Saturday, 21 August 2010
Buying older property in Bulgaria - An insiders guide
Bulgaria is a big country, despite what some sellers will say there are actually still plenty of properties around to buy at really good prices. Places still cheap include Razgrad and Dobrich which I happen to think are only long term investments, I think they are very poor areas often with not much going for them, not the sort of place where you want to leave an empty house, even empty I have had windows stolen, doors etc even from an empty house.
Although on Ebay some sellers say "Near the sea" you wouldn’t exactly call 34 Miles from Brighton near the sea, besides the sea isn’t everything and in Bulgaria winters don’t help the coastal areas considering that temperatures in winter is similar to London in winter. On the note of the sea, note that there has been a barrage of oversubscriptions to new apartments and houses by the sea, so rentals may be hard because there is simply too many properties by the sea for rent - Some developers are offering guaranteed rental, but these promises are rarely stood by. Buying plots by the sea is equally risky, with Natura 2000 allowing only certain parts to be built on; many speculators who bought land a while back are seething because what was once a development opportunity has now become pretty much a nature reserve. Prices are way huge beside the sea anyway, compared to the market price increases of inland property. Remember, Bulgaria is not Spain; Bulgaria is Bulgaria with its seasons, hot and cold. Nessebar is an exception to my rule, totally stunning, if you can buy there, buy.
In my view, Ski properties are good, but watch out because there have been some flouting of planning laws to get rich quick, so if you don’t do your homework you may just see your dream holiday home getting pulled down before you can say resell. Buying near or in the "established" (I’m saying established because these places haven’t got started yet, I recommend doing some homework and buying in or near these areas).
Although a big sprawl with little thought to planning and streetscape, I think central Sofia is a good investment right now. Given that it is the capital city of Bulgaria, its expanding airport and wealth concentration, I think it’s a safe bet, but be careful because prices are hiking quickly. There is some great architecture in Sofia, so if you can dodge the raging traffic, don’t forget to go have a look. Buying in towns and villages around Sofia, especially to the West, may be a good idea, think Surrey to London.
Around cities like Veliko Tarnovo, Rousse and Vratza are a good buy. Make sure things are happening in the villages (New houses, renovations, flash cars etc) before buying there, otherwise take a long term view as your property value flourishes slowly.
Picturesque Vratza (Just over 70 Miles to the North East of Sofia) has the backdrop of the Vratza Balkan (Huge mountain range) and Leva River running to the front of the city.
Veliko Tarnovo with its amazing Tzarevetz Castle (Watch the famous light show) and Great River Yantra running through the city is a great city with a huge amount of things to do for everyone.
Rousse is the gateway between Romania and Bulgaria. In my opinion, Rousse is a hotcake of the future, along with Veliko Tarnovo (Which in my opinion is a better place to invest in)
Don’t let the prices you see guide you to what the prices are and will be when you get to Bulgaria. Prices on EBay, on catalogues and anywhere else vary wildly, so there is no guide price etc for property in Bulgaria.
Local prices are often different from so called tourist prices - Don’t look like a tourist and you minimise on paying like a tourist.
Don’t make decisions on the spot, take your time. Buy what you like, in an area you like with the money you would like to spend - Not the max you can
Remember - Bulgaria is not cheap, it’s only cheap to us, so don’t go saying "£5000, that’s cheap" because the estate agent may just think you have loads more to spend and price the houses as he wishes.
When buying, see if there is a regional airport, while it may not be operational now or small, it may expand in the future; think Luton, Inverness and Stansted before they became international airports.
Make sure there are "things" around your village or town to make it an interesting place for renting or prospective future buyers, is there a mountain nearby, a ski range (Or future ski range)
When you are looking for a Bulgarian property, especially since distance buying at auction, you need to look closely at the photos to see if the house you are looking at is the one you really want.
Bulgarian properties were built without much planning in the past, generally they have been built by local (Often unskilled) tradesmen using traditional teqniques that are sometimes forbidden in todays cautious building world.
When looking at photos of houses at auction, check:
-The corners, the bottom of the walls, the top of the walls. Is there dark spots (Could indicate dampness), is there painted spots (Could indicate an attempt to "paint over" the dampness). Obviously there is dampness somewhere or another with older Bulgarian properties, but not in every room, you may as well live in a dirty sauna! If a whole houses has been painted, look carefully at what has been covered up, it could be large areas of dampness or cracks, at least if there are cracks you should see then to work out if they need sealed or pinned.
-The roof. Is it slanted, is it not straight or bowed at some point? If a roof is not straight it may mean just bad design (Remember these houses were generally built with little or no actual physical plans) or it may mean that it could collapse because it is weak (Could be woodworm, weak joist etc) so this may cause issues in the future. As a general rule of thumb, we check the roofs are straight and even before selling to others, sometimes the roof is solid though and able to withstand some more years or rain, heat and cold.
-Check the village in the background. Is there people, is there modern cars, do the houses around the house you are looking at look like they are well looked after? It depends what you are looking for, but you generally want a village which is vibrant (Or is aspiring to be vibrant) and that money (Or skills, or love...) are coming into the village.
The walls. Is there large cracks on the houses, if they have been painted you may not see them.
-The floors. Many Bulgarian properties (Including many we sell) have compressed mud floors rather than plain old concrete or wood. Although traditional Bulgarians have been happy with these for years, you dont really want to put a new wall to wall carpet down on these. If a floor has mud on it instead of wood or concrete, then it may be necessary to dig out the mud and re-lay the flooring, which actually isnt so expensive.