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House & Home

Slovenia: Mountains and the Med

Slovenia has Alpine peaks, pretty harbours – and great prices. Laura Latham reports

For somewhere so seemingly low-key, Slovenia has a lot to offer. Its short coastline has several pretty harbour towns and it boasts some of the most dramatically beautiful scenery in Europe, from rolling farmland dotted with forests and lakes to the snowy peaks of the Julian Alps.

Slovenia's central location (it shares borders with Italy, Austria, Croatia and Hungary) and easy access via an efficient Europe-wide rail network and several low-cost airlines, meant that its property prices doubled between 2004 and 2007 after the country entered the EU. However, as in much of Europe, house values in the region are now starting to stagnate.

According to Frances Sargent, of Slovenian Properties, this makes it a good time to buy. "The market in buy-to-let areas and tourist destinations is pretty dormant right now," she says, attributing some of the problem to the oversupply of new-build homes in such areas as the ski resort of Kranjska Gora and the capital, Ljubljana. "In Ljubljana, things got quite heady at one stage but are now a lot slacker. It means you can definitely negotiate on price."

Average prices in the pretty, vibrant Slovene capital, often referred to as a mini Prague, start at about £200,000 for small, centrally located two-bedroom apartments but can go to more than £800,000 for large or character properties, especially in the historic old town. Sargent advises anyone on a budget to focus on the outskirts of the city, where you will pay from about £120,000 for a small house or decent flat within easy reach of the centre.

For those seeking rural charm at lower costs, she advises steering clear of beautiful but sought-after Lake Bled and Kranjska Gora in the Julian Alps, where prices start at about £130,000 for a two-bed apartment or from £240,000 for a traditional stone house or chalet. Sargent recommends areas such as the Vipavo wine region, near the Italian border, and less developed parts of the lovely Soca Valley. "There are some very pretty areas British buyers don't know about where you'll get far better value," she adds.

In Prekmurje, an area of farmland and vineyards to the north-east of the country, for example, you can find rural homes with several acres for less than £50,000. In Primorska, which is within a 10-minute train ride of the ski slopes of Gorenjska, it is also easy to find good properties at below £100,000, al though some renovation may be needed.

Surprisingly, living on the coast is not as expensive as you might think. Though you can easily pay £250,000 to £500,000 for two- to four-bedroom properties, it's also possible to scout out apartments for less than £100,000, even in the popular historic ports of Pirin and Izola.

Sargent believes that, in the current market, buyers need to think long-term about investing in Slovenia. She says: "The most important thing is to buy something you will enjoy owning and holidaying in, rather than aiming to make a quick buck."

Slovenian Properties: www.slovenianproperties.com

Buyer's guide


*Check that your property agent is authorised by Slovenian authorities, because untrustworthy practitioners are known to operate.

*EU citizens may freely own homes in Slovenia but need a tax number, known as an EMSO. Your estate agent should be able to advise you on this.

*Buyers may be asked to pay part of the property price in cash, so that the vendor can underdeclare any taxable profits. This is illegal – so don't do it.

*New property attracts a rate of VAT at 8.5 per cent for residential and 20 per cent for tourist (rental) accommodation.