The Russians are coming...the Russians are coming
Why are Russian buyers so drawn to Bulgaria?
The Russian appetite for foreign real estate is still in its infancy, particularly compared to the overseas buying frenzy among the British. Yet there is every sign that Russian buyers are on the move, aided by a flourishing domestic economy and an ever-widening choice of overseas bargains.
Russians started to buy real estate abroad about a decade ago, beginning in Spain and Cyprus. About five years ago, somewhat tentatively at first, they gravitated towards Bulgaria. Over the few years, however, Bulgaria has been one of three leading target countries for Russians. During 2007 Bulgaria became the unequivocal favoured destination for Russian buyers, attracting 23 per cent of those who decided to buy abroad, followed by Montenegro (17 per cent), Spain (16 per cent) and others (10 per cent and less). In total, Russian purchases of Bulgarian real estate more than doubled (113 per cent) last year. Now Russian real estate purchases in Bulgaria are on a par with English-speaking buyers.
Russians are drawn to Bulgaria by its climate and the closeness of the two cultures. Bulgaria and Montenegro are extremely popular with Russian buyers. Both countries are Slavonic and Orthodox with a history, culture and language similar to Russia's. So when Russians come to Bulgaria they feel at home. They also prefer Bulgaria to potential rivals - such as Poland or Serbia - because of its superior climate and relatively lower prices.
In particular, Russians are attracted by Bulgaria's coastline. More than 80 percent of Russian buyers in Bulgaria choose Black Sea properties. Most Russians buy apartments for their own use during the summer and are very satisfied with their purchases. Russians especially enjoy spending family holidays in Bulgaria. This is a great alternative to Russia's own coastal resorts where services are poorer and prices higher. Buyers are interested in holiday homes for their own personal use and for investment. They like to buy off-plan, because this offers cheaper prices as well as a special investment payment scheme with discounts. It also allows them ample time for payment during the building period.
Other areas of Bulgaria are less popular with Russian buyers. Less than 10 per cent of Russians, for example, buy in mountain resorts. Russians enjoy skiing, but they do not like to ski at the same location every year. The result is that those who buy in Bansko or Pamporovo do so mainly as investments. Golf is not particularly popular with Russians either, so those who buy near golf courses do so in pursuit of rental profits. Nevertheless, experience shows that profits are not as high as in their domestic market.
Few Russians buy in big cities - such as Sofia and Plovdiv - or resorts like Velingrad and Sandanski (just two to three per cent each). Not many Russians would need a business base in the Bulgarian capital and few Russians choose to visit a Bulgarian spa town. Also, profits from spa tourism are not particularly high, resulting in a lack of clients in this sector.
I hope that Russia's economy and political background will remain stable. If this happens, Russian interest in overseas property, which is growing very rapidly, will continue. Everyone knows, for example, that London is very popular with Russian oligarchs. But the number of people who can afford to invest rather more modest (but still sizeable) amounts is expanding rapidly.
Despite the recent upsurge, many Russians are either still unaware of investment opportunities in Bulgaria. Or perhaps they are simply wary of buying foreign real estate. Yet Russian property buyers in Bulgaria are usually very happy with their purchases and will recommend them to friends and colleagues. This is why it's a safe bet to assume that the Bulgarian market will become ever more popular in the future.