20,000 Views To Our Little Site!

Well we have now reached 20,000 views to our little site in under 8 months, we have over 1,200 followers and have regular visits from over 110 countries round the world.  So a big thank you to everyone who had helped us reach this stage.  As a way of commemorating this momentous achievement we are proud to present to you 11 yes that’s right 11 new properties for sale on our site, Check out http://thegoodlifebulgaria.com/properties-for-sale-in-south-east-bulgaria/ and thank you once again.

Bulgaria Through The Lens

As we are becoming more accustomed to Bulgaria, we are starting to understand more and more about this beautiful country.  So far due to us renovating our house we have not had the opportunity to travel around this wonderful country, so we have been looking online and via Facebook for information.

One such site we came across is Andrey Andreev Photography, this website quite clearly shows the variety and beauty of Bulgaria, and provides us with inspiration for next year to travel around and visit some of these amazing places.

Please note, photo’s are shown in much better quality on the Andrey Andreev Photography website.

“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer Abroad

Plovdiv – for a while

Photo: Copyright Andrey Andreev www.andrey-andreev.com

So, the beginning was at Plovdiv rail station at five in the morning. It was full moon and in Plovdiv everybody was sleeping. Nothing grabbed our attention from the beginning and we got away from the sleeping city with a vague idea to visit Kosovo village. I had not heard of this small village before and that made me even more enthusiastic.

Kosovo

Photo: Copyright Andrey Andreev www.andrey-andreev.comKosovo greeted us nestled in the Rhodope Mountains – a beautiful and attractive place. Perhaps I would never come here if I had to make arrangements and preparations in advance, but the unexpected decision proved to be very enjoyable. Well, of course, I’d rather prefer it was winter and having to go with donkey to this beautiful area of Bulgaria, but in this case neither donkey nor snow was present. But we were surprised by the great hospitability.

Photo: Copyright Andrey Andreev www.andrey-andreev.com

Much can be said about Rhodope Mountains and people there. I haven’t met any inhospitable Rhodopean people. This is probably because I am very cheeky and I ignore the failures. At the beginning of the walk the first person we met invited us to see the view through the windows of his house. Maybe everyone is friendly because they want to show us their home …

Photo: Copyright Andrey Andreev www.andrey-andreev.com

And yet nothing can replace a walk along the paths between old abandoned houses. You go back to the past, when people used to breed livestock, getting up at 4am. So probably they used to go to bed with the chickens, not with “Desperate Housewives.” But I do not know whether the abundance of shows on television makes us richer than them.

Photo: Copyright Andrey Andreev www.andrey-andreev.com

Photo: Copyright Andrey Andreev www.andrey-andreev.com

The idea of ​​watermelon slipped somewhat unexpectedly in our minds and also in our conversations … Well, actually I know who slipped it, but not to blame now … anyways, the mountain it’s a nice place to eat watermelon. In Kosovo there are two restaurants and the more luxury one is Hadjiiskata house. They were also hospitable in their own way and although watermelon was not in the menu, it was what we had for dessert. Many watermelons are now in one paragraph and I do not want to miss to mention patatnik as I didn’t miss enjoying it. Patatnik is a tasty meal from potatoes and Bulgarian cheese, you should try it.

Photo: Copyright Andrey Andreev www.andrey-andreev.com

Photo: Copyright Andrey Andreev www.andrey-andreev.com

It was not a romantic story, but it was a story about a nice, cold watermelon and a tasty patatnik. For a man it’s quite romantic. In the village of Kosovo you can make up your own stories and create your own romance. Wonderful old stone buildings, the coolness of the mountains and a nice thought of cold watermelon – this is a good start for a Saturday. And the village is the perfect place to spend a weekend with a good company.

Photo: Copyright Andrey Andreev www.andrey-andreev.com

But back to the beginning – Mark Twain. He always impressed me with clear thought and good ideas. And in this case with his bull’s eye. The problem with this idea is that even if I like my company, my company starts to know me as well. Well, too bad, but we will look for new ones! But I hadn’t been with so nice company for a long time, for which I am very grateful, and despite the many kilometres travelled to reach this place, Kosovo, am sincerely happy about my Saturday … and that was the goal.

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If you want to check out more of Andrey Andreev’s Photography please click here

Bulgaria a safe and strong country for investment.

English: Coat of arms of Republic of Bulgaria ...

If you are reading this, then like us (and many others) you are either thinking of purchasing, or already have purchased a property in Bulgaria either to live in or as an investment for the future.

Bulgaria is a hidden gem in the EU offering everything you could want or need, but without the huge purchase and living costs of other EU countries.  Bulgaria is the last place in Europe that you can achieve your dreams without breaking the bank.

