Greek Cypriots are selling their property in the North to other Greek Cypriots at prices higher than those determined by the Turkish Cypriot Immovable Property Commission (IPC) but lower than the market value in the South, it was reported on Monday.
According to information obtained by Greek Cypriot daily ‘Politis’, between January 2014 and May 2015, there were 124 properties sold in the North by Greek Cypriots to other Greek Cypriots. This year, the Greek Cypriot cabinet approved a bill to abolish transfer fees for such transactions when it came to property in the North.
Only nine of the properties had a purchase price evaluation from the Land Registry. Nevertheless, they were all sold at lower than market value. The properties are located in Aheritou (Guvercinlik), Rizokarpaso (Dipkarpaz), Dheryneia (Derinya), Prastio, Agio Sergio, Salamis and Agio Theodorou.
With a total area of 55,246 square metres the nine properties were sold for €87,625 while their market value was estimated to be €435,275.
While there were no details about the sale price and estimated value of 18 pieces of property, the remaining 105 were sold for just over €1 million.
The properties are being bought up for just less than half the market value in South Cyprus., the report says.
Nicosia seemed to be at the forefront of selling property which also has the highest value with 46 sales and 26 swaps between January 2014 and May 2015. Notably the property exchanges seem to be transactions between the same people, a private owner and a construction company that swapped €395,000 of property in the government-controlled areas with 26 homes in Trachonas (Kizilay), according to the report.
Other Nicosia property sold was in Palekithro (Degirmenlik), Galini, Petra (Taskoy), Gerolakko, Mia Milia (Haspolat), Morphou (Guzelyurt), Tymbou (Ercan), Argaki, Kalo Chorio Kapouti, Skylloura (Yilmazkoy), Kotokopia and Kato Zodia totalling €487,991. One home in Skylloura alone was sold for more than €100,000.
In Kyrenia there were 28 property transfers with the selling prices for 12 homes amounting to €85,000 in areas such as Kato Dikomo, Kormakiti, Vouni, Diorio, Agio Ermolao, Hartzia, Asomato and Ayio Amvrosios.
There were 22 transactions submitted to the Land Registry in Famagusta for transferring property from Greek Cypriots to other Greek Cypriots. The total area of property transferred was 267,616 square metres.
The majority of transactions for property transfers in the North between Greek Cypriots are with people and not companies. Out of the 124 transactions, four of them were submitted to the Land Registry office following Mustafa Akinci’s election as Turkish Cypriot leader.
According to ‘Politis’, permanent secretary at the interior ministry Constantinos Nicolaides said there was no evidence to show that people were buying Greek owned property in the “occupied areas” in order to seek higher compensation in case of a settlement, which under the current process appears to be closer than it has been since 2004.
Nicolaides sought to stress that the selling prices involved in the current spate of transactions did not differ largely from the amount that would have been granted as compensation from the IPC, which was offering notoriously low amounts.
The IPC itself is said to have run out of cash. According to Turkish Cypriot media recently, the commission owes £94m sterling to Greek Cypriot property owners. It has paid out some €200m to date but has run out of funding from Turkey, which has been providing all of the cash so far.
A decrease in the number of applications to the IPC by Greek Cypriots has also been observed in the last two years. The number of Greek Cypriot applicants was 2,500 in 2011 and had fallen to only 150 in the first six months of 2015,
The issue of property is one of the most complicated topics in the Cyprus talks. Presidents Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci have agreed on the principle that individual’s right to property will be respected under a solution and that an independent property commission will resolve cases based on return, compensation or exchange. The move has created anxiety in the north and south of the island, with Turkish Cypriots fearing they will be removed from Greek Cypriot homes and Greek Cypriots criticising Anastasiades for equating the legal owner with the ‘usurpers’.