House Hunter: 'Prices are rising - we need to act'

Conor O'Brien wants to buy a holiday home on the Black Sea coast in Bulgaria. He has a budget of around £20,000
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The Independent Online

THE PROBLEM

THE PROBLEM

"My girlfriend and I are seriously thinking about buying a holiday home in Bulgaria, on the Black Sea coast. Originally we had thought that we wouldn't buy somewhere until a few years down the line but, having read several articles in the media on the property market in Bulgaria, this has persuaded us that now may be the best time. We think that prices are rising there and in order to be able to buy something we can afford we need to act now.

"We've thought about other places, such as France, but we've been priced out of there. Neither of us have so far been to Bulgaria but my girlfriend travelled around other parts of eastern Europe a couple of years ago and liked it and we've been reading the Lonely Planet guide and like what we've read so far about the country. We are planning to visit the country this summer, however, and spend a few weeks looking around the place to see if we get a good feel about it.

"As for property, we only have a budget of €30,000. We don't mind what sort of place it is - it needn't be brand new - but ideally we would like it to be as modern as possible so there isn't too much maintenance as we don't really want to do any work. We would like two or maybe even three bedrooms. The property will mainly be for our own use in the summer months and possible at Easter, too. We would like some suggestions as to what sorts of properties we could consider."

THREE PROPERTIES FOR CONOR TO VIEW

Property one: Sunny Beach, Messambria Forte, Elenite.

Price: From €42,800 (£29,000).

Agent: 08707 282827; www.avatar-international.com.

Agent's details: This development is close to Burgas airport and has 170 studios, one- and two-bed apartments set in three buildings, most of them with sea views. All have laminate floors, air-conditioning for both cooling and heating and sealed-unit PVC double-glazing. The open-plan kitchens are terracotta-tiled and bathrooms have underfloor heating. Options include cable TV and phone line. There is a swimming pool, supermarket, restaurant, café, security, gym and spa with completion set for April next year.

Property two: Villa in Varna.

Price: €45,000.

Agent: Avatar International, details as before.

Agent's details: This two-storey villa is set within a 1,500sqm plot and is around 17km south of the town of Varna. Downstairs there is a living room, kitchen, bathroom and WC as well as one bedroom. Upstairs there are three further bedrooms, a bathroom and WC.

Property three: Maritime Garden Apartments, Varna.

Price: From €25,850.

Agent: Avatar International, details as before.

Agent's details: Several apartments are for sale within this residential block, set in the district town of Varna. The building has been finished to a high specification and the apartments have different layouts and are between 47sqm and 123sqm in size, with a living room, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom.

AMAR SODHI'S ADVICE

"It is possible that Conor will be able to buy something in Bulgaria at that level, but he should bear in mind that there are an awful lot of people out there trying to do the same thing. The low prices are attracting buyers and, while just a year ago you may have been able to snap something up for around €10,000-€15,000, these days those kinds of properties are few and far between.

"Out of all the countries that we deal with, we're seeing phenomenal interest in Bulgaria and I think it's set to explode over the next 12 to 24 months because of a number of factors. First, Bulgaria seems to have the kind of mass-market appeal that Spain had many years ago. This is because it's not far from the UK, the cost of living is low and there is a fantastic coastline with many Blue Flag beaches.

"When people do get round to visiting, they are generally blown away by the place and they realise that the stigma of communism has well and truly gone, although some of the larger hotels may well remind you of council estates in Peckham. In the summer months, with clear blue skies and temperatures between 30 and 35 degrees, it's unbeatable. Talk to any tour operator and they will tell you about the increased interest - they are continually having to lay on extra flights to cope with demand.

"Another key factor for Conor to bear in mind is that most of the buying action is centred on the coast which, from Romania to Turkey, is around a two-and-a-half hour drive so it's not a huge distance. This gives you an idea of what is to come and I think that it will become increasingly like Spain, where you can't buy even five rows back from the coast now as it's so expensive and property is scarce.

"We're now finding that much of our business comes from people who are 'buying blind' without even going over to look at their properties. After all, how much of a risk is it if you are only paying £15,000? I believe it is far riskier to buy in an established market like Spain where you may be paying £200,000 and where you can't guarantee that the prices won't drop.

"Conor must take on board the fact that demand is at an all-time high and there is a lot to be gained by not waiting until the summer, when he will be competing with lots of other buyers and may find that prices have risen. Then, there will definitely be too many buyers chasing too few properties and you run the risk of getting gazumped. If he flew out now, he wouldn't be able to get a direct flight, it is cold and all of the large hotels are closed, but he could fly to Sofia and drive down. He really will benefit if he is serious about buying."

Amar Sodhi is the director of Avatar International: 08707 282 827; www.avatar-international.com

CONOR'S VERDICT

"I've had a look on the website and these properties all look nice so we're now going to have a good think about it. I would rather buy a stand-alone property, a villa or house, rather than an apartment that is set on a development in a resort, as that's just more what we're into.

"I agree that there isn't too much of a risk buying into this kind of market as prices are already so low that I can't see them going down even further. As for getting out there sooner rather than later, it's a shame but I've got exams coming up so won't be able to. I'm going to have to brave the summer crowds."

If you would like House Hunter's help, write to House Hunter, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail with full details househunter@independent.co.uk

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