Lifestyle - Real Estate - Information - Trust
Q. What is the climate like in South East Bulgaria? A. Weather in Bulgaria is generally continental, with warm to hot long summers and short cold winters. However it does vary in mountainous regions and throughout the country. The areas where we sell property in the South East are known as the warmest parts of the country. We are based as far south as you get without altitude and the region is very well known for it's grape and melon production. The winters here can be very cold, however they are generally short and with only very small amounts of snowfall compared to the rest of the country. For us, that extra few weeks either end if the growing season can make a huge difference. December and January are the coldest months with freezing temperatures frequent through the nights. However most days we still get a lot of sun and warmth through the windows. Spring and Autumn are stunning here. From the beginning of May to November, good weather is almost guaranteed with most of the summer in the 30's.
Q. What fees are involved with buying a property in Bulgaria and how does that work? A. Our fees are already included in the listed price you see for each property. On top of the listed prices you'll also need to budget for the cost of our solicitor and notary as well as potentially setting up a company. Both the solicitor and notary charges including tax are calculated on a percentage of each property valuation. However this also varies from village to village and according to how many people are selling the property and how many people are buying the property. We recommend around 8% of the property value to be safe. For example - a house we have listed for 15,000 lv could cost you around an extra 1200 lv in legal fees on the day of completion. Our fees includes us finding and listing, showing you around the properties with verbal translation, all negotiations for the purchase, introduction to our solicitor and arranging the completion of any purchase. As well as this you also gain access to our address book filled with vast amounts of local knowledge, including tradesman and the locations for everything you'll need to get started. The solicitor fees cover the correct paperwork filed and organised for your purchase. Our solicitor is extremely experienced and highly regarded in the area. She has represented many foreigners here, in and around this region for many years and we trust her completely. She is also a good friend and takes very good care of our business. All house sales must be overseen and certified by a local notary. The day of completion will finish around a desk with the notary finalising all the paperwork and checking over the documents. Once everything is signed and stamped, with proof of the transaction being provided, the deal is done. You pay at the desk and come back approximately 1 week later to collect the new title deeds as the new owner. We also have many opt-in services to offer making things much more convenient for you. Please see the FAQ titled ' EXtra Services/Opt In '
Q. Do you offer any further Additional Services/Opt In's? A. For a small additional fee, we offer the following services, in order to make your move to Bulgaria a smooth and easy one. Some of these can be daunting to do without a good grasp of the language and local knowledge. We are here to help :) Power of Attorney Contracts - 200 lv Most people will visit for a few days and find somewhere they really want to buy however they have to return home before the sale can complete. You then have two options. One is returning to the country to complete the sale in person. However most will sign one of us as their power of attorney in front of a notary in Svilengrad, allowing us to handle the whole sale in your name and on your behalf. . Preliminary Contracts - POA Due to the fact that when making international bank transactions, payments can take up to 3 days to arrive, all transactions have to always be made at least 3 days prior to the completion date set by us. Many customers feel more comfortable paying for a legal contract stating as soon as seller receives full payment, they must sign the house over to you. Similar contracts are used when deposits are left on properties also. These fees are paid directly to our solicitor and again are calculated on property value and location. Change of name on the water and electric accounts - 60 lv Within 14 days of any house purchase you must change the names over on the accounts for electricity and water. Failing to do so results in a fine. We can assist you to the water and electricity companies in your nearest town and change the name on accounts into your own. With a power of attorney contract we can do this without you being present. . Internet Connection - POA We will phone an internet company for you and organise them to come and install a connection. They will charge around 100 lv and then monthly payments of around 20 lv a month for the service. . Setting Up Bank Account - 60 lv If you would like to open up a Bulgarian bank account, we can advise on what is best for your needs and assist you in setting one up with translation. . Setting up a Company - POA Many expats here have companies just for the purpose of owning property. For non EU citizens, a company must first be opened in order to purchase property. Message us today for a estimation. Applying for Residency - 150 lv For all residents of EU countries 150 lv is the price for our solicitor to assist you in Haskovo for the day once you have an address. You will also need a European health insurance card or proof of personal health insurance, bank account details, and your passport. For all non EU countries price will be on application.
