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Right Place to Rent?

Bulgaria's rental market is still in its infancy but over the last five years demand for rental homes has increased dramatically: both from the side of the supplier and the side of the consumer. Yet those buying for rental income alone, should proceed with caution rather than be swayed by hype from over-enthusiastic developers and real estate agents. There is money to be gained by investing wisely, but before you buy, research the market carefully and assess realistically whether the rental income can pay a part of the mortgage on the property.

Summer Season Holiday Lettings. The tourist season on the coast is short compared to established markets like Spain. The main holiday rental season runs from May to September, peaking in July and August.


In the future as Bulgaria increases its tourist facilities to include more year round activities like golf, the season will extend and thus increase rental income potential.

The pleasant Bulgarian climate, which offers scorching summers for sun lovers and a warm spring and autumn, which is ideal for people who do not like extreme temperatures. Low cost airlines are also breaking into the Bulgarian market and this will increase the number of off season visitors in the future.

Winter Season Holiday Lettings. In the mountain resorts, the ski season runs from December to mid April, with peak times being January and February.

 

Bansko, Borovets and Pamporovo offer great potential for year round tourism and the current low prices of property in these areas now provides a great opportunity for investors to invest in a market with the potential to grow like Austria and Switzerland.

Traditionally, the mountain resorts have relied on package holiday companies to supply the influx of tourists and yet, the increase in cheap flights to Sofia has meant that more people are making their own way to the resorts and demand for rental property is increasing.

 

Village Rentals. There is much available in the way of low cost village properties and the market to rent to those people who want to get away from the commercialism of the tourist areas or even those who want a long-term rental away from the hustle and bustle of city life is growing. When choosing village property for rental purposes, it is important to ensure the property has comfortable interiors and pleasant outdoor areas, preferably with a swimming pool. Choosing a village within easy reach of an airport is also a sensible option. Village rentals are proving popular with visitors from neighbouring countries like Romania who tend to drive over to Bulgaria. Clever marketing on a European level is the key to winning in the village rental market.

The Real Estate Agents and Developers View. Many developers promise guaranteed rental incomes of 10% and are prepared to manage your property for two years on this basis. Yet these figures are often used as a hook to lure clients to a development. Often, the developer will build the cost of rental income into the price and is effectively giving you your own money back over the two-year period. Once this is over you are left to find your own clients – although there are many good rental agents who can help you find clients.

The Rental Agent’s View. Pride Property Services, a company with a wealth of experience in property rentals have witnessed a switch in the profile of their holiday rental clients. Initially the UK and Ireland accounted for the largest majority of rental clients.

 

However, since Bulgaria’s EU accession made travel to the country much easier for other Europeans, there has been an increase in the number of young families, who drive to Bulgaria from other Central and Eastern European countries. Richard from Pride Property Services says that, “the most popular holiday rental properties now are villas with pools and pleasant outdoor areas, close to the coast, with areas around Varna, Kranevo and Balchik being the most sought after.”

 

 

The Rental Hotspots. The Bulgarian rental market is still in its infancy and has the potential to grow as tourism , business and facilities in the country develop. In the last two years, the city rental market has taken off, fuelled by the construction of new business parks, shopping malls, university buildings and an increase in city-based jobs through the expansion of foreign companies moving into the Bulgarian market. The city rental market is year round and provides modest, but regular returns.


Sofia is still the cheapest capital in Europe in which to buy property and one of the few capitals, which has ski runs just 20 minutes away from the city centre and a golf course within a short drive of the city; but before investing, it is important to determine, which the best areas are. Sofia is easy to get around on foot and taxi fares are still very cheap, which makes good quality property in downtown very popular.

Nevertheless, buyers must choose carefully and avoid anything close to the old communist panel blocks.

Doctor’s Garden is highly sought after, as is quality property on the Yellow Brick Road route, but many agents are marketing properties close to Doctor’s Garden under this name. The actual Doctor’s Garden area is ctually very small, but is in easy walking distance from the centre. This area is very popular with people employed at the foreign embassies and top-level business executives. The property here is expensive to buy, but does yield good rental returns.

