ARTICLES 
Battle of the Black Sea
Article by Lucy Gooding, ManchesterOnline.co.uk

Bulgaria has a relatively short 280km coastline. While most of the attention has so far focussed on Black Sea resorts including Varna and Sunny Beach, buyers are increasingly looking inland.

The ski resorts of Bankso and Borovets, among others, have been grabbing headlines as Brits rush to buy apartments and chalets for a fraction of what they would cost in the Alps.

Agents are also reporting an increasing interest in rural Bulgaria, around, Veliko Tarnovo, which has been compared to the French Dordogne.

Prices in Bulgaria have shot up, with 40 per cent rises over the past two years.
A starter price for a coastal apartment is around £35,000. Most of what is on offer now is new build, as developers buy up land to build Western standard apartment blocks - expect to pay from £55,000 for a two-bed apartment in a new block.

Rural villas for total renovation can be picked up from as little as £15,000 and off plan ski apartments in upmarket developments including gym and restaurants start at £75,000.
Prognosis

- The jewel in Bulgaria's crown is definitely the rural areas inland, which remind us of the Dordogne or Tuscany 20 years ago.

- Prices will continue to go up but there's less risk now so the profits will be less too.

- Bulgaria's short coastline will be its making. If you buy a beach property now then you will be in a good position in a few years time.

Will I be able to rent it out?

Bulgaria is a popular tourist destination. Thomas Cook reported a 100-per-cent increase in package holiday bookings to Bulgaria in 2003/2004, but the figures are still small - 19,000 a year.

That said, there is a real shortage of accommodation for tourists on the coast, so many are now buying in developments with existing deals with tour operators to block rent apartments - meaning more security for buyers' rental income.

The buying process

At present foreign buyers are not allowed to buy freehold property in Bulgaria, the only way around that is to set up a company and buy through that, though you will be expected to proved annual accounts for the business.

New developments are all leasehold, which gets around the problem. Presumably, things will change when Bulgaria joins the EU in 2007.
Is it easy to get to?

There are no direct scheduled flights from Manchester to Bulgaria, but there are a few charter services to Varna and Burgas in the summer.

BA run daily flights from Manchester to the capital, Sofia, which would be useful if you were planning on buying a ski property, or you could make the journey to the coast yourself, by car.

Anything I need to know about politics?

Undoubtedly more secure than Turkey, by way of its imminent accession into the EU.

What about the climate?

Not as hot as Turkey, and with a shorter season. You can expect predictably hot weather only really in July and August, though spring can be mild. In the mountain regions expect cooler but sunny summers and cold winters.

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