House Hunter: 'Will we find a bargain in Bulgaria?'

Erik and Sally Tucker want to buy a second home in a warm country but are restricted by their budget of £70,000. Which country would offer them the best value and climate?
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"We have been considering releasing some equity from our London home for ages so that we can buy somewhere abroad to use for holidays in winter and summer. We are both teachers so spending the long holidays somewhere warmer, preferably with a cheaper cost of living, would be ideal. We plan to rent out our flat on a short-term basis to give ourselves some extra income.

"We have been considering releasing some equity from our London home for ages so that we can buy somewhere abroad to use for holidays in winter and summer. We are both teachers so spending the long holidays somewhere warmer, preferably with a cheaper cost of living, would be ideal. We plan to rent out our flat on a short-term basis to give ourselves some extra income.

"The main problem is that we've thought about it for so long that prices in most places seem to have risen dramatically. Our London home has also admittedly risen in value but, as our earnings are not huge and we're getting on in years, we want to minimise our debts. We would be worried about spending more than £60,000-£70,000 and would like to spend less.

"Lately we've been considering Greece, which seems cheaper than France or Spain, but we don't want to be stuck on a tiny island as we hope to travel around quite a bit.

"We've heard that countries like Bulgaria and Croatia are 'on the up' but haven't visited either of them. Also, we might eventually want to settle somewhere else permanently and can't imagine that we would meet many like-minded people in these places. We hope one day to be able to spend more time playing golf - but do these countries even have golf courses?

"We would like to know what our money would buy there and also what type of property is available. We are prepared to do some DIY but don't want the hassles of taking on a wreck."

BALJIT'S ADVICE

"I've suggested three properties in Croatia, Bulgaria and Turkey but I think that Erik and Sally need to think hard about what they want in terms of climate. Bulgaria is not really a winter-sun destination, although it's fabulous in the summer. In Croatia, the south particularly is mild in the winter, but if it's sunshine that they want they may be better off in Cyprus, Greece or Turkey, where people sometimes swim in the sea even in December.

"They will probably get most for their money in Bulgaria as it is very undervalued. The cost of living there is cheap and you can get a lovely bottle of wine for £1 and beer for 30p a bottle. There is a new development on the coast due for completion in May 2005 that will have its own 18-hole golf course and five-star hotel. Burgas airport is close and there's a rumour that Ryanair may start flying there.

"Many people, like Erik and Sally, think that as Croatia is an emerging market it must be cheap, but in fact it's always been hugely popular with Germans, Austrians and Italians and it can be quite expensive, with some properties going for around £300,000.

"But one area within Croatia which they might want to consider is the Pelijesac Peninsula where lovely old stone houses start at around €30,000 which I think is great value and a sound investment. Prices in the south have tailed off, but in the north they're still rising. The island of Hvar is beautiful; there is a lot to see, the climate is wonderful, and it gets the highest amount of sunshine in the country as a whole throughout the year.

"In Turkey, of course, there's a high likelihood of good weather and here Erik and Sally's budget will get them an awful lot. I've suggested this house because it is excellent value and is in an area which is popular with Brits. One thing that they might want to consider is that flights to Dalaman stop in the winter, but there are still weekly winter flights to Antalya, so they may be better off searching near there, in a resort like Side. Belek is around 45 minutes away from Antalya and it is the only resort which has four international golf courses."

Baljit Sodhi works for Avatar International: 0870-728 2827 www.avatar-international.com

THREE PROPERTIES FOR ERIK AND SALLY TO VIEW

Property one: Small villa in Croatia

Price: €65,000.00

Agent: Avatar International

Agent's details: This is a small, waterfront house in Ston, on the Pelijesac Peninsula. The living space measures around 120sq m and there is a garden of around 3,000sq m.

Property two: Newly built villa near Varna in Bulgaria

Price: €37,000,00

Agent: Avatar International

Agent's details: This is a newly built villa on the beach near to Varna, on the Black sea coast. There are magnificent sea views and the property has a living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, toilet and a fireplace on the first floor. The second floor has two bedrooms, a bathroom and toilet and a terrace. There is also a barbequeue area in the yard.

Property three: Turkish villa

Price: £20,000

Agent: Avatar International.

Agent's details: A two-storey villa in Calis, set within a complex. It has a living space of around 120sq m with an open-plan kitchen and large lounge of around 45sq m. There are three bedrooms, bathroom and toilet and the villa has access to a communal swimming pool.

THE VERDICT

"We are very excited by the sound of all of these properties which would allow us to stay well under our budget. Bulgaria sounds like wonderful value but we are slightly concerned about the weather, and would like something a bit warmer. We are planning to visit Turkey this summer so will definitely follow this advice and hunt out the golf resorts to see what property is for sale nearby."

INTERVIEWS BY GINETTA VEDRICKAS

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

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