On the outskirts of the city, buyers must take into account how easy it will be for tenants to reach the city centre. Sofia has a heavy flow of traffic and at peak times, a short journey will take much longer than anticipated. The city is also lacking in ample parking space.

The most popular city suburb is Lozenets. It has many newly built properties, good pavements, many restaurants and cafes and is only a few minutes from the centre by taxi. Bulgaria Boulevard is also more popular because of its increase in new developments combined with its easy access to the city centre via public transport.

Varna has also experienced increases in long-term city rentals, with apartments in close proximity to the centre being the most popular.

Again, choose your area carefully. Don’t buy a “luxury” apartment because the agent tells you it is close to the centre or new retail facilities; Orchid Hills development is one such example, where the developers and agents are marketing the luxurious blocks as being easily accessible to schools, hospitals, retail and transport links.. All of these statements are true, but not mentioned is the fact that the development overlooks rows of old Communist panel blocks and the retail community so far is the German discount supermarket chain, Kaufland; this doesn’t mean that the apartments are not good to invest in; such apartments are ideal for renting to young Bulgarians.

Pride Property Services reports that, “Many apartment owners only require short-term letting contracts, but unless the apartment has a good view (in the case of Varna, the sea) and a central location, this is not as easily achieved.”

Golf, the Next Rental Boomer? The construction of some fantastic professional golf courses is sure to increase the demand for rental properties on more of a year round basis. This market is not yet established, which offers some great possibilities to get in at the start. The profile of the future golfers in Bulgaria, is likely to be multi racial and those intending to rent to the golf market need to market their properties accordingly.

Accessibility to the golf courses will also help determine who will rent and at what times of year. Accessibility is the key in determining a potential audience; what is the nearest airport and are there any low cost airlines flying in there? Many foreign low cost airlines like Germanwings are bringing visitors to Bulgaria – make sure your marketing efforts take advantage of this.


Rental Incomes. Prices vary dependant on facilities and locations and the term of the rental contract. Long-term rentals guarantee regular monthly income, but they yield less than short-term rentals. Luxury two-bedroom city apartments in good neighbourhoods and with pleasant views can yield around 700 euros per month in rental income in Varna and anything from 900 to 2,000 euros a month good quality in a prime location in Sofia.

A country villa with accommodation for 10 people and a pool area will yield around 800 euros a week during the holiday season, but is liable to remain vacant when the season closes. Studio apartments rented out in resorts during the peak season can yield incomes of 270 euros per week and up to 38 euros per night, a one-bedroom apartment 350 euros per week and 50 euros per night and a two-bedroom 420 euros per week 60 euros per night. Most rental agents in Bulgaria charge around 30% of the total value of the booking.

The new low cost flights from a host of European destinations is likely to fuel more increases in the holiday rental market as is the growth in year round tourism fuelled by the opening of new golf courses. City rentals will continue to increase as more foreign companies set up business here and create jobs for qualified staff from other regions.

Hotspots are quality city rentals in Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna and frontline beach apartments. Areas to watch are golf spots and ski towns with access to golf courses.


Top Rental Tips

  • Long-term lets are the safest bet if you want regular income with minimum hassle.
  • Use a reputable agent, but check up on them if they are looking after your holiday lets - there are too many stories about agents letting property without telling the client.
  • Research what are the best areas for rentals. Ask around the letting agents, contact other expats through the internet, ask if an agent has a potential renter for your property, and look in local papers to determine local rents - get a Bulgarian friend to help you.
  • Check accessibility, who flies in to your area, who will be your target clients?
  • Which companies are setting up business or expanding business? They will be key targets for the city rental market.
  • If renting your property becomes problematic, could you afford to keep the property as a long-term investment? Would you visit the property if it were not rented out?
  • For city rentals, check the ease of access via public transport particularly in rush hours.