We looked into several other European countries before we made the move, and either found them to be too costly for what we wanted to achieve or heading in the opposite direction.  You just have to look at Spain or Portugal to see the high prices and decline in the market.  If you look at countries like Croatia 10 years ago and now you will see the rise in the market and there is nothing to say that Bulgaria could go in this direction eventually.

We have been living here now over 6 months and have discovered a lot comparable to all the years and years of research we undertook before taking the plunge.

We regularly speak to other expats and have heard all the horror stories along with the positive outcomes.  We can honestly say that our story so far has been positive, and this partly is due to all the research we did before purchasing, although some people have not been so lucky.

Like everywhere in the world there are the bad and good agents, but how do you know if the agent that you are considering going with is a good one?

As we have discovered having an agent that is more than just a house seller but can actually offer an all encompassing service is most definitely of a huge benefit.  In Bulgaria no matter what it is that you are doing, you will soon discover that they love their paperwork, everything is done in triplicate or more in some cases.  Because of this it is a must (to make your lives easier) that you have someone on board who can guide you through all the red tape and help ease your integration into the Bulgarian system.  You also want someone who can aid you with taxes, company accounts (if applicable), insurance, VAT claims, etc.

Without our agent we would have been completely lost to be honest at times, and would not be in the position we are now.  For us being in a country that we had never visited, not knowing the language or the procedures was extremely daunting.  We have found, (in general) ,that the Bulgarians are very happy and genuinely nice people who despite language barriers have  gone out of their way to help us.  Quite often, when we are trying to buy things or get something organised ,if they don’t speak English they will get someone on the phone who does so as to help us out.  Having our agent helping us really did get things organised swiftly i.e. with our agent we organised residency cards, bank accounts and a mobile phone contract in a day. When we were on our own just trying to buy a fridge it took us an entire day!  This just goes to show having a good agent is a must!

When choosing your dream property you want to decide whether you require a property that needs renovating or are you going to go for one that has already been done.  Is the property to become your permanent home, holiday let, or is it as a buy to let alternative?

If going down the buy to let route, you want to ensure that the property is in a good area so as to maximise your rental opportunities.  When you consider your initial investment, (the purchase costs) compared to the UK alongside your possible rental income ,it is surprisingly easy to see why so many foreign investors are buying in Bulgaria.  The return on investment is significantly higher than the UK but without the huge outlay.  Once you have chosen your property, are you going to furnish it, and if so, how especially when you are possibly living abroad and its quite a long way to either bring furniture or how do you know if you are  getting a good deal if you buy locally?  Due to our naivety when purchasing furniture we paid over the odds for some items.  In hindsight if we were to buy again we could most definitely get more value for our money!  Also as we discovered when buying simple things like wood for the renovations, some builders merchants sell by the cubic metre not in lengths, this completely threw us as in the UK we are accustomed to buying what we need off the shelf.  It has only been later when talking to other Expats, have we learned that we could have got a better deal or better quality somewhere else.

If you are buying a home to live in, then there are  two main options with which to go down. Your first option is to purchase a traditional Bulgarian property, which is basic compared to UK standards.  Quite often a typical Bulgarian property (like ours) does not come with running water in the house, nor drainage and the electrics quite often need redoing.  If choosing to renovate, are you going to do all the works yourselves or would you require some assistance, again if getting someone in, how do you know if they are a bad or good builder?  We have heard a lot of stories of people paying for works to be done, only to find that they have to be done again and so end up paying twice for the same works, this can make your dream home bargain very costly.  If undertaking the works yourself then I would strongly recommend reading other posts in our blog, as this will give you some understanding as to how frustrating and sometimes difficult this can be.  Having spoken to other expats it turns out that our story is quite common when it comes to dealing with Bulgarian materials.  In hindsight, having a local tradesman to do some things could have made our lives easier, but we were determined to do everything ourselves.

Your second main option is to purchase a house from another Expat.  This has its benefits, the main one being, that the majority of works have been done already to bring the property up to “UK” standards.  Also don’t think that because the property has been renovated that you could do the works cheaper as there are some real bargains to be had and quite often the costs would work out the same to renovate as to buy renovated.  As you will see from our early posts when we arrived we were living in a house that needed clearing and cleaning, (a lot), whilst having no drainage or running water inside the house.  We lived on mattresses on the floor for 5 weeks whilst using a bucket and a paddling pool as our bathroom.   These were not ideal living conditions but we survived. If “camping” inside your house whilst doing the works is not your idea of fun, then I would whole heartedly recommend purchasing a property that has either already been renovated or at least has the basics installed.  We did things the hard way and could have made our lives easier, but hey you live and learn!

You might be wondering why someone would sell their house without making a profit.  Well the market in Bulgaria is very different to that of the UK.  Everyone in the UK wants to make a profit out of their home and the market dictates this but in Bulgaria it is very common for houses to be up for sale for years which this helps to keep the housing market values low.  To give you an idea Bulgaria has approximately 1/10th the population of the UK in a country that is 1/2 the size of the UK so there isn’t as big a demand for properties as there is in the UK (although that is increasing).

