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Retiring to Bulgaria: all it's cracked up to be?

Britons, Martin and Jan Burton, retired to a rural Bulgarian property in the south east of the country a couple of years ago. The couple made the decision to leave their home town in Worcestershire because they were looking for a better quality of life "without hoodies on the street corners" and the subsequent feeling of threatening violence, along with a rapidly declining quality of life due to the ever-increasing cost of making ends meet. They are both in their early fifties and felt, sadly, that the time had to come to leave their native country and the problems associated with living there. They spent some time exploring the south eastern part of Bulgaria and eventually found an old, small two bed house in a tiny village which, although needing a lot of renovation, seemed to meet their every need.

Over the last two years, they have spent most of their time doing up their new Bulgarian home and sorting out the wildernesss of a garden. Although the works have meant a long haul, they feel really settled in their part of Bulgaria now and would not dream of returning back to Britain, where they say the 'living standards of ordinary people are going downhill at speed'.

We spoke with Martin and Jan to find out how they felt two years on and for their advice for those considering buying property in Bulgaria and retiring here. They both felt that there are things which really need to be thought over carefully before committing to buy.

Jan mentioned, "We probably weren't clear enough with the agents as to what we wanted. Much to our regret. We were shown completely unsuitable properties and driven around from pillar to post all over the place. You really need to take a firm hand with them and give them a spec of what you are really looking for and what is acceptable, or unacceptable, to you. We were happy buying and living in a very rural location with only one village shop but we've got friends who are now looking who are really worried about being deep in the countryside. So we've told them to make sure the agent understands they need a small town with facilities and amenities and not to be fobbed off with little villages. At the same time, no matter the research you've done on the internet, many houses won't be available, or the wrong price, or plain unsuitable, so you have to have an open mind".

They say that the move has not been without its hard work but are delighted they came to Bulgaria. "One of the things which nearly put us right off the country before even trying it out was stuff we found on some forums. Then we visited Bulgaria and spent time in the area we were considering living in. Really, you would think from what you read that every Bulgarian is out to scam you. We've found nothing like that at all. I have to say, though, we were careful about our house purchase and did nothing daft like paying cash. Everything was straight forward and all done through our own lawyer".

"We've had to make a few adjustments as some things are quite different here but overall there have been few problems and we are having a lovely life. It's a nice slower pace of living here, the youngsters are polite and we like having four proper seasons with snow in the winter and plenty of sun in spring and summer. It makes us feel healthier".

The Burtons admit they were tempted by some beautiful large properties but stuck to what they knew they really wanted. They said that the problem in Bulgaria is that there are many large houses, at incredibly good prices, it is all too easy to be swayed. They recommend to other buyers that they stick to their original plan and not be tempted. "Lots of large properties are here and seem great but when we added up the cost of renovation, sorting out the massive gardens and then thought about the cost of running and maintaining the place, they were simply not worth it. What would have happened is that we thought we would just become fed up and the home, which was meant to be our dream, would never get finished. This wasn't what retirement was about for us", comments Martin.

They have found out during their time in Bulgaria that although speaking the language is hard work, it pays off. The couple have made good friends amongst the neighbours and welcome them for dinner or a drink when they try their hand at communicating - "with a great deal of hilarity", says Jan!