Property Buyers Guide to Bulgaria

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Overview

Successfully looking for Real Estate in Bulgaria

As it emerges from years of semi-isolation behind the infamous Iron Curtain, Bulgaria is becoming a more and more attractive place for foreign nationals to make investments of different types in the real estate market. (With that said, and as will be discussed thoroughly later, a foreign national cannot presently directly own real estate in Bulgaria. The prohibition against direct ownership should be changed within the coming decade. And, in the interim, there are ways in which a foreign national can take title to real estate in a more indirect manner - which will also be discussed in detail shortly.)

Presently, the biggest demand made by foreigners when it comes to real estate in Bulgaria involves residential property. Many Europeans and individuals from some other countries around the world are buying Bulgarian property to establish holiday or vacation retreats.

Additionally, more and more savvy investors from different countries around the world are becoming more involved in the ownership of business or commercial real estate in some of the major cities in Bulgaria, most particularly property in Sofia, the Bulgarian capital and Varna on the coastal regions of the Black Sea.

Population: 7.97m
Currency: Bulgarian Lev
Capital: Sofia

Investment Property in Bulgaria

As mentioned, more and more international investors are putting money into real estate in Bulgaria for investment purposes. For example, these investors are buying real estate that is being developed for business and commercial purposes - especially in and around Sofia. (Once again, an investor needs to keep in mind that a foreign national cannot own real estate directly in Bulgaria at this time. Again, there are mechanisms available to deal with this prohibition that will be presented and discussed later.)

Another area in which foreign investors are becoming more active is in the purchasing of apartments or apartment complexes which are then being rented and leased to the influx of people that have taken to coming to Bulgaria to participate in the burgeoning economy of that country since it has become more fully integrated into the overall European community of nations.

Residential Properties

As referenced, there are a significant number of overseas buyers who have taken to buying property in Bulgaria for holiday or vacation purposes. This includes people who have purchased elegant and substantial villas in different parts of the country as well as the more affordable and less costly apartments. In any case, a property in Bulgaria is proving to be experiencing a sharp increase in the number of residences that are being sold to people who are looking for second homes for retreats, vacations or holiday homes in Bulgaria.

Finally, with many people moving to Bulgaria from other countries around the world, a great demand has been placed for the development of single family homes and houses as well as apartments in many parts of the country.

Apartments in Bulgaria

Due to the prohibitions against foreign ownership of land in Bulgaria that likely will remain in place for approximately ten more years, many people are opting to buy apartments in Bulgaria. Because apartments normally are sold as units and without the conveyance of any actual land, a foreigner directly can purchase and own an apartment.

Throughout Bulgaria, apartment sales have been brisk with many people buying holiday apartments in the Black Sea resorts of Sunny Beach, Golden Sands, Nessebar as well as the Ski Resorts of Bansko, Borovets and Pamporovo. In addition, each year a significant number of new apartment complexes are being developed in all of the major locations in Bulgaria and in many more rural communities as well.

Again, due to the prohibition against the direct ownership of land by a foreign national, many people are opting for apartment ownership at this juncture.

Holiday Property in Bulgarian Resorts

As mentioned earlier, many foreign buyers have taken to seeking and purchasing real estate in Bulgaria for vacation or holiday purposes. One of the most interesting trends in the Bulgarian real estate market at this time involves the renovation of substantial residents -- including breathtaking and historic villas and chalets -- in different parts of the country. These magnificent properties are being restored to immaculate condition and are then, in many instances, being purchased (indirectly) by foreign nationals to be used as retreats, vacation or holiday destinations.

In addition to the trend towards the rehabilitation of older properties in Bulgaria, a significant number of new and off plan residential developments are under construction in many resort communities in Bulgaria. Bulgaria has worked diligently, through its government and through the private sector, to attract tourists and tourism money into that country over the course of the part five to ten years. Indeed, an ever growing number of people are finding themselves attracted to Bulgarian resorts and have begun to purchase (again, indirectly unless the residence is an apartment) real estate and residences being developed in this various resort communities in Bulgaria.

Most Bulgarian real estate market analysts expect the trend towards the development of vacation-style residences to continue well into the next decade as an ever increasing number of people begin to discover Bulgaria and its resort destinations.

