Buying old village houses in Cyprus

Old village houseThere are literally hundreds of villages scattered throughout the island. These vary in size from a few dozen houses to a thousand or more, some of which literally miles from anywhere.

In the more remote villages, the only people you are likely to see are your neighbours and perhaps the occasional lost tourist. For those wishing to immerse themselves in the Cypriot culture and way of life, the villages make an ideal home.

There has been a growing trend by expatriates of buying old village properties and restoring and renovating them to their former glory. Some friends of mine who live in Limassol have done a wonderful job of restoring a derelict house with a beautiful, tranquil courtyard garden. Once inside, it's hard to believe you're in the centre of town.

Although some local villagers do not always appreciate the influx of foreigners, foreign buyers have breathed new life into many communities and have brought very welcome economic benefits which, in some cases, have saved villages from dereliction.

Finding old village houses for sale

If you're looking for an old village house to renovate, your best approach is to visit the village in question and speak with local residents at the coffee shop, community office, etc, and the village mukhtar about what’s available.

Before old village houses became popular with expatriate buyers, there were some real bargains to be found. But today, properties to renovate that have quality, charm and character are relatively rare and expensive. However, they are still some bargains to be found in the more remote villages and those less popular with foreign buyers.

(One old house I visited in a village famous for making 'pithari' was built by the present owner's grandparents some 70 years ago. His grandmother made the bricks from local clay and fired them in the village kilns, while his grandfather collected large flints for the foundations. Both set to work building the house and it's still standing, 70 years later).

One particular problem when buying old village houses (and land) is that there may be many family members, each of whom have a share in the house. This is due to the Cypriot laws concerning 'forced heirship', which makes it impossible for Cypriots to disinherit family members. As a consequence, it's not unusual to find ten or even twenty members of the same family, including cousins, uncles and aunts, who each have a (small) share in the house.

Another problem is that all the owners of a property must be prepared to sell. Quite naturally, some family members do not want to sell the old house they played in as a child and that their great-great grandmother left them. And as you may appreciate, these kind of things can lead to family disputes, arguments, and even murder!

Advice for old village house buyers

  • Engage the services of an architect who specialises in renovating older properties. To find one in your area, contact the CEAA (Cyprus Civil Engineers and Architects Association) in Nicosia, their telephone number is 22 751221.
  • Before concluding your purchase, get firm quotations for the renovation work and any improvements & additions you wish to make.
  • Make sure any changes are acceptable to the local Planning Authority.
  • It is possible that the house may be eligible for a Government improvement grant. Your architect will be able to advise you on this.
  • Follow my advice in the 'Legal Advice' and 'Property Conveyancing' pages.