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We Bought Off Plan!

The rising cost of holidays overseas coupled with the need to escape the UK’s dull climate encouraged Redcar couple Don and Michelle Gibbs to hunt for a holiday home abroad. After Michelle’s extensive internet research across Europe and in particular Spain, the couple turned their focus to Bulgaria, a country they had never visited.

What attracted them was Bulgaria’s extremely low property prices coupled with pictures of its stunning rural scenery and close proximity to the coast.

 

After browsing many apartments Michelle stumbled on a new development, which was due for completion in 2008. The architect’s 3-D drawings of the Harmony Hills holiday complex in Rogachevo, 5 km from the beach resort of Albena was impressive, yet other than the internet drawings, there was nothing to view, as the complex had not even been started. “I wasn’t put off by the fact that we couldn’t view the complex, I just fell in love with the description and pictures of the place,” Michelle explains, “Don and I had been looking to buy a holiday home for several years now because we wanted to be able to have several holidays a year abroad, but with prices the way they are we could only afford one annual package holiday.”

Don continues, “Whist we love swimming and sunbathing we are not beach people and the fact that Harmony Hills was situated in the countryside close to Varna and many other facilities, we felt it satisfied all of our needs.”

The couple decided that at 53,000 Euros a fully furnished, one-bedroom apartment in the pretty, monastic-looking complex was a snip and contacted the selling agent Bulgarian Dream Homes to sign up for an off-plan apartment on the second floor overlooking the large communal pool. “The agent was so professional and helpful that we had no qualms about buying off plan even though we didn’t know anybody who had done so before,” Don continues.

The couple were offered a stage payment plan but opted to pay 50% up front and a further 50% on completion because this gave them a 3% discount on the price. They also purchased a small items package consisting of kitchen and household utensils for a further 700 Euros. “We then had to wait two years before the complex was complete but during this time, Bulgarian Dream homes kept us informed about the construction on a weekly basis, sending pictures of the site and updated status reports,” Michelle recalls.

The final completion date was delayed because the investors BLD, a UK stock market quoted company was unable to get the local electricity supplier e.on to connect them to the main power source, but this did not spoil the thrill of seeing their apartment for the first time on their first recent visit to Bulgaria.

BLD paid for the couple to stay in a private hotel in Rogachevo at their expense, whilst the couple flew out to Varna to complete the final paperwork, open a Bulgarian bank account and construct a snagging list.

“We were so impressed at the way we were looked after, there was no attempt to make excuses, BLD sorted out everything for us through the managing agents Homecare.

When we saw our apartment and the complex we were amazed,” Michelle recounts, “It was everything we expected and more; the furniture was perfect and the grounds awesome, we were surprised that the apartment appeared much bigger than we had imagined.”

Harmony Hills consists of 180 self-contained apartments with 20 villas, a large outdoor pool, a gym, a spa centre and onsite restaurant. During the summer season there will be frequent shuttle buses linking the complex with nearby beach resorts of Kranevo and Albena.

There are car hire facilities and links with the nearby golf courses and Homecare hope to open a small shop, hairdressers and Kid’s Club, which is great news for the Gibbs’ two children Bethany and Liam.

The village of Rogachevo is far more than a rundown, out-of-the-way Bulgarian village; it is home to many luxury villas and apartment blocks along with two bar restaurants and four food shops. The countryside offers panoramic sea views, plenty of hiking trails through the neighbouring hillside woodland and flat grasslands. The surrounding hillside is covered with vines and the fresh air and peace are more than endearing.

As well as planning to come out to their apartment three times a year, the couple are also participating in Homecare’s rental programme to generate additional income.

"The apartment will be rented out to tour operators during the summer and to Bulgarian businesses looking for conference facilities during the rest of the year, Don explains, “we never realised that the complex had so much rental potential.”

Not everyone who has bought in Harmony Hills is looking to use the complex as a holiday venue; five families intend to make it their permanent home and whilst the majority of buyers are British, a Russian, German and Danish family intends to live here all year round.

“We feel it’s such a great place and a fantastic investment that we may even retire here in the future,” Don admits, “we’ve fallen in love with Bulgaria and Rogachevo and we’ve met so many friendly people, Bulgarians, expats and other apartment owners.” The Gibbs’ advice to anyone considering an off-plan purchase is to research the area, and the investors, but most of all Michelle says, “if you fall in love with a place like we did go for it!”