September 2002

Monday 2nd September
We met Hakan again and he had amended the contract which we then signed, with Phil as witness…….phew!!!!!!!!

We are hoping that our permission to purchase will come through when we return on the 27th October and the land and the house positions will be staked out ready for the footings to go in while we are still there… if you are still with me well done!!!!!!!  We did actually enjoy ourselves although it was hard work and stressful, but I am sure there is far worse to come. We will have to visit every available holiday in order to keep a check on the progress of the house.

Wednesday 25th September
We have been told that we now have permission to purchase. This is a strange system where you wait 6 months just to find out whether you are allowed to buy! The contracts are written so that if permission is refused then your deposit is returned, or alternatively you could put the property in trust with your solicitor acting as trustee.

Monday 2nd September
We met Hakan again and he had amended the contract which we then signed, with Phil as witness…….phew!!!!!!!!

We are hoping that our permission to purchase will come through when we return on the 27th October and the land and the house positions will be staked out ready for the footings to go in while we are still there… if you are still with me well done!!!!!!!  We did actually enjoy ourselves although it was hard work and stressful, but I am sure there is far worse to come. We will have to visit every available holiday in order to keep a check on the progress of the house.

Wednesday 25th September
We have been told that we now have permission to purchase. This is a strange system where you wait 6 months just to find out whether you are allowed to buy! The contracts are written so that if permission is refused then your deposit is returned, or alternatively you could put the property in trust with your solicitor acting as trustee.

August 2002

Wednesday 14th August
Well, here it is the saga of the next stage of our house purchase!

We arrived at the LA Hotel (CTA – Cyprus Turkish Airlines- having changed our hotel 2 weeks before our departure!) at about midnight (3 hour delay going out there).  No food (even though we had booked half board!) so Mal had a go at them and then we did get fed.  Having booked a villa, to say that we were disappointed with our accommodation was a gross understatement.  So, we decided then and there we would not be staying and crawled into bed without unpacking our suitcases.  Our rep was due at 10 so we waited for her and told her that we were not staying as the room was awful and we had booked a villa and that was what we wanted.  Please note at this stage that there was a big notice on the wall of the room saying that NO food or drink was to be brought into the hotel, in other words, pay quadruple the price to buy it from the hotel!  Yeah right!

Olga, our rep arrived and we told her we were not staying and she would have to find us a villa.  There were a few villas at this location but it appeared that the air con had packed up and as it was about 43oC we decided we didn’t want to roast in their villas.  It would be fixed by Friday, we were told, (this being Wednesday) but Mal reminded her that he knew how Cypriot workers kept to deadlines!  Please note here that the villas still had no air con when we left three weeks later!  Wise move not going into one of those.  Olga told us there were no villas available on the island as it was peak season.  Like we believed her!  Then the Manager of the hotel came out and asked what the problem was and we said it was nothing to do with him, this was CTA’s problem, they had messed up the booking.  Anyway, he took us into his office and said he would like us to stay and offered us his personal suite.  He took us up there to see if it was suitable, it had a large fridge, and he told us we could bring anything we liked into the hotel!! This certainly was more like it so we agreed.  All through our stay, whenever he saw us, he kept checking everything was OK.  Nice man, very nice man.

Thursday 15th August
We went into Stringers Estate Agency to see the owners, Phil and Tracy (English).  They are a young couple who tried to find us some land in April. They are also building their own house and as they are further ahead of us we thought they would be helpful in giving us advice. Every time you ask people a question out there you get about 10 different answers! At least we knew with them that they had gone through the stages so would be up to date with the current situation.  The first bit of useful info was that you can get the land permission speeded up if you paid extra fees!! We also asked them if they knew of any architects and builders they could recommend

Friday 16th August
We were introduced to a really nice builder called Musa.  Shame about his architect!!!!!  Prior to seeing his architect Musa was helpful and took us up to the land and we tried once again to work out its boundaries, for those of you who have forgotten or who have not been told, our land is shaped like a boot and is on varying levels so it is difficult to establish where it begins and ends! On going to see the land we were very impressed that since our last visit the government had replaced the bumpy pot holed road with a new tarmac one but we were not too impressed that they had gouged out the edge of our land to make some of it!   One of the problems with this entire boundaries saga is that the land registry map we had is about 80 years old and some of the roads have moved.

That evening Musa’s architect, Mehmet, and Ahmet from the land registry met us on site. Mehmet and Ahmet had a disagreement as to where the boundaries were and a full blown argument ensued in the middle of the road. I think you could say that it was about to become pistols at dawn.  Musa I think, bless him, tried to translate to cover his embarrassment.   They were each telling the other not to tell them what their job was and not to question it and that each was an idiot and not to show them up in front of us!  This must have gone on for about half an hour with us standing on the sidelines twiddling our thumbs.  In the end Mehmet stormed off saying he was doing nothing until the land had been staked out.  It was agreed that Ahmet would return and stake out the land.

