Real estate must get past golden passport scheme

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Annual residential property sales have jumped 31% in the first eight months of 2021; however, real estate sector stakeholders say the industry must come to terms with the scrapped Citizenship for Investment program.

According to Land Registry Office data, residential property sales rose in all districts, but only Nicosia outperformed pre-coronavirus 2019.

Building permits have also shot up by 31% in the area covered and 20.5% in value in the first six months of the year compared to the same period last year.

Commenting for the Financial Mirror, Angelos Constantinou of BNP Paribas/ Danos Real Estate’s research department said stakeholders are not getting their hopes up, considering the sector was on its knees in 2020.

He argued that any increases are due to delays in registering sales in 2020 due to coronavirus restrictions.

“One might begin to get their hopes up when they see the data, but when one takes a look at the breakdown, disappointment settles in”.

The real estate expert pointed out that sales are down by 14% compared to pre-coronavirus 2019.

“Staff at the registry and other public services were closed for some time.”

Constantinou said if the real estate sector wants to see a real turnaround, it would have to reorganise the entire industry.

“Real estate stakeholders have been calling authorities for years to speed up processes at the town planning department, the municipalities and the land registry.”

He explained that developers wanting to issue a license to divide land into building plots could wait more than a year.

“From there, they could wait for another year to see a building license issued for those plots.”

“On our part, we have to look past the Citizenship for Investment scheme, which has been dead in the water for some time now.

In November, the government was forced to pull the plug on its Citizenship for Investment scheme following a ‘gotcha’ Al Jazeera video alleging corruption in the ‘golden passports’ scheme.

Expensive luxury residential properties are what drove the programme, generating €8 bln from 2007-2020.

“The construction and real estate sector is called upon to adapt to the new data, to update its product and to seek new markets through a well-structured and sustainable business plan.

“Currently, what is driving the market, is the demand for commercial property.

“Except for the capital, where Cypriots are eyeing housing properties, the focus is on commercial warehouses, offices, and flats that could be used as offices, and of course the next big thing, medical facilities.”

Constantinou gave the example of an  Israeli hospital in Lakatamia, in the suburbs of Nicosia. It was originally planned to be built in Engomi.

According to reports, the H.C. Management of Medical Centre PLC (MMC) (www.hcmedicalcenter.com), in collaboration with Hadassah Medical Ltd, a subsidiary of the renowned medical organisation, Hadassah Medical Organisation, are proceeding with the design of the emblematic and innovative Hadassah Health Park in Nicosia.

Constantinou confirmed foreign investors are eyeing to invest in healthcare establishments on the island.

Property sales

According to the data published by the Land Registry, the number of sales amounted to 6089 from January – August, up from 4658 in the same eight-month period last year but down from 7044 in 2019.

For real estate sales per district, in the first eight months, 1761 were in Nicosia from 1238 last year and 1290 in 2019, recording an increase of 42% compared to last year and up 37% on 2019.

Sales rose in all districts compared to 2020.

However, compared to 2019, property sales decreased in all districts except Nicosia.

The largest drop of 43% occurred in Paphos, where sales documents filed fell from 1812 to 1039.

A decrease of 23% was recorded in Limassol, where eight-month sales fell in 1901 from 2469 in the corresponding period of 2019.

In Larnaca, 973 real estate sales took place from 1022 in the same period of 2019, recording a decrease of 5%. In Famagusta, the reduction was 8%.

In 2020, property sales fell to their lowest point since 2016 at 7968 units compared to 10366 in 2019, recording an annual decrease of 23.1%.