Specific steps to Buying Real Estate Property in Bulgaria

Since it has emerged from behind the Iron Curtain, Bulgaria through its government has worked to bring that nation into the mainstream of international commerce. However, and with that said, Bulgaria remains in a period of transition when it comes to some commercial matters. This particularly is the case when it comes to the ownership of real estate by a foreign national within the borders of Bulgaria.

At the present time, the Bulgarian national constitution actually prohibits foreign nationals from directly owning land in Bulgaria. With that said, the governmental leaders in Bulgaria are in the process of changing the country's constitution to allow for the direct ownership of land in Bulgaria by foreign individuals. The proposed constitutional changes likely will not be in effect until 2014 or 2015.

Understanding that a foreign national cannot directly own land in that country at the present time, this does not mean that a foreigner cannot own property in Bulgaria "indirectly." In other words, if a person is interested in owning land in Bulgaria, there is an additional step that he or she will need to take in advance of making such a purchase and of assuming such ownership of real property.

Keep in mind that if a foreign national is interested only in purchasing an apartment -- to which no land will be involved, to which any land outside of the apartment unit will be conveyed to the foreign national -- direct ownership is, in fact, permissible.

If a person is interested in buying or investing in land in Bulgaria, and if that person is not a Bulgarian citizen, he or she will need to establish what is known as a Bulgarian Limited Company through which land in Bulgaria can be purchased and legally owned. In order to set up or establish a Bulgarian Limited Company, a person will need to plan on spending just under one thousand Euros. In most instances, a qualified real estate agent in Bulgaria should be able to offer this service to a foreign national.

Once this Bulgarian Limited Company has been established, the hunt for land/property to purchase can begin in earnest. At the time that a piece of property has been identified that a person is interested in buying, an oral offer to purchase is made to the seller. If the seller orally accepts a buyer's offer, the next step in the purchasing process is the preparation and signing of what is known as a preliminary contract.

Customarily, in Bulgaria, at the time the preliminary contract is executed, a 10% deposit is placed or made by the buyer. Generally speaking, the deposit is non-refundable unless the seller withdraws from the contract or cannot, in the end, provide a clear conveyance of the property in question to the buyer. In other words, if the buyer pulls out of the deal, he or she will lose his or her deposit money.

In Bulgaria, perhaps more so than in many other countries in Europe and elsewhere in the world, it is imperative that a very thorough title search be undertaken. In addition, an independent survey of the property subject to the sale should be taken to ensure that the legal description of the property is, in fact, correctly stated. Unfortunately, Bulgaria has somewhat of a reputation of being a country in which titles to real property and survey descriptions are rather muddled in more than a few instances.

Once the title to the real estate is deemed clear, and once all other inspections and evaluations have been completed, the time will arrive for the signing of the final contract. This must take place in the office of a notary public. When the final contract is signed, all state and municipal taxes will need to be paid as well as the remaining balance due and owing on the real estate. After the final payment is made, the deed will be transferred into the buyer's name, which in the case of a foreign national will be the Bulgarian Limited Company.

How to Buy Property in Bulgaria

Bulgaria is one of the new boom countries for property investors - property is relatively inexpensive compared to neighbouring countries and certainly much better value than the developed economies of Western Europe.

Buying property in Bulgaria is a relatively straightforward procedure. We've broken the process down into a few simple steps - follow these and you'll soon be the proud owner of a new property in Bulgaria!

1. Find your property

OK this is the fun bit - at www.property-abroad.com you can find an amazing range of Bulgarian property on offer from budget apartments in Bansko to grand residences. Browse our site to find the property that suits your needs best but bear in mind the following:

If the property seems cheap by UK standards, it may indicate that it:

  • Requires significant refurbishment.
  • Is built in an older style
  • It's located in a remote area
  • Only has an outside toilet

Many new developments, especially on the coast, are sold "off plan" which means that they are currently under construction. You need to ensure that the relevant terms and conditions are included in the preliminary contract - ask your legal advisor for assistance.

2. Set up a limited company:

Foreigners are permitted to buy buildings in Bulgaria but not land. If you are not a Bulgarian national, we recommended setting up a limited company that will then own both the real estate and the buildings on the land. If you are buying an apartment, it may not be necessary to form a limited company - check with the property agent whether a direct purchase is permitted.