We were told the weather changes on 15th August and tomorrow would be winter!  They were right; it cooled down to about 35oC and a very pleasant breeze.

Saturday 17th August
We met Hakan, another architect recommended by Tracey and Phil. His wife is a Civil Engineer and he has his own builders…this sounds more like it!  He took us to view the land and then onto to some holiday home projects that he was doing.  We were quite impressed.

Sunday 18th August
We were supposed to be meeting Musa and Ahmet (land registry) to go and stake the land out but Musa arrived saying he could not get hold of Ahmet, his mobile was off. We were a bit pee-ed off by this but found out later that poor Ahmet had been in a car accident and written his Pajero off (that’s a car).  He was OKish, which was the main thing, but obviously not working!

Tuesday 20th August
Went to see Selcuk (our solicitor substitute) to get our land application number but he wasn’t there. Returned to the land with Mehmet, Musa and Phil. Had a good walk around and seemed to be getting a better idea of what was and was not ours, and the positioning of the house.  Phil was a big help and said he wished he had bought this parcel of land and it seems to have increased in value by about 10K since we bought it.  Kept being told to mind the snakes. We were not sure whether they were referring to the reptile family or to the human kind.

Wednesday 21st August
In between all this we did get to use the hotel beach in the mornings and do a lot of swimming, eating and drinking!

We went to see Mehmet in his offices and talked designs and prices.  This resulted in Mal running out of his offices saying quick get in the jeep before he sees me laughing! The reason for this was the fact he told us he wanted £700 for preliminary drawings (which we could do on a ncomputer!), £2,200 for submitting the drawings and another £2,200 to oversee the project!  He has obviously already worked with a lot of ‘stupid’ English people and thought we would follow suit! We immediately decided he was not the one for us which was a shame because we knew we could have worked with Musa.  I think Phil is going to suggest to him that he changes architects.

We then spent a lot of time, with the help of a newly purchased graph pad, deciding what it was that we wanted.

Thursday 22nd August

Mal drew to scale what we thought we wanted, with the help of counting out the squares on the floor of our suite!!!!!! This was hard work. ‘Do you want the kitchen this big or this big’ (as Mal paced out the squares!!) Then of course we ended up with the bathroom facing onto the pool etc etc.

Met Hakan again and he had some good ideas, like high ceilings (cooler in the summer) and to put beams in the ceilings and also to have a bay window at the front of the property to catch the winter sun. This room is to be the winter lounge/study/third bedroom.  Also we decided on arches internally to cut out a lot of the wasted space for corridors.  He definitely appeared to be on our wavelength.

We left Hakan and went back to try and track Selcuck down so we could get our land permission number.  We were successful this visit, it is number 125.  It appears 99 has not yet gone through but 150 has, so we enlisted the help of Phil who knows a man…

Friday 23rd August
Seemed like at last we were getting somewhere and so decided to have a day off.  We drove to Bellapais Abbey (my favourite place) and had lunch up there in the grounds.  Remember, this is peak season and yet there were only about two other couples up there.  In the evening we went out to dinner and went to see Tanner who owns Cesme restaurant.  This was the first place we ever went to during our first visit and we go back and visit him every time and he is always seems so pleased to see us.  He does THE best meze (about £10 for both of us including drinks, Turkish coffee etc!) He seemed pleased that we are moving out there.

Saturday 24th August
More house designing, this time thinking of lighting etc.

Sunday 25th August
Mal discovered Kilkenny (beer!) a close relation to Guinness which he said was a relief from the ‘fizzy’ Effes.

Tuesday 27th August
Back to Stringers to meet Hakan again. Phil had some news concerning our land. ‘It had been held up’. We are now both wondering what we paid the solicitor £700 for? But the process is now starting to move again (this ‘moving’ is actually bits of paper being passed from one desk to another in the land registry!)

Hakan had the preliminary plans but, as asked, he had enquired about the electricity to the site (originally we were told that the pole right next to our land was electricity but this trip we discovered it was the phone line!) and as we half expected it was going to be expensive, it didn’t come as too much of a shock to Mal (but it did to me!)… £10,000 to bring it to our land!   I think my jaw was still touching the ground as we left the office.  However Hakan’s drawings were good and we made some alterations, like incorporating a utility room and having folding doors on the winter lounge so that the room could be left open in the summer.

