Cyprus property sector targets Chinese


The real estate sector on the recession-hit Mediterranean holiday island of Cyprus, a European Union member, is turning to Chinese investors seeking easier access to Europe.

Hundreds of Chinese nationals have purchased second homes on the island thanks to a Cypriot law revised last year granting permanent resident status to foreign buyers of homes costing at least 300,000 euros.

"The Chinese are not interested in houses as such in Cyprus. They are interested only in the permanent residency. They buy houses through visa firms," said leading real estate agent Antonis Loizou.

While Cyprus has been a European Union member since 2004, it does not belong to the Schengen passport-free zone, meaning permanent residency does not guarantee free travel across the bloc.

But "it is much easier to get a European visa" with Cyprus residency, stressed Wuang Hong, herself a long-time resident and telecoms employee who says she assists Chinese investors. She says most Chinese investors are businessmen who buy on the coast, especially in and around the western resort of Paphos.

"Some want to give a better future to their children - give them an opportunity to live in a cleaner environment and go to good international private schools, which are much more expensive in China," she said. The investors, who are banking on a medium-term rise in house prices, have had to come up with methods to skirt Chinese law which in theory limits foreign currency exports to an annual $50,000 per person. Apart from opening up Europe as a destination, Cyprus can provide a political refuge, access to the Cypriot banking sector and a way to circumvent China's one-child policy. But the players in Cyprus, where billboards have sprung up in Mandarin advertising luxury homes, insist money-laundering is not a factor.

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