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How to Buy a Property in Bulgaria


The Cost

Although the property prices in Bulgaria are quite low compared to the other European countries, there is still a wide variety of prices depending on the property type and location (as a rule the properties in Sofia and at the Black Sea are more expensive). The first thing you will need to figure out is how much you can afford to spend and thereafter to determine the price range for your purchase. Apart from the actual price of the property, there are a lot of other one-off costs you have to consider.

The expenditures

There are some differences in the property-buying process in Bulgaria from those in the UK. Below is the list of one-off costs which provides you with a rough estimate of the expenditures you will have to cover. It is advisable always to take all eventualities into account when making your estimates.

1. Deposit
Usually you are required to put down at least 10% of the price.

2. Solicitor
You will need to employ a local solicitor, who speaks English, for all the legal aspects of buying a property. Some charge a flat rate, others a percentage of the property price (usually 1%). We recommend to get some quotes before choosing one.

Solicitors in Bulgaria frequently represent both sides of a transaction, but are legally obliged to be diligent and fair.

3. Preliminary contract
Its cost is of around £100, with an extra £15 or so payable for a translation of the contract - remember that the English version is not legally binding.

4. Survey / Valuation Fee

5. Agency fees
Agency fees in Bulgaria are often split between buyer and seller; a typical fee might be 6% with buyer and seller each paying 3%. Sometimes the buyer is responsible for the whole fee; would-be buyers should clarify beforehand precisely what percentage of the value will be the fee and for what proportion of that fee he or she is liable. Occasionally - and this is most often the case with new-build properties - the fee is included in the purchase price; again, though, the buyer is advised to find out if this is the case and, if so, what proportion of the overall price pertains to the fee as it may affect the resale value of the property.

6. Stamp Duty
The government charges a tax based upon the property's purchase price. This is called country tax and it is the equivalent of the Stamp Duty in the United Kingdom. This is a maximum of 2% of purchase price charged at completion.

7. Notary Fee
The notary puts on public record that the title deed has been signed in their presence and understood by the parties concerned. The notary is further in charge of the submitting of the title deed with the other related documents of the transfer to the cadastral and the property register (land register).

The Notary will pay registration and state fees collected previously from the buyer.

Registration confirms you as the legal owner of the property and registers you at that address. The fee charged depends upon the price of the property (See Stamp Duty).

8. House-hunting Expenses
Property-hunting can be quite a costly business. Expenses include money for travel to Bulgaria, hotels and eating, and telephone calls.

9. Removal Fees (if not only a holiday home)
Doing the removal yourself is time-consuming and stressful. If you decide to employ a company, ask around for quotes first.

Find a Property in Bulgaria

After having calculated how much you can afford, you can start on the most exciting part of the property-buying process: selecting your future property.

But before you start spending your nights digging through piles of Bulgarian property web sites and looking at estate agents' brochures, it is advisable to sit down and think about what exactly you want. Property-hunting is exhausting and time-consuming, and you can save yourself a lot of work and energy by deciding on certain prerequisites before starting out on the actual property search.

Choosing the location and the neighbourhood

Make sure you select an area you feel comfortable in, and which suits your personal needs. If you are going to spend only your holidays in Bulgaria, then maybe you will prefer a property in a ski or sea resort. If your intention is to retire in Bulgaria, then a small village may be suitable for you. But it is a must to check the infrastructure in the region. The same is the situation if you are thinking of purchasing a property in Bulgaria for part-time retirement.

If you are a young, childless professional, you might want a lively pub scene in the area, whereas if you are an overworked parent of two children, a good school and a playground might be more important to you.

Anyway in Bulgaria there is a place for everybody - quiet lovely villages with animals and gardens, or undisturbed mountain villages, or lively cities, or luxury sea or spa resorts.Here are the essential points to consider when choosing your future location and neighbourhood:

1. The Prices
Find out what area you can afford a decent property in by looking at the prices of properties sold recently in different locations.

2. Your feelings
Make sure you feel comfortable in that location.

3. Distance and transport
You can arrive in Bulgaria by plane, by car, by bus or by train. The major airports are in Sofia, Varna and Bourgas. From there you can take a bus or a taxi to your final destination. For more information you can see Arriving in Bulgaria. So when you choose your property's location consider how you would get to there and how long it would take you. The best possibility is that your future property is close to the major airport and the road infrastructure is in good condition.

4. Local Amenities
What you need depends on your lifestyle and preferences. Look out for shops, public transport, leisure' facilities like pubs and clubs, children's activities, parks etc.

5. Schools
If you have kids, find out what is the situation with the local schools.

6. Crime rate
Find out the crime rate in the region.

7. Condition of the region and neighbourhood
Keep in mind that the state of the houses in your neighbourhood influences the value of your own. The resort regions are likely to be more fancy than the ordinary villages.

8. Local Authority Services
Find out how often the waste is being collected, if the road infrastructure is regularly maintained, if the gardens and parks are kept in good condition etc.

