Bulgaria tops investment list

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 October, 2004, 12:00am

Tourism potential and low prices are putting the Black Sea coast on the map

Property agents say investment funds are looking for bargains, shifting to the Black Sea resorts of Bulgaria, where property prices are a fraction of those in the western Mediterranean.

British buyers are particularly active in Bulgaria.

Investor website Property Secrets analyst Neil Lewis said: 'There is no doubt in my mind that Bulgaria offers an almost unrivalled investment opportunity.'

He cited the country's low property prices, low cost of living, recent membership of Nato, scheduled membership of the European Union (EU) and growing popularity of its beach and ski resorts with north European tourists as reasons for its strong investment potential.

The EU will fund development of Bulgaria's infrastructure after it joins in 2007, which would be a valuable boost to its property market. The country's currency is already pegged to the euro.

He said the country's strong tourism potential would underpin the property investment market, because properties could be let to holidaymakers. The Black Sea coast had 220km of beaches and more than 1,700 hours of sunshine from May to October, he said.

Ski resorts operate from Bulgaria's snow-capped mountains, inland. Major European tour operators offer holidays in the country, including all those in Britain.

'I have no figures for rental income as Bulgaria is an untested market, but that in itself will be attractive to potential renters. And with so little capital tied up for the purchase, and the promise of a good return on it, surely it is worth speculating,' he said.

Investors can capitalise on this tourism boom by buying units at new developments.

'Developers are predicting a return on capital of 100 per cent in three years, but even that may be conservative if one of Britain's low-cost airlines opens up a route there,' he said.

British-based estate agent Barrasford and Bird, which specialises in Bulgarian property, is promoting several new residential projects. Managing director Robin Barrasford said holiday homebuyers as well as investors were buying property.

'To many, quality of life is more important than financial reward. This is exemplified in the beautiful sweeping sandy beaches of the Black Sea coast, the rugged mountainous regions which are perfect for walking and the challenging ski slopes.

'Eating and drinking are also exceptionally cheap with a pint of lager costing about 40 pence (HK$5.62) and a three-course meal, with wine, often costing no more than GBP5 a head.'

Prices for new homes started at GBP36,000, he said. New, three-bedroom apartments at the Robinson Gardens development on the Black Sea coast are being offered at GBP47,000 each.

On the secondary market, in Janovo village, on the Greek border, a 1,100 square foot house is on sale for Euro3,000 (HK$29,133).

For the price of a two-bedroom flat on the Costa del Sol, an investor can buy an 8,600 sqft house near Sofia for Euro350,000, which could be refurbished as a hotel.