While this law is expected to change when Bulgaria enters the EU in 2007, it is also the reason why Bulgarian property is currently so inexpensive compared with other European countries.

What is a limited company?

As shareholder in a limited company you are liable for the company's financial commitments up to the value of your share in the company's registered capital ie: if the company incurs any expenses or debts your liable is limited to the full amount of your investment in the company.

Who can set up a limited company?

Essentially anyone can form a limited liability company in Bulgaria - you do not have to be Bulgarian to do so. This enables foreign nationals to purchase Bulgarian property indirectly.

How do I set up a limited company?

Before signing any agreement you should agree with all the other shareholders what commercial activities the company will be involved with and agree the structure of the company.

Once you have all agreed on the nature of the business, the relevant documents for incorporation will be prepared by your legal advisor and signed by all the shareholders.

Next you will need to open a dedicated company bank account to collect all share capital.

The minimum share capital necessary to form a limited company is 5000 leva, of which a minimum of 70% (3500 leva) is required at the time of registration. As well as your share capital you will be required to pay administration costs for the registration. Don't forget you will still have the money in the company.

Your limited company will officially exist as soon as it is added to the Commercial Register of the district court, in the region where the company will be based.

This entry is made as soon as the district court make a decision to permit the incorporation of your company.

When you submit your registration application you will need to provide the following documentation:

Proof that each shareholder has paid into the company at least one third of the total amount of his or her financial interest, amounting to no less than 10 leva.

  • Proof that at least 70 per cent of the registered capital has been paid.
  • Articles of incorporation
  • A memorandum relating to the appointment of directors

In order for any law to take effect, all Bulgarian legislation has to be published in the official Bulgarian state newspaper, the Bulgarian State Gazette. Publication of your company's entry in the commercial register is a public declaration of your formation.

Finally, you will need to register your company with the National Tax Register Authority to complete the process of formation.

Following registration, once you have paid your entire share capital you can withdraw funds from the company to make your property purchase.

Now you've formed your company you can get on with buying your property.

3. Make sure you know about the taxes

In Bulgaria, as with pretty much everywhere else, property transactions are subject to tax. It's important that you factor these charges into your financial planning.

Transfer taxes

  • Corporate tax (15% in 2005) is the only direct tax on the transfer of property. Because you are buying the
    property with your company you are liable for corporate tax.
  • Notary fees are payable on the transfer - rates vary but the maximum is around BGN3500.
  • Municipal fees of 2% of market value are also payable on completion.
  • Capital Gains Tax
  • There is no Capital Gains Tax on the profit when your company sells the property.
  • Local taxes and rates
  • Property tax is payable by anyone who owns a building or building plot. This is charged at 0.15% of the list
    value of the property.
  • If the building is on a municipal or State-owned plot, the value of the plot will also be included when tax is
    calculated
  • Local taxes are not payable on arable land
  • All building owners must also pay fees for waste collection
  • Value Added Tax

VAT of 20% is payable on all real estate transactions except with land and lease of property is for residential use.

The buyer or lessee can claim a VAT refund provide they are registered for VAT.

4. Put down a deposit on your property

Once you've found the property you want, you will need to place a deposit to reserve it. The deposit is usually 10% of the selling price and is refunded on completion of your purchase.

At this you will usually pay a commission to the property agent who will then take the property off the market while you begin the purchase. Check with the property agent regarding their fees and the terms and conditions they apply.

5. Sign an initial contract of sale

When the property agent receives all their cleared funds their solicitors will draft an initial contract, which contains details of all the relevant terms and conditions, monies paid and any other information relating to the property transaction.

Once this contract is signed, searches are carried out to make sure that the titles deeds are valid, that any relevant licenses and permissions are taken into consideration, that any debts on the title are brought to light, and that the terms of the final contract are agreeable to both buyer and vendor.

6. Sign the Notary Act

The last step in the buying process is to sign the Notary Act - essentially an official declaration that you have agreed to buy the property. At this point any state and municipal taxes must be paid and any outstanding balance of monies must be paid to the vendor.

The title deed of the property is then transferred into your company name.

Congratulations - you're now the owner of a Bulgarian property!

Property Abroad always recommends using a Solicitor or Lawyer

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