Choose a Property

In addition to deciding what area you want to live in, you will have to make up your mind in regard to the characteristics of the property you intend to buy.

Below there is a list of property features you will have to consider:

1. Property type
Do you want a house or a flat? If you prefer a house, should it be detached, semi-detached or terraced?

Under the Bulgarian Act on Foreign Investments, foreigners are not allowed to own land but may own buildings. Foreigners wishing to own land can do it by setting up a Bulgarian company to hold the land. Bulgarian company incorporation costs less than £600. Bulgaria's ownership policy will be harmonized with the EU in the future, most probably in 2007.

2. Property Features
Determine what size the property should be (keep in mind that bigger home mean higher heating costs).Decide on the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the face of the building, whether you want a garden. If you are looking for apartment, have you any preferences for the floor number.

3. Old or new?
A new property will be more expensive to buy, but with an old property high expenses might incur for repairs and improvements. There are also many properties that are sold "off-plan", which may be pretty favourable for you.

4. Garage
If you intend to have a car in Bulgaria, check whether you have good parking facilities on the street or if there is a garage.

Bulgarian Property-Hunting Resources

After having decided on your priorities, you can start off looking for a property to buy. There are different resources for property listings.

1. Estate Agents
In Bulgaria the Estate Agents can advertise the properties and handle negotiations. Agents usually have a wide range of properties available and can offer detailed information.Buying property in Bulgaria should only be undertaken with good professional advice. It is essential to use a reputable real estate agent - the boom in what is a largely unregulated market has led to a huge increase in the number of companies selling property, some of which may not have the experience or professional approach of longer established agencies. It is advisable to ask for references from previous customers, particularly other foreigners.

2. Private sale
Some property sellers prefer to handle their sale privately, by advertising locally. However a private sale may hardly be found. But the advantage of this kind of bargain is that there are not any estate agent fees to be paid and you might end up paying less. You have to consider that a private seller might not deal with you in the same professional manner as an estate agent does. Especially when difficulties or delays arise, the situation can become a bit tense.

3. Online property listings
When you want to buy a property in Bulgaria and you want to get a quick impression of what's on the market, the online property listings are very convenient and helpful. It is usually possible to look for properties according to features, price range and location. Internet listings can be accessed via estate agents' home pages or independent property web sites. You should keep in mind that a photo posted on the internet might not give you an adequate impression of the property, so it is better to remain skeptical until you have actually seen the property.

Arrange a viewing

If you have the chance you have to go and see the property with your own eyes. Check the property you view for:

- General Condition (fixtures and fittings, layout etc.)

- State of Repair (insulation, heating, plugs, plumbing etc.)

- Structural problems (dampness, cracks in walls or ceilings, crooked doors, damaged foundations etc.)

If you have no possibility to go to Bulgaria to view the property that interests you, you may require more pictures of certain features of the property. Also you may ask for the things that are not described in the advertisement as fixtures and fittings, insulation, heating, plugs, plumbing, etc.

Reservation

Once you have determined which property you wish to buy, you can reserve it either by phone, post or e-mail. You may be required to pay a reservation fee, which is refundable, and the property will be reserved for you for a certain period of time. If the property is sold via Estate Agent you have to call them to secure the deal.

Preliminary Contract and deposit

The next step will be the sign of the preliminary contact and the payment of the deposit. The deposit may vary from 10% to 20% of the purchase cost.

Survey and Valuation

You are basically conducting a mini-survey and valuation every time you view a property. It is also advisable to have a more in-depth inspection and valuation done in order to assess the property's condition and find out whether the house is actually worth its price.

The Conveyance

After your offer has been accepted, the conveyancing process starts. This includes all the legal and administrative issues that have to be addressed when a property is transferred from one owner to another. The common practice is to hire a solicitor or a licensed conveyancer to deal with the legal aspects. Hiring a professional solicitor has become cheaper and his services are well worth the money.

What the conveyancing process involves Before the exchange of contracts:

  • Checking the "title deeds" of the property to find out whether it really belongs to the seller
  • Establishing the property's legal boundaries
  • Putting together a list of fixtures, fittings and contents to establish what is to be included in the sale
  • Preparing a enquiry form for the vendor to find out about any material or structural defects they are aware of
  • Surveying local authority plans for details on upcoming developments that could influence your property's value
  • Negotiating with the seller any repairs or changes to the offer
  • Advising you on the draft contract for sale prepared by the vendor's solicitor
Exchange of contracts:
  • Arranging the date for the completion and the exchange of contracts
  • Handing over the deposit
Completion:
  • Handing over the keys and title deeds
  • Paying stamp fees and notary fees

Completing the Sale

The completion date, which has been set in the contract, is the day the house becomes officially yours.

For further information on Bulgarian properties or any aspect of property buying process, visit the new Find Bulgarian Property Portal.

Silvia Dimitrova
FindBulgariaProperty.Co.UK
Email: info AT findbulgariaproperty.co.uk


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