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Setting Up in the Low Cost Bulgarian Property Business

With the wolf at the door and global property markets plummeting, many might assume that now is the time to get out of the real estate business rather than get into it. Yet the fact is that not everyone is affected by the crisis. Those with secure jobs and high incomes will benefit from falling prices and many believe that when it comes to investment, no matter what the economic outlook, there’s nothing as safe as houses. Diana St John-Palmer realized this when she moved to Bulgaria’s North West four years ago. With such low prices in this wonderful part of the country, Diana has decided to open her own real estate company.

Time for a Change

Four years ago Diana St John-Palmer lived in West Yorkshire where she worked for the West Yorkshire Constabulary. The job was enjoyable but highly stressful with plenty of rushing around and adrenalin highs and when stress started to take its toll, Diana knew it was time to look for a more relaxing lifestyle. After watching a TV programme about property in Romania, Diana began to research the lifestyle, traditions and the different cultures of Romania, Croatia and Bulgaria. She read avidly digesting as much information as she could find on the internet. The net result was that she decided to visit Bulgaria first.

The Hunt for Property

In total she visited six times before making a permanent move looking at property in Shumen, Veliko Tarnovo, Gabrovo, Sofia, Vitosha along with many other along the way. Diana was disappointed many times she explains, ‘the property was inaccessible, had some sort of problem or had no keys available or had been sold. I realised many people would not be able to cope with a move like this, but I considered this a wise investment and part of my retirement plan. After all this was my life I was planning to change completely.’ Diana had hired an English speaking driver to ferry her around the country and seeing her disappointment he suggested she take a look at Lom in the North West, where his mother lived, she took his advice and this was the start of Diana’s love affair with Bulgaria and her interest in the property market.

Loving Lom

Diana was amazed at the low cost of the property here as well as the variety of properties available. In addition, the region was incredibly beautiful with sheer mountain ranges and villages set on the plains, surrounded by sunflowers, lakes and rivers. People lived a tranquil life, were extremely welcoming and they grow most of their food with an incredible array of fruits and vegetables, Diana was smitten with the hospitality she received, ‘Whilst many people have no work and are poor in monetary terms, they have huge hearts and have always welcomed me into their homes and I have many Bulgarian friends here now.’She found her first house in a quaint village close to Lom. It had a large garden cost just 3000 lv. It was in need of renovation and Diana estimates that she spent another 15,000 to 20,000 on remodeling but the results were amazing, Diana explains, ‘I ended up with a home I loved and more space than I had ever known.’ As the only English person in the area, she was something of a curiosity at first, she reminisces, ‘Things relaxed as the residents found I was willing to try to learn the language and willing to try their foods.’

Setting Up in Business

Diana enjoyed the experience of buying and renovating her home and her experiences coupled with her enjoyment of working with people fuelled her desire to start her own real estate agency she explains, ‘I decided to start the business as, due to the recession, my pensions have actually decreased by a third over the last year or so.’ Her website details some fantastic offers with prices as low as 4,000 Euros and whilst selling property will be the main focus of the company, Diana’s personal interest lies in assisting those who want help with renovation work, redesign and ideas, which means that if you buy a property from Bulgarian North West, you need not worry about the difficulties in finding someone to renovate. Diana has no desire to become a huge property magnate, she prefers to offer a quality, personal service, she says, ‘I would rather have a small portfolio, with enough variety to give a reasonable selection and concentrate my time on giving any visitors and potential clients my personal attention while they are here. One is not able to do that if the company grows hugely, therefore I will carefully monitor progress and keep it within the boundaries that I feel are right for us.’

Diana has two English speaking Bulgarian partners who help with the many services her company have to offer, which include sorting out utilities, banks, legal requirements, furnishings, renovation and garden work as well as dedicated drivers for airport pickups, property viewings and day trips. The company works with reliable translators, a good building company (tried and tested on Diana’s own house) and an excellent lawyer.

Advice for Potential Movers

Diana is always available to help clients on their visits to Bulgaria. She has a good knowledge of the area and can advise on the best places to relax, entertain and shop. The North West is an area that is largely Bulgarian speaking, although the younger generation is now learning English; however knowledge of the language or the assistance of someone who does is essential. More foreigners, predominantly British are now buying in this area and more expat communities are springing up so those who are less gregarious can stick within their own comfort zone in terms of like-minded people who speak the same language. Diana does urge those considering a move here to research their options very carefully she advises, ‘Over the four years I have been here, I have met many other ex-pats now, some who have had good experiences and some with tales of woe. Some of this is due to not having the time or inclination to do the research needed. Not everyone can move from a busy lifestyle to a country village in Bulgaria and be happy. It does needs careful thought and preparation. Also good advice by the selling agent is vital, I feel and this is where experience of living in the country is so useful’