Q&A with Pantelis Leptos, Director of Leptos Estates
How has Cyprus responded to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Despite being a popular tourist and business and destinations in the EU, with close links to the Middle East and north Africa, Cyprus has recorded some of the lowest infection and casualty rates compared to the rest of Europe. Lockdown and travel restrictions were put in place by the Government earlier than most and has allowed to country to restrict the growth rate of the virus and has now put us in a better position to return to a form of normality.
Due to the country’s size Cyprus relies heavily on business and tourism, however, the focus on health over wealth has actually put us ahead of most of our European neighbours in regards to reopening construction sites, hotels, remove travel bans and so on. There is now a clear message to the rest of the world that we are open for business.
This is supported by the numbers. In the first quarter of this year (2020) there was a 250% increase in residency investment applications compared to the same period in 2019. Whilst there has been a drop in the second quarter the recent increase again in enquiries tells us that this was down to travel restrictions and investors waiting for the restrictions to pass before making their move.
Ultimately, the world is set to enter a new era – the post-lockdown era. We will all emerge different to how we entered and that is especially true of people’s investment habits. Investors will now look at certain countries and cities faired during the pandemic and it will be a big part of their decision making when choosing where to buy.
What makes Cyprus an attractive proposition for visitors now restrictions have been eased?
Whilst the tourism industry has suffered during the lockdown, Cyprus benefits from over 300 sunny days each year, with an average annual temperature of 24° removing an overreliance on seasons like other destinations. From a business perspective, the country continues to grow from strength-to-strength, especially the cosmopolitan resort city of Paphos and the city of Limassol, which remains on track to transform into one of Europe’s newest Rivera’s.
Limassol Marina was the first luxury project to attract super-yacht owners to Cyprus, and the wider area has since become a hotspot for wealthy homeowners. More than a dozen new high-rise residential buildings are being constructed, including Blu Marine and Limassol Del Mar. A luxury casino, golf course and plans to increase the cruise port are further enhancing the city.
On top of this, the country’s tax system also remains attractive to international investors, especially with a number of European countries continuing to increase taxation on foreigners – the UK’s increased Stamp Duty levy on overseas-based purchasers just one example.
Cyprus also offers an attractive residency programme for serious investors. Purchasers can obtain residency in Cyprus for as little €300,000, whilst investors may qualify for a Cyprus citizenship with an investment of €2 million and above.
Do you anticipate an increase in interest from internationals looking to gain a visa free access to many countries following the recent pandemic?
Freedom of travel access will always be high on the list of priorities for investors from Asia, the Middle East, Africa, U.S., India etc. Cyprus citizens enjoy visa free travel access to 172 countries including the EU. The ability to be truly international is what attracts.
The numbers support this, with investors from the Middle East contributing to a 76% increase in demand for European passports in 2019.
I believe the recent pandemic will also shift people’s mentality about where they base themselves in the future or the options they have at hand. Many have learnt that you can work remotely from anywhere in the world, so location will be a big factor. The benefit of Cyprus is its diverse offering. The country is not just famous for its warm weather and sandy beaches, there is also skiing in Mount Olympus providing people with options year-round.
Where did you see the most interest from during the height of lockdown?
In line with the rest of the world, interest and enquiries dropped significantly during lockdown, however, one of our projects that attracted the most interest in this period was the Limassol Blu Marine. Set to become one of the country’s landmark buildings it remains a draw for international investors looking for a suitable base in the country.
In the past three months we have received serious enquiries or offers from Asia, the Middle East, South America, South Africa and Russia, as well as from a number of Cyprus-based expatriates looking for a statement address.
What is Leptos doing to attract investors through the current situation?
We are experiencing a unique situation that is impacting every industry, including our own, therefore, we couldn’t ignore what is in front of us. Instead we decided to put in place a number of incentives that would not only attract investors, but also provide them with practical support that they need at this time.
The incentives on offer include:
- Free furniture pack for all new purchases
- Travel costs and 5* accommodation covered for international visits (travel and accommodation arranged by Leptos Estates)
- Domestic travel covered for all property purchasers
- Cost of all lawyers’ fees covered
- Free Leptos Gold Card membership for all completed purchases
These incentives are currently in place until the end of June. We are also offering increased flexibility for those that want to buy a home, but cannot currently travel to visit and finalise the agreement. The terms of this offering include:
- If a purchaser identifies a property they wish to purchase they can put down a deposit to reserve the property
- Before finalising the agreement, the purchaser will have the opportunity to tour the property, as well as any others they were interested in
- At this point if they wish to change their mind and purchase a different property they have the option to switch their deposit onto their new choice
Due to the travel restrictions for internationals, we introduced video tours and virtual appointments with the sales team to showcase new homes and villas and help source leads.
From a Government perspective many hotels are reopening and to provide visitors with a sense of safety and security if anyone suffers from COVID-19 during their visit will have the costs for their accommodation, medicine and food for patients and their families covered.
How do you see the Cypriot property market fairing in the next 12 months compared to your projections in January 2020?
Like everywhere in the world it is impossible for the recent pandemic not to impact the economy or the property market and we don’t expect a return to normal levels of activity until 2021. We do however, anticipate a change in buyer and investor attitudes with more factors now being considered.
We anticipate activity levels to slowly increase through the summer and reach a crescendo in early Autumn when hopefully travel across the world is easier and safer, allowing people to visit and close on their purchases. Interest in completed stock will also be prevalent, as people will want to have immediate access in case there is another peak and lockdown restrictions return.
From a Leptos perspective we have a diverse portfolio of completed luxury villas, apartments and complexes, as well as landmark projects, such as Blu Marine, Adonis Beach Villas progressing well that could be a shrewd investment for those looking to invest now in anticipation of the market conditions and values to improve in the coming years once this virus is fully under control.