Wednesday 28th August
We decided to drive to Guzelyurt where we found a furniture shop with ridiculously cheap good furniture.  This was a funny experience because the assistants couldn’t speak English and our Turkish is very limited but at least we learnt masa is table etc.  It appears with everything you buy you get a free TV!!  We are seriously thinking now of buying a lot of furniture out there as everything we take we will have to pay import duty of 2%, 3%, 13%, 16% or 19%, again depending on who you are talking to.  Along with these variations on taxes etc, there will be an election out there this month and they tend to change the laws then, so all may change!

Thursday 29th August
Along with the drawings, Hakan had produced a ‘contract’ in the loosest sense of the term.  Not quite the spec we were hoping for.  So today was spent drafting our own contract. We went to the Internet cafe with Mal typing it up to the smallest detail we could think of and meanwhile I was searching the net for folding doors as Hakan didn’t quite understand what we meant.   The Internet was so slow you would not believe it.

Friday 30th August
Turkish Independence Day – lots of flags everywhere and celebrating and fireworks.

Met Hakan again, having emailed him our version of what we thought the contract should contain!  I was a bit nervous about it all and this was a heavy meeting with lots of bargaining between Mal and Hakan.  Mal has cleverly included the electricity connection to be Hakan’s responsibility (now I think we are down to about £8,500!) but then mains water will be another £1,500, also included in his responsibilities. Having said that, Hakan had amended that we supply the folding doors as he doesn’t understand them (oh yeah, we take them over in our suitcases??!) So we compromised and are now having a bit of wall each side and double opening doors to the winter lounge… now his responsibility!  So the contract now had masses of crossings out and amendments but although this is much more than we first originally planned we have decided to go the whole hog and get Hakan to do a swimming pool too and the drive etc. I just kept telling myself not to think about the money.  Mal also wrote into the contract that the last phase was to be complete by 15 August 2003 so we can holiday in it next summer (sleeping on lilos I think!)  I am not holding my breath.

Saturday 31st August
A bit of light relief, went into have a chat with Phil and Tracy and they told us to go up and see a hotel, The Hideaway where they are spending Christmas and the New Year, and asked if we wanted to join them there for New Year.  So we went to see it and Lynn showed us one of the suites.  What luxury.  It really is like a Country club AND you get served your choice of 6 breakfasts on your balcony when you phone for it! We seemed to have forgotten that we were talking about December and Janbuary.

April 2002

Somewhere To Live – Easter 2002

According to Maggie, we did not consider renting “because we’re stupid!” We knew we wanted to live in North Cyprus, we knew that in the short term we would be returning to the UK regularly and we didn’t like the idea of being at the mercy of a landlord.

We surfed the websites of local Estate Agents and ended up with a huge wad of properties that we wanted to look at, forty all together. We then arranged a holiday with a Travel Agent and, during Easter 2002, off we went to North Cyprus, full of optimism and with a clear idea of exactly what we wanted.

At first we decide that we wanted an old Cypriot house, we were impressed by their cheapness, about £35-40k. But having seen them we realised that considering the amount of work they needed doing to them we might as well buy a newly built property. Then the next problem arose, all the nice properties were in the wrong place. So, finally we decided to buy land in the right place and then build the dream house on it.

So, having been taken to see countless pieces of land, we decided on the dream site. But of course it has already been sold. No one told us but eventually someone did, but not the original estate agent, and the process of searching continued. Ahmet, Guy’s contact from the Land Office, took us around and showed us sites he thought we would like. Gradually he began to understand what we were looking for and eventually he found the perfect site: a nice square piece of land conveniently situated next to a village road. We loved it! Next day we discovered it was already sold.

Ahmet became desperate for us and showed us some “wonderful” sites: one with a group of “gypsies” living next door and one with an electrical pylon in the middle of it. Well at least getting electricity wouldn’t have been too much of a problem. Then an even more perfect site became available and, jaded and pessimistic, we decided to go for it. We were told that the site, in between Incesu and Malataya, was 1 donum 2 evleks and a bit, which equated to ½ an acre (2000 m2). On the map it looked like a cowboy boot.

Ahmet paced around the site, confidently showing us the perimeter of our land. Gradually these perimeters became bigger. The land was terraced and, according to Ahmet, consisted of several large pieces of land. The site was actually three separate plots being sold together. It was so overgrown it was difficult to make out what it was really like, but the view down the valley to the Mediterranean was stunning, and that was what we were buying. We should have realised that the area we were being shown was too big, our house and land in the UK was about 750m2 and the area that we were being shown was more than three times bigger than that. But, dreamers don’t check facts before they rush into things and the view is what we wanted so the amount of land was a little bit irrelevant.

