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The Independent: Bulgaria's Star Rising

The Independent: BulgariaIf one country typifies the explosion of interest in eastern Europe it must be Bulgaria, reads an article published in the Independent on Wednesday.Prices are startlingly cheap, especially for new homes, even if some of the architecture is reminiscent of 1970s Britain. The UK newspaper gives detailed information on Bulgaria's real estate market pointing out the excellent prices for houses located near the Black Sea city Varna.

Relatively low prices, along with estate agents' talk of 40% rises per year, have triggered worries of a price bubble. But analysts suggest most buyers just want a low-cost holiday home or a long-term investment and that, so far at least, the high volume of ongoing building has not undermined price gains made by early buyers, the article reads on.

For investors, there is a clear appeal in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia. When the nation accedes to the European Union in 2007 there is much confidence that the capital will vie with the likes of Prague and Berlin as a base for the central European offices of many multi-nationals. The result would almost certainly be price rises in apartments and a booming corporate rental market.

But although market prospects remain strong, experts advise buyers to remember that this is still an emerging market. There are many eccentricities and many unregulated agents and builders wanting to cash in.

Stuart Law of Assetz International, a property investment consultancy, says buying a home can be complex because it involves setting up a Bulgarian company to meet the country's stringent rules on foreign property ownership. Bear in mind that inflation in Bulgaria was 578 % in 1997 and the currency exchange rate with sterling is extremely volatile and hence purchase is risky, he says.

Independent property lawyers say buying in Bulgaria - or elsewhere in eastern Europe - is clearly a good investment but needs to be done with a level head.

Yet despite the uncertainties, Bulgaria increases in popularity. The country's economics ministry says 248,792 Britons visited in 2004; its London embassy says the number of visas issued to Britons in 2004 was double that of 2003; just one estate agency.

Bulgaria's star is rising. But if you're going to buy, be quick - before the prices rise too.

23 March 2005 - Sofia News Agency

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