UK Publishers: Bulgaria Offers Hassle-Free Property Purchases

Novinite Insider » INTERVIEW | July 23, 2006, Sunday // 00:00

Jain and Chris Goodall are Britons who moved to Bulgaria to publish a property magazine about... Bulgaria. Jain's family are Hungarian, while Chris had been visiting Bulgaria since 1984. So moving east was not at all daunting but certainly set its challenges!

Jain Goodall talked to Sofia News Agency Editor-in-Chief Milena Hristova

Q: A quest after what was your decision to move to Bulgaria and publish a magazine here? Was Bulgaria the destination you originally wanted to emigrate to?

A: We originally came to Bulgaria to buy a house. Amazed at the lack of service and decent advice we returned home disappointed. Upon our return we reflected on what was happening in Bulgaria for English speaking people trying to buy property there.

An idea started to form - ten years ago we had moved to France where we had created and established a magazine to better inform and assist English speaking people considering buying property and even moving there. What was happening in Bulgaria with the lack of correct information was exactly the same as in France all those years ago. So we decided not just to buy a house in Bulgaria but also to establish an English language magazine again, called "Quest Bulgaria", dedicated to helping all those buying and investing in Bulgaria.

Q: What were your feelings and expectations when you first arrived in Bulgaria more than a year and a half ago?

A: Moving out in winter 2004, the Bulgarian temperatures came as quite a shock - coming from south west France where it hardly ever went below zero, we weren't quite prepared for the minus 20 that Sofia threw at us. Even though Chris had been visiting for over 20 years it had mainly been in the summer months so it came as a surprise that the +30 degrees he was used had suddenly dropped to -20 degrees! We were definitely excited though and really looking forward to settling in.

We were also extremely happy to be living in a capital city, we lived in a small market town in France so were absolutely astounded by the number of restaurants, cafes and bars that Sofia had to offer - everything right there on our doorstep, and most of it available 24 hours a day.

Q: For you as a foreigner, which are the bonuses of living and doing business in Bulgaria? Looking back have there been more ups than downs?

From D Visas, through Lichna Karte, importing a vehicle, to learning the language (alphabet first!) and setting up a company, VAT registration ... we went through it all ourselves.

Definitely more ups than downs though! We found the Bulgarian people extremely supportive of us and our business venture and they made all efforts to assist us where they could.

This also meant that for ourselves, everything went incredibly smoothly with sorting out most things as we had already made the perfect contacts through establishing the magazine for any information we then required personally!

Plus of course, as for many foreigners coming here from western europe, the cost of living is incredibly good - which is a huge appeal.

Q: Do you have any tips you would pass on to other foreigners considering a permanent move?

Learn the Cyrillic alphabet as soon as you can - what a difference it makes when you can read signs and a menu! We now buy Bulgarian newspapers and can read most of the headlines, plus work out the TV listings!

Definitely keep an open mind and try not to make comparisons between Bulgaria and your home country. Things are different here and you have to be prepared to adapt. That's the charm of living in a foreign country; to experience a different culture and atmosphere.

If you are unsure about anything (inheritance, company setup, visas, etc) then seek professional advice - there is a great deal of incorrect and out of date information available on the internet which is misleading a great many people - paying for an hour's time of a professional could actually save thousands in the long run.

Q: Residential prices have pushed Bulgaria squarely into the real estate spotlight. How long do you expect it to enjoy this popularity?

A: It's a very difficult question. In Spain and France it went on for many years. We think the only concern here in Bulgaria is that the market is moving much more quickly and prices are increasing dramatically, not in such a smooth progression as they have done in the western European countries. The worry would be that the prices are going up too fast and the market cannot support this long-term. If the market calms, then we see no reason for this not to continue for years to come.

Q: Why did Bulgaria turn into a hot place for vacation homes and, to a lesser extent, for investment?

A: It's cheap for holiday homes. For investment Bulgaria is well located as a country, sitting at a good axis.

Q: Which are the drawbacks that foreigners buying property here usually overlook?

A: Most foreigners do not spend enough time getting to know the different areas of Bulgaria. They often see something they like on the Internet and just visit that one location. Sometimes they are upset afterwards because they rushed it and find that the village down the road is nicer than where they have bought! Take your time is the best advice. It's so much better to discover Bulgaria first and then choose the property, rather than the other way round.

Among the legal issues concerning the risks involved in buying property here are under-declaring the real value of the property on the deeds is one of the main issues; which of course can lead in the longer term to a high capital gains tax bill for foreigners. Visas, residency permits, setting up a company, inheritance laws, taxation laws, accountancy laws, importing a vehicle, managing a property from a distance.... are all extremely important and are always asked about.

Q: What are your tips for those who want to go for a safe, hassle-free and profitable property purchase in Bulgaria?

A: Do your research first from as many independent sources as you can find. Don't trust all that you read on the Internet. Get your own lawyer rather than use the one recommended to you by the estate agent, that way you know they are acting in your interests. On the whole though, most property purchases are hassle free here; it's the same as with most things, you tend to hear the bad news shouted loudly from a few and the majority who have had no problems say little.

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