The moment we said yes, Guy (Guray) the owner of Korinia Estate Agents, took us to a solicitor, Selcuk Gurkan. It might perhaps have been wiser to have decided on our solicitor before searching for the land. What you will find out eventually is that the word solicitor in Cyprus does not mean the same as it does in the UK. A solicitor here conveys documents through a process, and is sometimes called a Notary. Don’t expect much more than this. The Estate Agent is supposed to do whatever the solicitor feels is not theirjob. There can be some confusion here, and there was!

We agreed on a price of £15,000, which meant that we were paying £9000 a donum. We knew from our short experience that this was a fair price. The Land Purchase Contract was quickly produced, in English, and a document, in Turkish, giving Guy Power of Attorney was also signed. All this happened so fast it was as if we were in Dixon’s taking out an extended warranty on a washing machine. We then wrote out two cheques: £750 for the Solicitor and £2000 deposit, the rest of the money to be paid in two instalments within a month. Hindsight suggests that possibly we should not have been so swift to pay all the money, once the vendor has the money the incentive to get involved in the purchase decreases gradually to zero, and it did. Against this is the possibility that someone might offer to pay more quickly, at that time good plots were being snapped up and prices were rising.

We then went back to our land several times with the map we had been given and started pacing it out. We had been shown where the access to our land was supposed to be and using that point and the scaling on the map we tried to confirm the perimeter of the site and to decide where we were going to build the villa. Our original £35k limit was beginning to look unrealistic, as we had already committed £15,750 on the land. We were going bonkers trying to work out the land’s borders. There was supposed to be a surveyor’s point on the land, but this could not be found. Without this point as a reference no other point was definite. We sensibly gave up.

We then set about sketching the plan of our 3-bedroom bungalow. Somehow we managed to fit everything we wanted into 100m2! We had been told that we should expect to pay between £200-300 per m2, so using the bottom figure our bungalow should cost us £20,000. Perhaps we could build a 3-bedroom bungalow in ½ acre for £35,750! Oh, how we dreamed.

The finances were important because Mal wanted to take early retirement at 55, which meant giving up his teaching job at the end of the 2003 Summer Term. He also works for OCR as Principal Examiner and also as Moderation Team Leader. If he kept the OCR job and combined it with the early pension then we would be living on about £15,000 a year until Maggie’s pension was available in May 2010 and the rest of Mal’s pension was due in March 2013. We kept asking local Cypriots, and Brits living over here, how much they lived on. The figure of £500-600 per month kept coming back, and this was for a couple running a car and eating out once or twice a week. We also established that local wages were about £200-300 per month! This should mean a life of relative luxury for us.

Another financial consideration was the value of the two houses we owned. At that time we estimated that the 3-bedroom semi-detached rural house we had bought for £65000 in 1999 was worth £110,000 and the 3-bed terraced house we had bought for £51,000 in 2001 was worth about £65,000. From these figures we estimated that by selling the properties we could build the £35,000 bungalow and still have £40,000 capital left. Oh, how wrong we were.

So, now it was time to look for an Architect/Builder. We decided straight away that we did not want to get into a situation where these two roles would be separated so that the Architect and Builder could blame each other when things went wrong. We went to Bormat and they said they could build a beautiful 100m2 bungalow for less than £30,000, sign here please. Mehmet the Architect showed us some plans and told us that he would design the bungalow to be like the one the Stringers were building. However, the building price was now over £30,000 and the intakes of breathe were becoming sharper when the price was mentioned.

“A sharp intake of breathe” is a building phenomenon associated with builders who respond to questions like “how much will it cost?” by breathing in sharply and saying nothing. A nodding of the head often follows this action. It seems to be a universal phenomenon. Our question “could this be built for £30,000?” usually resulted in a sharp intake of breath then a “maybe”. This combination actually means “no chance!”

The Easter holiday got sillier when, having almost decided to let Bormat build our bungalow, we went for a meal in Hensons’ and after a few drinks we were introduced to John Torris, a builder/architect with an MSc and who used to play for Leyton Orient and Roma. We were a bit worried that with all this going on he might not be able to find time to build but we decided to see what he could do. Yes, he could build the bungalow for £30,000 plus 13% tax. He showed us some of his work so we decided that, subject to the contract being acceptable, he was our man. How wrong can you be!

So, at the end of the Easter holiday things seemed to be coming together. Six to nine months for the permission to purchase to be given and our builder ready to draw up contracts and draw the plans. That meant that building would start between October and January and all we’d have to do was to sign contracts and pay the instalments to our builder. We would be in our villa by August 2003. How wrong can you be!

After the holiday John Torris visited us in the UK but would not be drawn on the contract. Several emails later he still would not confirm the contract, though he did pay the vendor’s rates for him without being asked. We still don’t know why he did this or why the rates office refuses to accept that they were paid!