Q. How do I apply for Bulgarian Residency? A. Residency applications will vary according to your country of birth or where you currently hold citizenship. If you plan on spending more than 3 months at a time in Bulgaria without leave, you will need to apply for residency here, or potentially a visa prior to arriving. Our solicitor can assist you with your residency application in Haskovo for a small fee once you have an address here in the country. You will need a European health insurance card (EHIC) or proof of personal health insurance, bank account details, your passport as well as proof of address in Bulgaria. Other documents and certificates may be required depending on where you currently hold citizenship. For citizens of EU countries the process is very fast and relatively straightforward. For citizens of non EU countries the process is possible but can take slightly longer and cost a little extra. We always recommend checking with the embassies in both countries as well as official government websites.
Q. How do locals feel about foreigners moving into a village? A. Bulgarian villages are generally a small tight-knit community and we work together with them every week to seek out houses we believe will appeal to you. We always engage with the village residents and the mayor so everybody knows what we are doing and are comfortable with it. These villages used to be thriving, busy, bustling communities 30 years ago, and to see houses being restored and lived in again is a very positive experience for the villagers. Bulgaria is an incredibly welcoming and warm country for foreigners, and you will very quickly be part of their community if you desire. Everybody who moves here is astounded by the generosity of the Bulgarian people. Especially when it comes to the time they will take to help you out and the bundles of food you get given when their gardens start producing! The villagers are very proud of living in this beautiful part of the world and they love the fact that we want to live here too.
Q. What are the average living costs in Bulgaria? A. Although Bulgaria is a member of the EU, they still have their own currency, Leva. Depending on your lifestyle, you can live as basically or as liberally as you choose here. Many things are cheaper, such as food, alcohol, clothes and eating out in restaurants and you can live a wealthy lifestyle for a fraction of what it would cost throughout most of the rest of Europe. The traditional culture is very much a grow your own one with nearly all villagers tending vegetable gardens, fruit trees and animals, supplementing their pensions or income. The average wage for labour is around 35 lv a day, which while shocking, can paint a picture of how little one can live on in Bulgaria. Cars are generally more expensive to buy here in Bulgaria, but they are cheaper to maintain in general. For a standard car, road tax is 130 lv per year, MOT is 35 lv and we just payed less than 60 lv for 3 months insurance. That insures the car, not the person, so that anyone can drive it. Petrol and Diesel is slightly cheaper than other places in Europe, but not much, which is probably why LPG is so popular. Electricity bills can vary from 40 lv a month to 140 lv a month depending on what you use, we know expats at both ends. The same costs apply for water depending on your usage. Sometimes your property may already have a well which is yours to use freely. Many do for irrigation or pumped to the house. In some villages each house will have a tap with free water from a nearby lake or dam. Most people do not drink the tap water, but there are plenty of springs around to collect from or you can install filters at the property.
Q. Can you recommend local Tradesman? A. Everyone who buys with us gets access to our address book. We have compiled an address book with names, phone numbers and the addresses for everything and everyone you'll need to get yourself started here. This includes local tradesman, hardware stores, doctors, couriers and lots more. It's years worth of valuable knowledge we've compiled in to one place, saving you time, money and stress.
Q. What is healthcare like in Bulgaria? A. We have been very impressed with the healthcare system here in and around Svilengrad. With same day services and test results, with costs as low as 15 lv for procedures like x-rays and blood tests. Thus far we have found for general care it's very easy and affordable. We've also now had a baby here in Bulgaria, for which we chose to go private for in Plovdiv with specialists. We were amazed by the low costs, high standards and level of care. We would recommend this to anyone and we're happy to talk more personally about our various experiences if you want to drop us an email. There are Health Insurance options to look into and if you have an ongoing health issue and it's important to remember that some prescriptions you get free in the UK or reduced cost medicines may not be the same here. Every Bulgarian resident should be paying in to their health insurance plan.
Q. What public transport is available in Bulgaria? How do I get from Sofia airport to Svilengrad? A. Public transport is a cheap and straightforward way to visit towns and cities in Bulgaria. We have the motorway and railway lines running right past Svilengrad and Harmanli with daily coaches and trains to Plovdiv, Sofia, Istanbul, Burgas and Ruse just to name a few. Almost every village also has a daily bus route to town and back. Public transport is very affordable and a great way to see some beautiful scenery. Recently we have taken a train to Sofia for just 14 lv and a coach to Istanbul for just 35 lv. We are more than happy to help with advice on finding your way to Svilengrad via road or rail. There are internet sites and engines that will give you timetables for buses, coaches and trains, however, we have found these to not always be reliable due to lack of updates. It is always better to go directly to the train or bus station to ask specifically. In Sofia, the bus station and the train station are right next to each other and easily reachable via metro from the airport. Sofia Airport Terminal 2 has a Metro station. This is Bulgaria's version of the underground and goes back and forward from the airport to Sofia. It costs 1.60 lv to get your ticket and you change at the SERDIKA stop, to get on the blue line that takes you to the train and bus station.
