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Friday, August 04, 2006 

Investors are keen to buy in the Balkans

As emerging property markets go, few can rival the hype or promise of Bulgaria, three areas of which are now being heavily marketed to UK buyers.

The first is Sofia, one of the oldest capitals on the continent with plenty of classic central-European architecture - the beautiful buildings which predate the 20th century alongside the less appealing Communist-era designs. But it is its future that is most attractive to investors.

Typical properties there include the Cherkonova apartment block, where units are priced at £913 per square metre - relatively low for the capital - with specific properties starting at £64,225

A second investment area is the ski region, chiefly the town of Bansko, although Pamporovo and Borovets are also now popular.

But Bansko in particular is attempting to lengthen its tourist season by installing year-round facilities in addition to the 65km of Pirin Mountain skiing.

Developments are improving in quality, too, drawing in better builders and established estate agents.

But while there remains general confidence that Sofia and Bansko will be good long-term bets, experts are more circumspect over Bulgaria's third investment region - the Black Sea resorts in the north of the country.

Some say the large-scale development of the past decade is a sign of a maturing market. "The coast has had a tremendous amount of development which I think will harm the rental market for the next couple of years," warns Casey.

But there is a different view.

One scheme is the St Vlas Marina at Dinevi, regarded as one of the most upmarket and developed parts of the area. Prices start at £32,000.

But whichever region you may choose, Bulgaria does still hold traps for the investor who neglects to do adequate research and fails to visit. Maverick estate agents still exist, and there are many other pitfalls. But rewards may be high for those brave enough to invest - property prices in the main Bansko area have risen by 30 per cent in three years. It's all to play for - if you pick the right location.

Tips for investors

Tax on purchases is not fixed, meaning investors face unexpected costs. Investors must set up a company before they can buy a second property or land in Bulgaria.

Ensure contracts include guaranteed rental yields if they are offered by developers and agents.

Play the long game and do not rely on short-term capital gains.

Many holiday operators are switching from more markets like Spain and Portugal to cheaper locations like Bulgaria.

Source: Belfast Telegraph

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