Perform a web search of the words “property bulgaria” and you are inundated with property websites, all of which are similarly named and offer a bewildering array of choices. And why does everyone want to buy property in Bulgaria at the moment? Well, it is certainly a beautiful country and property is very cheap there by the standards of the rest of Europe. There is everything that an estate agent could dream of when selling holiday homes: sun, sea, sand, mountains and skiing. If you are thinking about buying property in a country or even a region that you are unfamiliar with far from your home country, it may be a daunting prospect. There are a variety of ways to approach this venture. Be sure to check current rules and processes through official channels as it has been a year since we purchased our property.
Visit the country
This seems kind of obvious, but it is necessary to experience a country first hand in order to get an impression of the people (not that it's a good idea to generalise from the few people you will meet on your first visit to a foreign land!), the culture and the services. Before we first travelled to Bulgaria I was under the impression that it would be quite similar to Poland, a country in central Europe to which I have travelled many times. I was quite wrong! Bulgaria is a real mish-mash of western and eastern culture. In fact it reminded me more of Turkey than Poland by a long stretch, especially the cuisine. So, we came to Bulgaria and we loved it and decided that it would be a good place to buy a house.
If you have the time and are prepared to cope with the stress you could couple a holiday with visiting some properties to get an impression of what is available. This process is made a lot simpler if you have done your research online and know which region or regions you are interested in. Most online property sites can be contacted via email in order to arrange viewings. Be prepared to keep an open mind and don't get your heart set on something you've only seen online however as I have heard a lot of stories of people going to see agents who don't have any of the properties that they said they had a week previously. Having said that though, these same people then went on to buy comparable alternative properties shown to them by these agents, so it can't be all that bad.
An alternative to going through an agent is to contact the local mayor or ask the property owner direct (this basically involves knocking on their door and seeing what they say!). You may have to book an appointment with the mayor; in small villages the hub of activity is always the cafe-cum-convenience store and the mayor's building will be located somewhere near here (just look for the fanciest building around). In our village the mayor's wife runs the local shop. Depending on the town or village and your Bulgarian language skills, communication may be an issue here. It really would be worth investing in a translator to accompany you – maybe write the word in Cyrillic ('ПРЕВОДАЧКА', 'prevodatchka') and ask in the local town. We hired one in our local town to translate our property paperwork and we paid 20 BGN for a few hours' work (roughly equal to 10 euros). You will no doubt get the best deal for contacting property owners directly, as the mayor may well be taking a cut. But you will find that haggling is second nature in Bulgaria, so never accept the first figure that's given to you, whichever channel you choose to take.
The purchasing rigmarole
Once you have an offer that has been accepted you need to get your skates on and set up a limited company and a company bank account before you can actually buy the property and the land it sits on. It is up to you whether you wish to do this upon first entering Bulgaria – it might be a good idea if you are only staying in the country a short while and there is a real prospect of you purchasing a property (e.g. if you flew over with a sack-full of cash...). Some estate agents offer a service to set up a company in your name for a hefty sum so if you can do it yourself do. Again it is wise to get your translator to come along to translate legal documents for you if your legal Bulgarian is a bit rusty.
In order to set up a company you need to go through a solicitor; it is best to find your own solicitor instead of going through your property agent as you will probably get a better rate. There is a bureaucratic system in place, similar to Companies House in the UK, by which you can now apply to form a limited company online. Previously everything was done by hand and the process took approximately one month from start to finish, but the idea is that now it should take as little as 24 hours.
Whilst this time is passing you need to set up a company bank account, into which you must deposit 5000 BGN. Your solicitor should take you through this process as it is a stipulation of the company set up process. The money need only be there during the time that the company is being set up; you can withdraw it immediately after if you choose.
After you have your company documents you can head straight on down to the notary office local to the property you are purchasing, with the current owner. There is a thorough paper trail when it comes to Bulgarian real estate ownership and there are heavy jail terms for fraud. The current owner will need to make a declaration that the property has no debts tied to it (as debt passes with property in Bulgaria, not with people), and the notary official will make the same declaration. You will also be asked to verify the plot that you are buying with a blueprint map of the village or town, so make sure you know the location and address of the property you are purchasing. The notary will have records of the current property owner, who will be asked to show some identification to prove that it is really him or her. And that's it really. It is now simply a question of handing over the cash in front of the notary and signing on the dotted line. Congratulations!
|Last Updated on Sunday, 18 October 2009 23:30|