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Buyers Guide

Buying property in Bulgaria is much easier than one might think, generally only taking three or four weeks. Once you’ve found your property this guide will help you through the purchasing maze.

Get an independent lawyer

Get your own independent lawyer who will look after your interests. Your lawyer will be invaluable throughout the purchase process and you will be able to rely on them correctly checking the contracts, ownership history, land use plans and all other necessary documentation. They will also help you with planning permissions and residency permits.



Preliminary contract

Your lawyer will undertake all the legal checks to confirm valid ownership of the property and make sure there are no outstanding debts or charges on it.

At this point you should sign the preliminary contract. You can be in Bulgaria to sign the preliminary contract yourself or you may assign Power of Attorney to someone to do this on your behalf.

It is important that this contract is correct as it determines the whole basis of the sale/purchase. Estate agents often draw up this contract but it is still advisable to get your lawyer to check it over

Translation

Additionally, don’t rely on a rough translation. The document should be translated into written English for you by a registered translator, who will ensure you understand the contract and the translator will also sign to say that their translation is correct.

Deposit

The deposit is payable on signing of the preliminary contract, which is normally 10%. For off-plan purchases, the deposit will usually be higher than this, often 30%, with future staged payments agreed within the contract.

We highly recommend that you never pay any deposit money without having the preliminary contract in place and signed by both parties.

Setting up a Bulgarian company

At the time of writing foreigners are not able to directly buy land. (This will inevitably change because of EU law and indeed this change has alredy been adopted in the Constitution but it has not been provided for as yet in the Ownership Act. What this means is that in theory you should have the right to directly purchase land from 1 January 2007 but in practice the rules are not yet in place).

Therefore, in order to purchase land or a property with land you need to set up a Bulgarian company. If you are buying an apartment this is not usually necessary as you will most likely not be buying the land on which the development is built.

Setting up a Bulgarian company is common practise and is easy and inexpensive. Your lawyer should be able to do the whole thing for you and they can complete all the paperwork on your behalf if you have given them a Power of Attorney to do so.

The costs vary depending upon the rate your lawyer charges, but it should be somewhere in the region of 500 euros. The information you will need to provide will be the name of the company, the address, name of each shareholder and how much stake they have in the company. Setting up and establishing the company will take a couple of weeks.

Completion

For the signing of the final deeds (completion), you will need to make sure the balance of funds is available in Bulgaria. Remember to transfer sufficient funds to cover not only the purchase but costs and fees.

On the actual day, you will meet with the vendor and their lawyer at the public notary office of the municipality in which your property is situated. You may find it useful to take a registered translator with you so that you can be sure you understand. If you cannot be in Bulgaria, then your lawyer may sign on your behalf if you have given Power of Attorney.

The notary authenticates the buyer and seller are who they say they are, checks the paperwork and that the transaction is all correct. The vendor and seller sign the final deeds, which are also signed by the notary and translator. At this moment the balance of funds is due.

Do not be too surprised if you are then asked by the vendor to go with him directly to your bank and hand him the cash for the property - Bulgaria is still very much a cash based society!

Registering the purchase

The notary will register the deeds with the land registry authorities.

One important thing which is often overlooked if you do not use your own independent lawyer is that you need to register your purchase with the tax authorities. Your lawyer will do this for you as part of their service but if you have used the estate agency alone, check that they do this.

A second registration is also needed which is frequently forgotten by those who buy apartments, particularly as holiday homes. Most buyers are aware that if you buy a property as a Bulgarian company you need to register with Bulstat authorities. However, even if you buy as an individual you must still register with Bulstat and obtain a Bulstat number, which serves as your Personal Identification Number. This needs to be done within 7 days from completion. You only need to do this when you make your first property purchase. You do not need to do this if you have a Bulgarian company nor if you already have a personal identification number from obtaining a residency permit.