings with its several dovecotes, forms a small hamlet whose origins date back to the 13th century with more recent parts added later.
Price: $9m (€8.5m)
Almost like having you own island, this property has five bedrooms and six bathrooms spanning 1,330 sqm internally with the grounds covering 2,869 sqm having views of both the sea and the mountains.
At the foot of the ‘Grand Villa’ the owners have their own private 70 metre-long yacht berth. At the house there is a five-car garage. Inside there are several living rooms with full-size sliding windows that open on to the pool deck. Situated on a raised platform of polished marble, the dining room seats twelve and looks over the grounds.
North Saddle Caye Belize
Price: $6m (€5.6m)
Speaking of islands, why not go the whole hog and buy one. Belize’s private islands are in high demand with Investors, including the rich and famous such as Leonardo Di Caprio, who recently acquired Blackadore Caye for a multi-million-dollar eco-friendly private island development project off the northern coast of Belize. North Saddle Caye is one of the only fully self-sustainable islands in Belize developed primarily as a private estate spanning four acres. It includes two twin luxury villas and two guest cottages. Each villa and guest cottage has two bedrooms and two master en suites, a spacious living and dining area and spacious decking and two outdoor showers, not to mention the lagoon and boat house.