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Bulgaria property buying tips 2010

If you are planning on buying a Bulgarian property this year, here are our top tips and hints to make finding your dream home easier. The property market is at a low, so the buyer holds the cards right now.

Currently prices are dropping a little but stabilisation is starting to appear. Although nobody can tell you exactly when the market will start to recover, make your decision whilst things remain in the purchaser's favour.

What you want. Make sure that you are clear about what you want to buy, both in terms of the type of property and how much you can afford. Don't forget to include all fees in your budget, so that you know what your total price is. Think about what you really want from the property - no neighbours? miles from the shops? huge renovation work and costs with no language? ...

Finances. Get your finances in place before you go viewing properties. If you are not in a position to buy, then be straight with the agent and tell them. They are unlikely to help you again if you waste days of their time when you cannot buy but may want to use them again later. Don't tell the agent you are a cash buyer if you need to raise finance. Again, be clear with them and endeavour to get approval for a mortgage in writing. This will help you negotiate on the price of the property. If you really are a cash buyer then you are a very desirable person to the vendor: make use of this.

Location. Bulgaria is very diverse and you'll need to do lots of research to decide where you want to buy. Visiting different parts of the country which you have shortlisted will pay dividends and reduce the chances of making a mistake. Look at where the locals are buying as a good indication of good areas. This also means the property market in that area is supported by Bulgarians, making it easier to sell should you wish to do so. Check out shops, restaurants and other facilities. For a holiday home or for living permanently, amenities are important.

The property. Take a good look at whether you will be able to cope with all those old barns or that massive garden. Both require maintenance. If you are thinking about converting the barns, take the cost of this into consideration and do your sums. It may work out more expensive than you think, so don't overspend on buying in the first place.

When to view. Many view properties whilst on holiday during the favoured months of July and August. But with the sun shining and blue skies, you can easily get carried away. Try viewing in the less busy months, during spring and autumn for a better idea of the property. At that time of year, you might pick up a better bargain too!

Prices. The resale market in Bulgaria is not mature. Therefore you may easily see a property advertised with several agents, all at different prices. Sometimes this is down to the commission the agent is charging - but, all too frequently, it is down to the vendor changing their mind on how much they want. Look at a good cross-section of properties to help you assess a realistic and fair price. Don't go for a cheap property just for the sake of it; this could be false economy.

Bulgarian v British. Don't be put off contacting a Bulgarian agent because you cannot speak the language. It is easier, of course, to speak in your mother tongue but you never know, that Bulgarian agent may have just the property you are after. Most Bulgarian agents speak good English anyway.

Private sales. Many expats are returning to Britain due to money constraints, brought on by the fall of the British pound. Often their properties have been well renovated to standards you expect. Sellers are well aware of the low market and the majority have revised their prices downwards by anything from 30 to 50%. You may well find a fully renovated property at the price of something needing considerable work and expense and, of course, there is no language barrier either.

Prepared but no hurry. Be prepared to buy when you go viewing but don't hurl yourself full tilt into buying in a rush. This is a big investment, so reflect and check everything out.

Lawyer. Get your own independent lawyer. The agent may well recommend but you should really select a lawyer who will act solely in your interests. Also, read everything for yourself. Get all documents translated by a registered translator in writing.

Rentals. If you are planning on renting your property be cautious on how much rental return you are likely to achieve. There are plenty of rental properties available in Bulgaria for holiday-makers and even in a popular area you may not be able to rent the property for as many weeks as you think. Avoid taking a mortgage on a property where you are relying on rentals to pay the monthly instalments.

Currency. It is worth contacting currency brokers to see how they can help you make the most of your money when transferring this into a foreign currency. It can make thousands of pounds of difference.

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