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Changing Housing Habits
20 August 2017
A young couple starts with the acquisition of an apartment 1-2 bedrooms, then depending on their financial ability move on to a larger apartment and then to a house. Other than those who have the financial support of their parents/ family, the circle of housing described is the above for the majority. This circle of housing, whereas it is ordinary in other countries, in Cyprus only the recent 15-20 years has appeared, since local attitudes did not find acceptable the change of homes.
The circle ends when the couple reaches the age of 65 years (plus) and in cases where children no longer live with the parent’s house. Especially those who have built in the past huge houses and with spacious garden, the “aged” couple does not wish to live in a house of more than 200 sq.mts. in extent, whereas cleaning and keeping in shape a large garden is costly (the feeling of living in a “ghost” house is not appealing in addition). In addition older house design units can also become a problem, as is at the time (1980’s) design of adopting split level units with 2-3 steps at various levels. The recent change is also affected by the prevailing economic situation since the family house targeted originally to be left to the children (mainly the daughter) now most children find their parent’s houses costly to upkeep, outdated requiring extensive modern improvements and thus new couples have no time/inclination to take over.
In terms of age groups and based on our experience:
The older couple if it succeeds to sell/let their property are looking for a central apartment close to shops and other facilities within walking distance in the region of 150 sq.mts. (max.)– either to buy or to lease it long term.
In our opinion changing times and living habits, brought about a new housing time requirement frame which did not exist before (the house was there for life given at a later stage to the daughter upon marriage as a dowry). In the past parents would displace themselves by giving away their house and they were accommodated usually in the rear part of a house named “subsidiary house” – an acceptable circumstance at the time but no more. Now families are not as close as they used to be and it distress us to note an increasing tendency to place the parents at old people’s homes (most of which are an embarrassment) be it that some of them have a hotel facility. High end retirement homes are not available and we believe that there is room and a good demand for such projects (both for locals as well as foreign residents).
Selling one’s house and moving into an organized complex with some facilities is what is needed and we do not refer to those who are sick or disabled. We wrote in the past that an ideal project was the Kermia Hotel at Ayia Napa which comprised of 2 bed bungalows with a common/central building accommodating a café/internal pool/a meeting room etc - Now this hotel has been sold and placed into its tourist use. For such projects however we found that a rental/occupation fee of €2.000 p.m. is not unreasonable and of course it applies to those who have the financial ability to do it. This coupled with food/services etc will end up to a total of €3.000 p.m. for 2 people. It is reasonable in the sense that if the couple sells their house the capital received should go against the rent/living expenses, but then the relevant project will bear no relation to those prevailing, but more on the lines of U.S.A. residential retirement projects. In a proposal that we have made, the retired people could pre-let the leased property for a period of 10-15 years, with the right to sell the balance of the lease should they have to or want to terminate. We tend to think that this type of projects is now becoming more of a necessity.
As people tend to live longer (Cyprus average death age 75 years men and women 82 years). It is appreciated that the need will become an increasing one and this alternative will be to the benefit of the parents as well as the children (who have no time for the parents). In the past, parents would pass on their property to children upon death, but there are those who make the mistake to transfer the property to the children prior (in hope that the children will look after them later on) - How wrong this is. So nowadays under the new law the parents in order to have some sort of safety, they can transfer the property, retaining a life interest. That is the parents to have the use of the property as long as they live (including rental, development etc) duly registered on the title. It is a sort of a blackmail from parents to children, but as the say in Greek “better safe keep your cloths in hope that at the end you will have the half remaining”. Property with life interests is an asset for the parents and an asset for the children (be it much reduced in value depending on the parents age).
Times are changing as Bob Dylan said in a song – indeed they are.