Like many Britons who buy a home in Cyprus, Paul Gudgeon had first visited the Mediterranean island while serving in the RAF in the 1950s. He was stationed in the Canal Zone in Egypt and often had to fly to Cyprus for supplies, finding the island to be a "delightful" place. Over the next 30 years he returned to the island several times, touring around old haunts and discovering new areas in the north and south, but it wasn't until 1992 that he and his wife Ros took the plunge and bought a property of their own there.
"Cyprus is an attractive place to live for many reasons," says Paul. "The climate is wonderful with short winters and long summers, crime rates are very low, the Cypriots are friendly and the cost of living is very affordable. Life is easy here."
Finding their house certainly wasn't easy though. They had four or five abortive attempts to buy different houses, both in the Turkish north and in The Republic of Cyprus in the south. "Several places we liked either had queries over the title deeds or we couldn't agree a price with the vendor," says Paul."If you are dealing with a small scale developer you have to really trust him before you commit your money. In the end we decided we wanted to be part of a Cypriot village and not in a purpose built resort with a large English community," says Paul.
Their hard work and patience paid off when they found an old stone village house in the popular village of Lefkara in the eastern foothills of the Trodos Mountains. They paid £50,000 for the property, buying it from an English woman who had been the archaeologist to King Hussein of Jordan. The Gudgeons then spent about the same amount again in renovating the property and now have a four-bedroom, three-bathroom house completely enclosed by thick stone walls with a large courtyard garden and roof terraces and balconies with far ranging views.
"We are in the heart of the village but surrounded on two sides by fields,"says Paul. "We can open our gates and be part of the village or shut them and be very private. Our garden has lemon and orange trees and Ros has been very successful growing vines over a terrace. We live in the courtyard for nine months of the year, cooking on the barbecue."
The house also passed Ros' "loaf of bread test". She wanted to live close enough to shops to be able to buy the necessities without getting in the car every time she wanted milk or bread.
They found the buying process in Cyprus to be straightforward though also fairly lengthy. "Getting the necessary permission off the Council of Ministers took us eight months and that was considered to be very fast," says Paul.
Obtaining this permission is a requirement for non-Cypriot buyers and requires buyers to submit a written application form supplying bank and personal references. For the vast majority of buyers this is a formality as long as they have no criminal record and can prove they are able to support themselves. While it can take up to 12 months to obtain, this should not delay purchasers taking possession of their new home.
The other surprise an unsuspecting buyer might get is the level of Transfer Duty, ranging from 3 to 8% today. "Even on our relatively inexpensive house it was a hefty sum," says Paul. "It is paid when you get final approval from the Council of Ministers, often months after you have moved in, and can come as an unexpected shock."
The extensive refurbishments they did on their house gave them plenty of time to learn the intricacies of dealing with local craftsmen. "Initially we found it hard to get personal recommendations from villagers," says Paul. "Then we realised that they generally would only recommend someone in their own family or else not pass on a name at all. Since then we have found an excellent carpenter and plumber in the village. If you agree a price in advance and pay your bills promptly you get good service at a fair price in return."
They found this out one Sunday when, just hours before they were due to fly back to the UK, they discovered their water tank was leaking."Within 10 minutes the plumber came round and fixed it for us," says Paul."I wouldn't like to try and do that in the UK."
Lefkara is a popular second home destination for Cypriots too. It is well located both for Larnaca airport, 30 miles away, and also for Nicosia , the island's capital, 40 miles away. Summer highs in Nicosia can reach up towards 40°C and the cooler air of the Trodos Mountains - Lefkara is at 2,500 feet - provides a welcome relief.
Lefkara is one of Cyprus' most attractive villages, popular with artisans and famed for its lace making and silver craft. The centre is a maze of narrow, winding lanes filled with shops, restaurants and bars. Most property is built from the light-coloured local limestone - Lefkara translates from the Greek as White Mountain - with cobbled streets. It's a popular tourist destination but above all is a working village.
"Cyprus has changed radically in the 15 years we have been here,"says Paul. "We used to bring certain foods for example from the UK but now you can get everything from televisions to tea bags here. There are several large Carrefour hypermarkets in Larnaca and Limassol."
The Gudgeons spend the majority of the year in Cyprus and have many friends in Lefkara. "Ros has been invited to over a dozen weddings," says Paul. "They are traditional Greek weddings where the entire village turns out and has a party. Family is very important in Cyprus and this helps create the safe, crime free environment."
So what would he change about life in Cyprus? "I suppose," says Paul after a lengthy pause, "I would make the British newspapers less expensive. Despite a lifetime spent working abroad I still like to buy them every weekend."
It seems a small price to pay for life on this sunshine island.
Cathy Hawker is a freelance property writer who contributes regularly to The Evening Standard and BBC Good Homes Magazine.