Bulgaria is a great place to live in because it is rather centrally located on the continent, having shared borders with countries like Greece, Turkey and Romania. It is only a night train or bus ride away from Austria, Italy, Hungary, Croatia and Slovakia. The country itself is a land of beauty with its scenic Black Sea coast, mountains and historic ruins and monasteries. Life here is modern and connected, with even small villages having high-speed Internet access. The cost of living is low and the property prices are among the cheapest in the world.
One of the best ways to get a sense of the Bulgarian property market is to connect with other expat buyers.Many expats buy homes in Bulgaria that they plan to renovate before moving in, while others buy property that they can develop into a new home. Whether to buy or build is an important question to ask, and one that only you can answer, taking into account your situation and lifestyle, and understanding the building regulations and controls in Bulgaria. Here’s a short overview of how things work.
Buying a property
The process of purchasing an apartment in Bulgaria is similar to that in most other European Union countries. You require only your passport and the money to make the transaction. Until 2014, foreigners had to first form a Bulgarian registered company in order to buy property. But now, as per the agreement made at the time that Bulgaria became a member of the EU in 2007, foreigners can buy and inherit landed property in the country.
Expat buyers are usually interested in a few specific property hotpots in the country. These include the Black Sea coast resorts, such as St. Vlas, Burgas, Varna and Sunny Beach. You can also find very economical small apartments in Burgas. Another good investment opportunity lies in Bulgaria’s capital city, Sofia, where many buy apartments. It’s always lucrative to buy property in any capital city, especially if the entry-level prices are low. Then, there are ski properties at Borovets, Bansko and Pamporovo, which offer studio apartments or larger apartments that have access to the ski lifts. There are also the golf properties in these regions that compel many expat buyers to invest in residences here.
There are mostly finished apartments on the market, and it is necessary to visit these before making a decision. As with any other part of the world, they could have many advantages and disadvantages, some obvious and some hidden. You also need to get a sense of the surroundings – for instance, how far away the apartment is from the sea, what sort of neighborhood it is in, whether there are landfills nearby, and whether it is located too close to another complex. When property prices are low, it’s tempting to rush in and make a purchase after visiting a real estate portal or seeing pictures of the property, but it is always advisable to suppress this urge. Many of these properties are located in the rural areas and isolated regions of the country, where infrastructure and other services may be weak. If you are buying a property for investment purposes, it is possible that such places will not yield any profitable returns on your investment.
Building a property
Before building a property on Bulgarian land, it is important to first have the land approved as building land by the local authorities. You cannot build residential properties on land that has been designated as industrial or some other regulated zone. There are also unregulated lands that are meant for agricultural purposes. In some cases, agricultural land may be regulated in such a way that a property can be built on it. However, this can be a tedious process, and you will need to hire an experienced estate lawyer or agent to handle it. The process may continue over the course of several months.
Once your piece of land has been regulated, you need to obtain a permit that allows you to start building. This permit is called a PUP, and to acquire it, you need to submit the architectural drawings of your property along with a schedule of the complete construction process. It usually takes a couple of months to get the PUP, which marks out the specific area of the land on which building can begin, and also sets out the maximum height of the property. Following this, you can get approvals from water, electricity and gas suppliers in the area, and building can finally begin.