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Paphos > a home on a cliff November 15, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Paphos.

With seven bedrooms and 10 bathrooms, Marc Wall’s new stone house in Cyprus seems intended for the Brady Bunch rather than a family of three. But Mr. Wall, an American, said it will be the perfect setting for him and his German wife, Gisela, to raise their 3-year-old son.

After falling in love with the country during a vacation six years ago, Mr. Wall decided this year to move his family to Cyprus from London, where he had been based. He looked at about 40 different properties before deciding on a half-built house that was selling for the equivalent of $1.4 million just north of Paphos, on the western side of the island. The house, which totals 550 square meters, or almost 6,000 square feet, is being built on the edge of a cliff overlooking the island of St. George. It is scheduled to be finished in January.

Houses in Cyprus typically sell for $1,700 to $2,433 per square meter, or about $158 to $226 per square foot, depending on the location.

Boasting unobstructed views of the Mediterranean, the Walls’ new house is one of the most eye-catching in the area. The private swimming pool appears to be filled by a cascade of water that flows down the slope where the house stands. The house also will have a gym, sauna and jacuzzi. But, for Mr. Wall, the real selling point was Cyprus itself and what it offers to young families seeking a quiet way of life.

“People are very friendly here and they are very genuine and family life is very important to the people,” he said. “The school system is also very good and I plan to send my son to Greek schools, at least until he learns Greek.”

About 85 percent of the island’s 780,000 residents speak at least English.

All in all, Cyprus seemed to fit his family’s needs, said Mr. Wall, who has worked in financial markets for 22 years. “Fortunately I can do my work out of my house thanks to the Web and broadband,” he said. “And telecommunications in Cyprus are cheap when compared to the rest of Europe.”

Mr. Wall is not alone in singing Cyprus’s praises. Many foreigners say they buy homes here to enjoy the more than 340 days of sunshine a year, and a high standard of living that is inexpensive compared with other European countries.

The low rate of taxation also helps. Anyone who is retired and a permanent resident, someone who spends more than 180 days a year in the country, pays just five percent tax on their income, which can include foreign pension payments. Property prices have long been on the upswing, especially since the country entered the European Union in May 2004.

Litsa Chrysostomou, marketing manager at BuySell Real Estate in Cyprus, said that house prices have increased six percent to eight percent a year in the last few years. Mrs. Chrysostomou said the area around Paphos is particularly popular with foreign buyers, primarily because the airport will be expanded by 2008 and a new marina with 1,000 moorings is expected by 2010. Also, the Cypriot Government has decided to allow the development of at least seven more golf courses; now there are only three, all in the Paphos area.

But Mrs. Chrysostomou and many other real estate experts warn prospective buyers to stay away from Cyprus’s Turkish north. “Properties might be cheaper there but there’s no way to check who the real owners are” because there is no reliable land registry, she said.

The island has been divided into Greek and Turkish Cypriot sectors since July 1974, when Turkey invaded the Republic of Cyprus and since then occupies the northern part of the country. Only Turkey, however, recognizes the so-called and self-proclaimed Turkish Cypriot government, which controls 37 percent of the Republic’s area, a situation that is one of the problems endangering Turkey’s membership negotiations with the European Union. The E.U. has threatened to suspend membership talks with Turkey unless it allows Greek Cypriot vessels to access its harbors by mid-December.

On the legal and internationally recognized Greek Cypriot side of the Republic, there is a land registry and legal system very similar to Britain’s as well as the promise of solid rental returns topping seven percent a year on investment properties.

Loucas Kitrou, the real estate manager at Aphrodite Hills, a large development at the mythical birthplace of the goddess Aphrodite, near Paphos, said the availability of mortgages in euros allows foreign investors from those countries to enter the market with little difficulty. Cypriot banks also can arrange mortgages in other currencies. Cyprus’s current national currency is the Cypriot pound, worth about $2.23.

He said that while Cyprus historically has been a retirement destination, especially among Britons more than half of all foreign buyers these days are families with children.

For Mr. Wall, the ability to allow his child to play outside alone was, for him, one of Cyprus’s main draws. “Crime is low and I feel very safe with my child being outside here,” he said. “No one will snatch him off the street,” he said.“This is the kind of lifestyle we want.”

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