According to the Chinese property portal Juwai.com, the most property searches among Chinese buyers overseas were focused on the island of Cyprus during the second half of 2015.
The Juwaui.com Purchasing Intent Index showed that potential property buyers from China were principally looking for real estate in Cyprus, followed by Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal from April to June last year.
Limassol and Paphos were the most popular destinations within the sunny Mediterranean island, with Cyprus' major cities also identified as having increasing appeal to British buyers by UK property portal Rightmove.co.uk.
According to the study by Juwai.com, which indexes trends in sentiment among Chinese property buyers overseas: "Chinese interest in Cyprus starts from a particularly low base, given the island's small size and the difficulties that investors have faced there – due to the banking crisis, the title deeds scandal and allegations of overpricing".
The average price for Chinese property hunters in Cyprus was €720,058 in the second quarter of 2015, down 3% from the prior quarter's average price of €739,952. "The index for Cyprus has climbed highest, by 450% for the period - albeit from a low starting point in absolute numbers. This trend points to growth in future property transactions by Chinese buyers which will benefit these hard-hit economies," the study added.
It also revealed the index increased 102% since the previous quarter and 351% since last year and points to the appeal of Cyprus' golden visa program, currently one of the most affordable countries in Europe for residency to Chinese property buyers. Cyprus is outside the EU Schengen visa zone but it is unique in its offering of immediate citizenship by investing €2.5m in property. This grants a Cypriot passport and EU citizenship then allowing the freedom to work, travel, study and live anywhere within the EU, importantly including the UK.
The Juwai.com Purchasing Intent Index tracks online property hunting activity on one of China's largest property portals, such as property searches, property detail page viewings, email enquiries, clicks to view agent phone numbers and more. The data is not based specifically on transaction activity but on the property hunt activity that precedes and leads to transactions.
President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades, currently in China announced on Saturday that he would create 15 authorised centres for processing visa applications in Chinese cities where there are no Cypriot diplomatic missions.
China's state shipping company COSCO is among several international companies interested in acquiring part of the operations of its main port at Limassol under a scheme to privatise state-owned businesses, according to the Chinese news agency Xinhua.
Addressing the China Business Forum, Anastasiades told potential investors how Cyprus could become China's gateway to Europe and Africa. The forum was organised by the China Chamber of International Commerce, the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry as well as the Cyprus-China Business Association.
Cyprus' President said the government was currently implementing a series of measures which included the simplification of procedures for the faster issuing of permits and licensing of investment projects and operation of businesses, as well as the speedier granting of residence permits to foreign investors.
"Opportunities for growth exist in the majority of economic sectors of Cyprus including commerce, tourism, privatisation of ports, electricity and telecommunications, shipping, real estate, large-scale development projects, education, health, research and innovation," he said.