Saturday, November 12, 2005

Is older investment property in Bulgaria best?

Independent Online Edition - After buying an old house near the Black Sea, Robert Nurden has tips on how to handle the process:
Published: 02 November 2005

There were bureaucratic snarl-ups, the sale was delayed, there were disagreements between vendor and agent and misunderstandings between agent and buyer (me), and solicitor and buyer. Essential personnel in the local authority were away when they were needed, and when the time came for exchange of contracts, a vital document was missing. Eventually the sale went through - two months late.

Nothing new there, then. Except that this was Bulgaria, where I had summoned up the courage to buy a charming, stone, newly renovated two-bedroom bungalow with a quarter acre of land in the picturesque hill-top village of Avren, 20 minutes from Varna and the Black Sea. Its huge flat roof had an ancient bread oven in one corner and commanded pan-oramic views of the Kamchiya valley. Price: £37,000. It was a nerve-racking business, but when isn't it?

I had originally gone to Bulgaria to inspect a new-build apartment block in Sofia, where I had put down a deposit on a two-bedroom flat - price: £35,000. Rather than use it, I was going to rent it out and treat it solely as an investment.

But while I was there, I saw ads for country houses selling for as little as £5,000. I abandoned the apartment idea and concentrated on old houses in the Varna area. On the internet I found agents Living Bulgaria, whose English managing director, Martin Hunt, agreed to show me round some rural properties.

Being near the Black Sea resorts, they were pricier than inland. Mine was the first one I saw. It was in good condition after extensive renovation, and the owner was English.

It was only after we had driven an hour inland that the £5,000 price tag became a reality. There were any number of properties with up to an acre of land on the market for under £15,000. Most were empty and needed considerable work but they were certainly not shells. Every owner, as far as I could see, was desperate to sell.

For the most part the houses belonged to elderly couples, who were waiting to join relatives in the city. They needed the cash: one went down on bended knee hoping I would buy. He owned a smallholding of an acre, and a 200-year-old farmhouse with five bedrooms, balconies, countless outbuildings stuffed with yokes and carts, two cellars, wine press, olive press, and a well. A couple from Colchester were thinking of sinking their life savings into it and setting up a guesthouse."

If you are thinking about buying an investment property in Bulgaria consider buying a house like the writer of this article. In the long term it I think it will turn out to be a far better investment than buying an off plan apartment. Apartment blocks can be thrown up by property developers at will and there will eventually be a glut. Houses with land in great locations (not in the middle of nowhere!) are always going to have a uniqueness and rarity which gives them value.

Chris Bell



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