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House Hunting in ... Bulgaria
HOUSE HUNTING IN ... BULGARIA
Date: 27/08/2014
Source: nytimes.com
House Hunting in ... Bulgaria

This four-bedroom contemporary-style villa on the Black Sea in Bulgaria has views up and down the coastline for miles. Built in 2006 of brick and cement, the 4,500-square-foot house has a 13-by-26-foot swimming pool and sits on a half-acre lot terraced and landscaped with cypress trees, shrubs and rosebushes.

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RELATED COVERAGE

Times Topic: International Buying Guides
The front door of the three-story villa opens to a foyer that leads to the open-plan split-level dining room, living room and kitchen. The furniture and some paintings are included in the home’s asking price. The living room, which opens to the pool terrace, has tall bow windows with pool and sea views. The kitchen has granite countertops and a backsplash of red, brown and black brick-patterned glass tiles. Appliances are mostly Italian-made, with a 36-inch Ariston oven and dishwasher. Off the kitchen is a room used as a barbecue, which has a wall of glass doors opening to the pool terrace, and an area for a winter garden. Floors throughout the villa are tile, and a half-bathroom on the first floor has Swarovski crystal chandeliers and wall sconces.

The home’s second floor has three bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, one with a Jacuzzi bathtub. All the bedrooms have sea views and access to a terrace that wraps around the second floor of the villa. Two bedrooms have Italian furniture; one, English furniture. The master bedroom is on the villa’s third floor with an en-suite bathroom, a walk-in closet and a large terrace facing the sea. The master bedroom has an oversize Japanese-style platform bed. The villa, which has central heating, has two garages and a parking lot for several additional cars, as well as 10 security cameras.

The villa lies between the small resort towns of Albena and Balchik on the Black Sea coast, said Constantinos Kyriakides, an agent with Best Bulgarian Properties, which has the listing. Shopping for essentials is about a five-minute drive, as is access to the beach, he said. Varna, Bulgaria’s largest city on the Black Sea, with about 335,000 residents, is about 30 minutes away by car and has an international airport. Golden Sands, a major seaside resort near a national park of the same name, is about 15 minutes away by car.

MARKET OVERVIEW

After a long housing-market slump triggered by the global real estate crisis, when prices dropped on average about 30 percent below their 2008 highs, Bulgaria is seeing housing prices rise this year for the first time, brokers said.

Data from Bulgaria’s National Statistical Institute show an increase of 1.79 percent in home prices during the first quarter of 2014 over the previous year; the second quarter had an increase of 2 percent, said Polina Stoykova, the chief operations manager of Bulgarian Properties, based in Sofia with offices worldwide. The biggest cities in the country, such as the capital, Sofia, and Plovdiv, have seen the biggest increases in home prices, she said.

About 10 percent of the Bulgarian housing market is made up of foreign buyers, said Stanislav Petrov, the sales manager for Select Properties Bulgaria, an agency with offices in Bulgaria and Great Britain. Foreign buyers, most of whom are seeking vacation apartments or houses, tend to be attracted to the Black Sea coast, in particular the cities of Varna and Burgas, followed by ski resorts, such as Pamporovo and Borovets.

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“The capital, Sofia, is the third preferred region or area for foreign buyers,” Mr. Petrov said, “with higher-priced properties than the Black Sea coast and the skiing resorts.”

The average price of homes in Sofia in the second quarter of 2014 was 753 euros, or about $992, per square meter, or about $92 a square foot, Ms. Stoykova said. In Varna, the average price is 699 euros, or about $920, per square meter, or roughly $85 a square foot, she said. (Though Bulgaria still has its own currency, many real estate listings and transactions are in euros now.)

This villa is about $167 a square foot, and is priced high because of its seafront location and potential appeal to foreign buyers, said Zlatka Georgieva, the sales manager for Best Bulgarian Properties, which is based in Sofia and has offices abroad.

Among foreign homebuyers, “there is a search for first-line beach houses, which, due to the building restrictions in Bulgaria and the rarity of that beach topography, makes their prices high,” Ms. Georgieva said.

WHO BUYS IN BULGARIA

British buyers, who helped fuel the home price bubble in Bulgaria from 2000 to 2008, largely disappeared after 2008 and were replaced by Russians. However, this year, British buyers have been returning to the Bulgarian market in growing numbers, Ms. Stoykova said.

“We have noticed a steady return of the British buyers in the past two months,” she said. “We expect that trend to continue.”

Russians continue to be the largest group of foreign homebuyers in Bulgaria, and are joined by buyers from Germany, France, Holland, Belgium, Ukraine, Scandinavia, the United States, Canada, Australia and South Africa, brokers said.

In the last two years, Bulgaria has also seen growing interest from buyers in the Middle East, from such countries as Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Syria and Pakistan, Mr. Petrov said.

BUYING BASICS

Foreigners are not restricted when buying apartments in Bulgaria, but homes with land pose a bit of an obstacle. While buyers from the European Union countries have no restrictions, other foreigners who wish to buy a home with land must form a company, brokers said. The process is fairly fast, easy and cheap, and can be handled by real estate agencies, brokers said.

“The Bulgarian government a year ago made the process of setting up a limited company easier and cheaper,” Mr. Petrov said. “They do the process electronically, and all documents can be applied for online now.”

The cost of setting up a company is typically about 200 to 500 euros, or about $265 to $660, and takes less than a week, Ms. Georgieva said. Best Bulgarian Properties can handle the company’s ongoing operational costs for about 150 euros, or about $198, a year, she said.

For agency assistance, which usually includes legal assistance, buyers typically pay about 3 percent commission, Ms. Stoykova said. Notary fees, stamp duty and municipal local tax typically cost about 4 to 6 percent of the property price.

In total, additional costs are about 8 to 9 percent of the price of the property, she said.

Many home sellers in Bulgaria offer buyers the opportunity to pay in installments, Mr. Petrov said. Most buyers pay in cash, though mortgages are available, he said.


Topic: Investments



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