Cyprus: Buying Property In Cyprus - Update

Last Updated: 11 November 2011
Article by Yiannos Georgiades

INTRODUCTION

Cyprus, which is the third largest island in the Mediterranean, is not over commercialised, has spectacular scenery, easy access and its enviable climate makes it a popular place to visit and live.

ACQUISITION OF IMMOVABLE PROPERTY

The process of purchasing property in Cyprus by non-Cypriots is relatively simple compared to many other countries. This is because the Land Registry system (which was established in 1875 based originally on British standards) with its updates throughout the years is one of the most sophisticated in the world.

PERMISSION TO ACQUIRE IMMOVABLE PROPERTY

European citizens:

When Cyprus joined the European Union in May 2004, most of the procedural restrictions upon buying property were lifted for EU citizens and in May 2009, all of the remaining restrictions were lifted in relation to non-EU citizens.

Non-European citizens:

Under the current legislation, for immovable property to be registered in the name of a non-Cypriot purchaser, authorisation is required from the Council of Ministers, which is granted as a matter of course to all bona fide purchasers if there is proof that the purchase was made using foreign funds which were imported to Cyprus. The application must be submitted after the contract of sale is signed and it normally takes about 6-8 months to be issued. In the meantime, purchasers can take possession of their property without any restrictions and live in it or rent it out since they are the legal owners of the property according to the law.

Legal safeguards

When non–Cypriot purchasers decide to buy immovable property in Cyprus, they have the same rights as Cypriot citizens. The contract of sale signed between the Vendor and the purchaser binds both parties to perform according to their respective obligations. Upon the signing of the contract, the purchaser is liable to pay stamp duty (see below) and then, it is advisable for the contract of sale to be registered within 2 months of the contract date, at the District Land and Surveys Department in the region where the property is situated. This is because it provides additional safeguards for the purchasers and creates the so called "right to specific performance" in favour of the purchasers. By registering the contract of sale with the District Land and Surveys Department, the property is registered in the name of the purchasers until the transfer of title deeds can occur.

When the title deeds are issued, they are registered in the name of the purchaser and filed in the Registry archives, which are confidential and are not published or made public under any circumstances.

Contrary to the risks inherent in the purchase of the property in some countries, Cyprus has never been involved in the nationalisation of any sector of the economy or in the expropriation of property owned by non–Cypriots in line with the Cyprus government's efforts to create a favourable climate for such investments.

STAMP DUTY

Upon the signing of the contract of sale, the purchaser is liable to make a one-off stamp duty payment, depending on the contractual purchase price. Payment is due within 30 days of the contract being signed, otherwise a fine will be imposed.

Property value (EURO)

Stamp duty (%)

Up to €170,860.14

0.15%

Over €170,860.14

0.20%

TRANSFER FEES

Upon the transfer of the title deed to a FREEHOLD property and registration in the purchaser's name, the District Land and Surveys Department will charge transfer fees, which are based on the market value of the immovable property at the time of purchase and which must be paid once only by the purchaser. The rates are on a graduated scale and are calculated as follows:

Property value (EURO)

Transfer fee rate (%)

0 – €85,430.07

3

€85,430.07-€170,861.85

5

€170,861.85 and over

8

NB: For properties owned in joint names, eg. by a couple or two individuals, the transfer fees are charged on 50% of the property value for each (as the purchase value is divided into two parts), providing an advantage for any property value exceeding a value of €85,430.07.

Please see the following example:

For a property purchased for €153,774.12 in the name of one purchaser, the transfer fees payable are €5,980.10:

Property value €153,774.12

Sole purchase transfer fees

Up to €85,430.07 @ 3%

=€2,562.90

Remaining €68,344.05 @ 5%

=€3,417.20

Total transfer fees

=€5,980.10

For a property purchased for €153,774.12 in the names of two purchasers, the transfer fees payable are €4,613.22:

Property value €153,774.12

Joint purchase transfer fees

First €76,887.06 @ 3%

=€2,306.61

Second €76,887.06 @ 3%

=€2,306.61

Total transfer fees

=€4,613.22

INHERITANCE TAX

Inheritance tax has been abolished and is no longer imposed in Cyprus.