So now you might be thinking what if I buy a property and wish to sell it, I’m going to be stuck with it for years!  Well this is not necessarily the case.  Again you need to find a good agent which is reputable, with a strong background and also has connections in multiple countries.

Too many people try to sell their property solely through Facebook, EBay or other avenues as they are trying to get the sale completed for the least outlay.  Whilst Facebook and EBay are the largest avenues for marketing worldwide they do have limitations.  With Facebook for instance you are limited to the number of people within the group that you have advertised in (unless you pay for a sponsored advertisement), and on EBay you are competing with people who want to purchase a property for the least cost possible.

If you think about it, if you were in the UK would you really sell your home via Facebook or EBay?  Generally speaking most people don’t and use an agent.  Realistically it should be the same in Bulgaria, but with some slight changes.  If you have a property you will generally want to market it to an international audience.  You can either chose a site with a regular international reach or an agent that has contacts and offices in key countries to help you reach the widest relevant audience possible.

Another option if you wish is to sell the property yourself, but if you are unsure or unfamiliar with the Bulgarian processes again I would recommend getting a good agent on board who can guide you through these processes.

Another way to ensure that the agent that you are dealing with is reputable ,is to have a look on the British Bulgarian Chamber Of Commerce website , this has a list of industry leaders who have achieved this high accreditation.  One such company is New Estate Bulgaria Ltd who provides an all-encompassing service for buyers and sellers.  To see what they have to offer please click here.

Now that we have had some time in this amazing country we have realised a lot.  We have made mistakes and we have learnt from them.  If we did this again would we?  The answer is a resounding yes, but we would ideally have had more knowledge / someone with experience to guide us a bit so that we could have made our money go further or bought better quality materials sometimes.

Overall these last 6 months have been a very quick learning curve into the Bulgarian way of life (considering we had never been here before), but we absolutely love it and can’t imagine our lives to be any different now.  We feel so blessed to be living our dreams in this amazing country and wouldn’t change our lives for the world now.

Busy In The Garden !

Since our last guests departed it’s been back to work, this time in the garden. Our first project was to build a new surround for our outside sink and a raised border where our drainage pipes ran, as we needed to make sure all the pipework is protected,(as much as possible), from the winter months that is soon to be upon us. As we are trying to use as much recyclable material as possible, we purchased 300 used bricks from our neighbour (50 Levs), used tiles from part of our barn that we dismantled previously and wood left over from one of our projects.
The weather has been unbelievable for this time of year, with temperatures reaching as high as 44c in the sun, great weather but not the best for working in! There is one bonus though, working in that sort of heat certainly makes you loose weight, Andy has lost 3 stone since being here! The only downside to this weather is the bloody flies, they insist on hovering around our faces, most annoying when your trying to work! It took us 4 days to complete and we are quite happy with the end result and to top it off, our neighbours seem to approve, which is a bonus :).
Next task was to tackle the overgrown trees. Our apple tree was extremely over grown, I don’t think it had been pruned for years. It was so tall that it was growing through the electric cables, so it definitely had to be pruned right down. Andy had to do the top branches bit by bit so as not to knock the cables, then came the larger branches. One of the branches Andy had cut got entangled in the tree so Andy decided to rip it free , which he managed to do with brute force and ignorance. The next thing I know he’s flying across the garden! He landed on the concrete path, just missing the wall with his head. I obviously asked if he was ok, then proceeded to laugh, so much so, I had tears streaming down my face! I know I shouldn’t laugh but it was funny even though he dislocated his little finger! I can pretty much guarantee that if one of us was to get an injury, it’s always Andy. It’s a good job I brought plenty of bandages, tablets, platers, creams etc although a huge ball of cotton wool might have been better haha.
When we finally finished, the front garden was covered in branches. I think maybe we were a little over zealous, the poor apple tree is now a shadow of its former self. The quince tree was next on our hit list and I’m afraid it didn’t get much sympathy either! All I can say is hopefully they will recover next year but at least we have plenty of firewood for next year. The few vines we had have also been ripped out as they were old but we will be planting new ones to replace them.
As our garden is yet to be done properly, it doesn’t have much in the way of grass. I decided to make a temporary path to go round the side of our house to where our van is parked so we are not walking through mud when it rains. I gathered all the broken bricks I could find and laid them as best as I could to form a path. Not my idea to be honest, I got the idea from a fellow expat ( sorry Paul ). It turned out quite well and should do the job for now, although I did have to nick some from the side wall of our barn !
I’m now looking forward to spring when we can plant some new plants and flowers because,to be honest, we’ve got so carried away, that the garden looks bare and exposed, but at least we have a blank canvas to work with……….

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