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.