VAT PAYABLE ON PROPERTY

For the purchase or construction of a person's first residence of up to 275 sq.m the VAT on the first 200 sq.m will be subject to the reduced rate of 5%. The remaining 75 sq.m will have VAT at a rate of 15%. These new rates came into force on the 1st October 2011.

In order to qualify for the reduced rate the residence must be the person's principle residence for a period of 10 years.

There are some further provisions including that the sq.m allowance is increased by 15 sq.m if you have 4 or more children. Further, an additional 7 sq.m is allowed for a storage room, 5 sq.m for a machinery room, 40 sq.m for a covered veranda space and 36 for the outside garage.

CAPITAL GAINS TAX

Should the purchaser decide to sell the property, capital gains tax will be payable at the rate of 20% on the gain. However, the first €17,000.08 of the gain is tax-exempt. If the property is jointly owned by a couple, then €34,017.00 of the gain is tax-exempt.

In a case whereby the property has been used by the Vendor as a residence for at least 5 years prior to the sale, then up to €85,430.00 is tax-exempt.

IMMOVABLE PROPERTY TAX & LOCAL AUTHORITY TAXES/RATES

Owners of immovable properties are subject to an annual Immovable Property Tax, which is based on the market value of their property as assessed on 1 January 1980. The rate of taxation is as follows:

value of property (EURO)

Annual property tax

0-120,000

0

120,001 – 170,000

0.4%

170,001-300,00

0.5%

300,001 – 500,000

0.6%

500,001 – 800,000

0.7%

800,001 & over

0.8%

As of January 2012 the aforementioned bands and rate are applicable, therefore will first be payable on 30th September 2012.

DOUBLE TAXATION TREATIES

Cyprus has Double Taxation Treaties with many European and other countries. The main purpose of these treaties is to avoid the double taxation of income earned in any of these countries.

SELLING OF PROPERTY

In case the purchasers want to sell the property before the title deeds are issued they have the absolute right to do so as they are deemed to be the beneficial owners of the Property. The contract between them and the Vendor will be cancelled and a new one between the Vendor and the new purchaser will be issued.

PROPERTY FINANCE

According to the guidelines of the Central Bank of Cyprus, the lending ceiling for the purchase of property by a non-permanent resident of Cyprus is set at up to 60% of the forced sale value of the property. The purchaser is required to contribute 40% of the market value of the property but depending on the specific request of the purchaser with the required security, this percentage may be lower. The loan period is usually for up to 25 years but this can be extended to 30 years in certain cases.

LOAN APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS - INDIVIDUALS

  • Photocopy of the applicant's passport (the page with the photograph and personal information)
  • A reference letter from the applicant's bank abroad.
  • Evidence of the applicant's income (copies of the last 3 months' salary advices/copy of the last year's tax clearance certificate/certificate from their employer or accountant confirming their annual income/the last 3 years' audited accounts, etc.)
  • Copies of bank statements for the last 3 months.
  • Copy of the contract of sale (duly stamped with the required stamp duty and deposited with the Land Registry).
  • Copies of payments already made by the applicant against the purchase price.
  • Copy of a utility bill (eg. telephone bill, electricity bill, etc.)
  • Source of contribution
  • Copy of the title deed of the property to be purchased.
  • Copy of the application/approval from the District Officer for the acquisition of immovable property in Cyprus by a non–resident.

SERVICES PROVIDED

Our law firm can handle all legal formalities on behalf of the prospective purchaser and guide them through all the stages of property acquisition.

Specifically, our services include, inter alia:

  1. Preparing the contract of sale (drafting and printing)
  2. Visiting the Department of Inland Revenue to stamp the contract of sale.
  3. Visiting the District Land and Surveys Department to deposit the contract of sale.
  4. Preparing the application to the Council of Ministers with supporting documents and follow up.
  5. Visiting the District Land and Surveys Department to affect the transfer of the property.
  6. Obtaining authority from the Central Bank.
  7. Amending the contract of sale.
  8. Cancelling the contract of sale, where necessary.

To read an earlier version of this article please click here

Disclaimer

The information contained herein is provided for general guidance and is intended to offer the user general information of interest. The application and impact of the laws in Cyprus can vary widely based on the specific facts involved. This information is provided on the understanding that the authors and publishers are not herein engaged in rendering professional advice or services. As such, it should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professionals. While we have made every effort to ensure that the information contained herein is correct, we do not accept liability for any errors or omissions.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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