Look Inland for Today's Bulgarian Treasures

Updated 2011-04-25 11:58

There can't be many places in the world where you can buy a property for less than the price of a second-hand car - but Bulgaria is one of them.

It's now seven years since we first heard this beguiling claim and various attributions to its origin have been bandied around for some time. The general consensus, though, is that it came from Mihail Chobanov, CEO of leading real estate agent, BulgarianProperties.com, as a genuine portrayal of the extremely low cost of rural and village houses in Bulgaria.

And today, even after Bulgaria's transition to full EU membership in 2007, several years of rocketing real estate prices and, more recently, the biggest economic downturn that most of will experience in our lives, it's still true '¦

Recovering from the global recession more quickly than most of its European neighbours, Bulgaria is fast re-discovering its reputation as a property hotspot. For anyone seeking a low-cost holiday home or considering a permanent lifestyle shift, this is the place to be, so long as you don't set your sights too directly on the much-hyped Black Sea coast and Ski resorts.

The advice to today's home seeker is to leave the resorts behind and journey inland because it's here that you will find the quieter, more relaxed Bulgaria where traditional family life is the norm, where time seems to run more slowly and where beautiful landscapes remain unspoiled.

What you will also find is a veritable treasure trove of rural and village properties at prices that just don't appear in other countries. It's in the villages of Bulgaria that you will find some of the cheapest houses and the best bargains - and it's in this sector of the market where those who may have missed the lifestyle change boat in other countries find that there still plenty of opportunities available. Every real estate agent in the country has a selection of rural and village properties on their website - and there are some that specialise in this sector. At the portal site of Property Partners, for instance, you can view multiple lists covering hundreds of houses available today for less than â¬10000.

And unlike many of the tumble-down fincas in Spain or Italy - for which your starting point might be upwards of £100000 - these are essentially habitable properties. Electricity and water supplies are in place just about everywhere and virtually all the villages have shops, bars, restaurants, petrol stations, Post Offices, telephone lines, mobile phone coverage, TV and internet. Local transport services provide regular access to the bigger, regional towns, where there is a wider range of amenities such as: supermarkets, cinemas, theatres, train stations and hospitals.

Yes, you will need to refurbish, modernise and decorate to bring your property up to the standards that you may be used to. Yes, you will probably need to build in an internal bathroom. Yes, the roof may need to be fixed - but all of this is both affordable and manageable. Throughout the villages of inland Bulgaria there are houses priced between â¬5000 and â¬10000 crying out for modernisation - then spend another â¬15000 to â¬20000 for renovation and uplift and you will have a comfortable, modern country home.

And if you don't want to take on the work yourself, you could look towards a property that has already been restored. Again, there are many available, at prices from around â¬30000 to â¬40000. A refurbished and fully furnished 3-bedroom house, for instance, just 17 kilometres inland from Burgas, is being marketed for â¬36500 by BulgarianProperties.com; among the renovated properties on the books of Premium Properties BG is a 2-storey house with a huge garden plot of some 3000 square metres priced at â¬28000; and Bulgarian Real Estate Online is offering a restored 9-room, 2-storey villa with garage and a fully fitted basement for just â¬30990.

So who's buying these properties? Well, at the height of the buying boom just a few years ago, around 80% of the buyers in Bulgaria were holiday home hunters and quick-flip investors. Today, though, the market has changed and the speculative buyers snapping up two or three houses at a time have been replaced by lifestyle buyers looking to live in Bulgaria.

This, of course, is largely because of the impact of the global recession on the property market. Since peaking in late 2007, prices in Bulgaria have plummeted and are now among the lowest in Europe but there are indications that this downturn may be coming to an end. David Livingstone, of Property Partners says that, "The worst is behind us, prices have reached the bottom of the curve and there are signs that buyers are returning to the market, picking up bargains before prices increase again."

Similarly, in Bulgarian Properties Q1-2011 Market Analysis, Chief Operations Manager, Polina Stoykova, reports that there is "increased interest and sales of rural houses around Bourgas and Sunny Beach. This winter season 30% of sales along the southern Black Sea coast have been rural houses priced between â¬25000 and â¬40000, in very good condition, furnished and ready to live in - the main property buyers continue to be Bulgarians and Russians .." she notes ".. but in February British buyers started returning as they choose mostly the cheaper rural houses."

So it seems that the days of finding bargain-basement priced properties are numbered and "sooner rather than later" should be your timeframe if you want to pick up one of Bulgaria's inland treasures.

Property Partners: www.bulgariagateway.net/propertypartners
Bulgarian Properties: www.bulgarianproperties.com
Premium Properties: www.premiumpropertiesbg.com
Bulgarian Real Estate: www.bulgarianestateonline.com

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.