Polski Trambesh, Bulgaria
Not so long ago, the daily BA flight 0890 to Sofia was packed with Brits looking to make a killing in the Bulgarian property market. Hopefully they enjoyed the in-flight meal and movie, because their investments almost certainly failed to pay off. It all went a bit quiet when the economy tanked in the recession, GDP falling by 5.5 per cent in 2009. Today, many buyers must be wondering if they will ever get a return on those off-plan Bulgarian apartments, as prices continued to tumble through 2011 by as much as 25 per cent.
But chin up, because while those investments may not pay-off for years to come, the economy is growing at a steady pace outside the Eurozone, and the factors that made Bulgaria a fascinating place to buy in the first place, remain. For example, the golden beaches, the genuinely wild and unspoilt mountainous countryside with friendly villages, and the terrific skiing. While they may not have the cachet (or accessibility) of the French ski resorts, the slopes are just as much fun and the après-ski considerably easier on the pocket. Property is now seriously cheap – some of the cheapest in the world – and maybe a good long-term prospects for capital growth if the country can attract middle-class tourists from Russia.
British buyers have been primarily interested in three Bulgaria property markets – resorts on the Black Sea coast, apartments in the capital Sofia, and ski/golf properties in the countryside.
The Black Sea resorts include Varna, Sunny Beach and Bourgas. The summer season is a little short for investment buyers and travel options are limited off-season, but they are great resorts in the height of summer. Small apartments in Bourgas go from around £15,000, slightly more in Sunny Beach.
Sofia was seen as a great fly-to-let option in the mid-2000s as the country prepared for EU entry and the billions of euros in infrastructure expenditure. Again, those investments have not always paid off, but any capital city is worth looking at for investment as property won’t go out of fashion, and entry level prices are low.
The three main ski resorts are at Bansko, Borovets and Pamporovo. You can buy studio apartments in Bansko for £7,000 these days, or go totally mad and buy a two bedroom apartment with good access to the ski lifts for double that. Bansko also has a new golf course, giving it four season appeal (or three seasons anyway, as the autumn can be very wet).
Borovets is the most accessible (from Sofia) and well-established resort and prices have remained firmer than in Bansko; whilst Pamporovo is the least developed in tourism and property market terms.
Until 2014, non-resident members of EU states buying any property with land in Bulgaria must do so via a company. This isn’t complicated but it does require additional expenditure of around £2,000. Once set up the process is the same as for an apartment, beginning with a verbal offer, then a preliminary contract and a deposit. Employing a good local lawyer is essential, and the exchange of contracts is before the notary, when final contracts and the remaining monies are exchanged.
These are relatively low, at around five percent of the purchase price, even though the buyer shares the agent’s fees with the seller.
Although in the European Union, to work in Bulgaria British people still need a work permit, as well as a residence permit. Moreover, they cannot apply for this when in the country.