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Switching from a house to an apartment

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This is a question comes up quite frequently for home-owners, who have reached or passed the age of 60-65 years old and are on the verge of retirement.

Circumstances change and the originally young couple is now faced with new circumstances.  Their children have grown up and most likely left the family home to establish their own. The now aged couples are not as active as they used to be and finances are not as healthy as they were when originally built or bought their house.

Buying a house at a time when children are around have different priorities.  The garden at the original purchase is of paramount importance, more space is required and as children grow up, requiring their own bedrooms, common room, space for a house help and more space for a garage, on average for 2-3 cars].

As the family grows up and the children leave home and as age of the original home owners creep in, the house cleaning and maintenance becomes a problem, as well as the mobility of the owners.

This is particularly so for the split level or two storey homes, which become most inconvenient if they do not have a private lift, whereas the financial upkeep of the home is important, placing a strain on the financially weaker retirees.

So, it is not a surprise that there is a turn of the owners after the age of 60-65 to look for an apartment, which is more practical and less costly to live in.  Such apartments of the 2-3 bedroom units and which are located within or close to a town centre, are quite sought after and the location becomes very important In terms of convenience for shopping, shorter travel time, etc.

If we are to assume that a house of around 300 sq.mts. covered areas are of an average value of €700,000 (very good condition and around 30 years old) the equivalent cost of an apartment of 200 sq.mts. is around €400,000 (excluding transfer fees, VAT and other related costs).

In terms of maintenance, the house will cost an average of €400 per month (maintenance, garden, staff for upkeep, etc) whereas for the apartment in terms of common expenses, building maintenance fund, etc. will be around €150 p.m.

The existence of a good management committee for an apartment block, the paying of the common expenses by all and the respect of privacy by all occupiers is a rarety in Cyprus, hance the latter factor if not operational deters many a potential buyer from the exchange.

Capital gains tax

The possibility of paying capital gains and transfer fees in addition in the event of sale of the original house is also a burden to consider.  To the consideration of an exchange the traffic problems that exist and  the capability of being able to drive (over 75-80 years old) most likely will not be able to secure a driver’s licence in addition to the refusal of the insurance company to provide cover.

It is very difficult for home-owners to accept psychologically this “transfer” from a house to an apartment after many years of living in a house, whereas problems regarding home pets (dogs in particular) create problems with neighbours, dog walking and create a nuisance.

A client of ours who was troubled with this dilemma told us, “I could have never dreamed of moving out from our home, but then at the age of 75 and that of my wife, did not expect that we could have  difficulties in going up and down the stairs, to the extent that I prefer to sleep most of the times in our living room couch.

“Whereas taking the dogs (two elderly German Shepherds) is becoming a problem not only for the walks (twice a day) but  I do  not have the strength to control them  on their leash.   Yet having everything at an arm’s length in an apartment and saving around €300 p.m. from our house, small swimming pool, upkeep of around  €100 p.m. for the garden is putting a lot of pressure on our finances”.

What shall we do, he asked.

I wish we could come up with a straightforward answer, since each case depends on the personal circumstances of the home or apartment owners.

What we can suggest and as a general advice is to consider that age will catch up with you and at least some of the psychological and physical problems could be addressed by planning ahead in terms of finances for at least 7-10 years prior to the age of possibly moving.

In Greek we say that “Cypriots eat as if it is their last meal and build homes as if they will be living there for ever”. How true.

 

www.aloizou.com.cy

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