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Sound Advice for a Sound Property

As the estate agent said, it has "lots of potential" but what should buyers consider when tackling a renovation.

Buyers often have high expectations of what they will get for their money in Bulgaria but after making endless visits to many properties often way out of the budgeted price range, many buyers change their perspective and decide to take on the renovation of an old Bulgarian house with the aim of turning it into a real home with modern comforts.

This article explores ways to help you to make the most of your renovation project.

There is always a risk when buying property in a run-down state but the advantage is that you end up with a home full of character and old world charm with a hint of modern living combined.
Research is the very first and most important step and will pay off later.
Make enquiries about the state of the property before you even visit and if possible contact architects, builders and surveyors to get a full picture of what you are about to undertake. A surveyor will point out any major structural defects and could save you thousands in the long run. An architect will be able to furnish you with potentially better layouts or ideas that will enhance the value of your home.

Any builder worth his salt will see major defects in a building and warn you about them early on. He should also be able to see the best and most cost effective way to alter a building. Remember to draw up a contract with the builder via your lawyer – it is often tempting to use someone who works ‘on the side,’ but under Bulgarian law, you will have no recourse if things go wrong.

Ensure that all plans and specifications are drawn up and in writing with estimates or quotations and a payment plan prior to any work commencing. Remember to check the builder has third party insurance in case of accidental damage to the house when he is working on it and no matter how small or large the project in hand do try to use local tradesmen, particularly if you are not doing the work yourself.

As your renovation work progresses, keep all the invoices from the work, including those for materials and labour. You will need proper invoices called faktura and not just till receipts to offset the costs you have incurred against any financial gain when you come to sell the property.
Some of the alterations you wish to undertake may need planning permission and you will need to contact your local municipality to follow their application procedure. Your architect will be able to help you on this matter if not take charge of this whole aspect of the renovation.
Remember to add a clause into the preliminary contract that the purchase is subject to successfully obtaining all of the necessary planning permits for the proposed alterations.
When the building work is going on try to make regular visits to the site to ensure the work is going to plan. Between visits to site, your builder should be able to send you updates and photographs by e-mail.

In small rural villages, your project will create a lot of interest with your neighbours, who out of genuine concern will have all sorts of advice and recommendations to give.
It’s always wise to respect the local traditions when renovating ... in Bulgaria, if you concrete the vegetable patch to create a new patio, don’t be surprised if the neighbours are horrified!

There is great satisfaction in renovating an old house because you end up with a home, which matches your ideas and designs and a space, which really suits you. It may seem like an eternity to wait for your work to be completed, but the pride and fulfillment you experience on the day you move in will be well worth the wait. Probably the best thing about a successful renovation is that you will have a wonderful home with a higher resale value compared with the money you put into the project.

Renovation Rules

If you want the advantages of renovating without the risks, follow our 10 simple rules.

1.    Determine your budget and stick to it. Don’t take on anything which will overstretch your finances
2.    Don’t underestimate renovation costs. Keep aside an additional 10% contingency budget
3.    Avoid buying on impulse. Take your time looking round the property. Keep notes and take photographs from all angles
4.    Check things for yourself. Is there an electricity supply, is the water supply sufficient for your needs?
5.    Verify the condition of drainage, particularly if there is a septic tank. If inadequate or non-existent, is there room to put one in, which conforms to EU standards?
6.    Get a copy of the land registry plan (known as the 'skitsa') to check that the boundaries are correct and all the buildings are marked
7.    Major repairs - watch out for the condition of the roof and walls
8.    Will your builder will use common sense? One Quest Bulgaria reader asked for sockets to be positioned above the work surface in the kitchen and they were placed at ceiling height!
9.    If you are at all concerned, get a surveyor to check the condition of the property and give you an idea of likely costs
10.    Talk to the locals - they are a mine of information!