Q. How will I learn the language? A. The Bulgarian language is a South Slavic language, spoken primarily in Bulgaria. It is also the first Slavic language to be attested in writing. The Bulgarian alphabet is in cyrillic, and has upper case and lower case letters. Everybody learns in different ways. The most tried and tested way is, of course to get involved with the locals, to pick up the sounds and the accents, along with the local dialect. It's hard at first, but the Bulgarian people really appreciate you having a go. Below are some useful links we have found to be beneficial, along with a few books that can help you learn the basics of Bulgarian and the alphabet. Books: Bulgaria: 101 Common Phrases - Alex Castle Learn to Read Bulgarian In 5 Days - Patel Vitov Youtube Sources: Bulgarian Pod 101 Blue Lane Apps for Phone/Tablets: Mondly We will also be offering weekly language lessons ourselves very soon!
Q. What is the best way to transfer money internationally? A. We highly recommend using an online money transfer company called Transferwise. They always give by far the best exchange rates, and we trust them completely. They're much cheaper than direct bank to bank transactions for international transfers making sure you always get the most for your money. They show you the current exchange rate, and the fee for the transaction. All you need are IBAN numbers, name of the account holders, email addresses and bank names. There are of course different options you can take and how you transfer money is entirely up to you. Just bare in mind than any house with a value of 10,000 lv or higher can not be paid for with cash and must be made via transfer. Even if you are looking to move your pension over to a Bulgarian account each month, Transferwise really is the best way to go. Ask us to recommend you to their site through a link and you'll also receive discounts! You can check out their website here, and we would be happy to talk you through any questions you have regarding it. www.transferwise.com
Q. What does it cost to restore or renovate a property in Bulgaria? A. There is no easy answer to this and there is no one figure, but as with any building work, it can often eat up cash quicker than you sometimes imagine. It's best to get some kind of plan, budget and try to understand as best you can what work will lie ahead for you and your property. Many foreigners enjoy getting stuck in, learning new skills and having a go, which is a great way to keep costs to a minimum, while others prefer to sit back and let the pros do what they know best. Either way, there is a good chance you're going to need some help at some point, and when you do, we are happy to pass on the contacts for people that can. Depending on what you want to spend and sometimes the quality of the finish, workers can charge from 30 lv a day up to 120 lv a day. So as you can imagine, total costs can vary dramatically. Sometimes you can save money in the long run by buying a property that need less work and sometimes (especially with large projects) you save money through buying cheap and starting again. What's most important is finding a good solid house in a location you love.
Q. What is the biggest plot of land I can buy? A. Most village house are built within a 1000 m2 to a 2000 m2 plot. Finding larger spaces of land is really very difficult, although it is something we spend a lot of time trying to do. The largest regulated plot we have sold to date was around 7000 m2 property. While you may see much larger spaces for sale online, be aware that these are often not regulated meaning they are almost impossible to buy. Be aware of agricultural and forestry. We recommend purchasing a property where the surrounding properties are empty or falling down. Often we can help acquire these too and you can easily monopolise a small corner of the village.
Q. What wildlife do you find in South East Bulgaria? A. There is a stunning array of nature and wildlife in South East Bulgaria. This part of the country is well known for its birds of prey, from Golden eagles to the Eurasian sparrowhawk and all inbetween. They attract many bird watchers and scientists from around the globe. Bulgaria even boasts the globally endangered Egyptian vultures in one very special place nearby called Madzharovo. It's easily accessible and great viewing if you have a pair of binoculars. Storks are protected in Bulgaria, and celebrated as a start of Spring. It is very common to have a nest near your house, and you can watch the whole family grow throughout the summer before flying to Africa for their winters. Swallows and House Martins are also common place around the home, alongside owls, bats, starlings, nightingales and many other small birds. You will find that you regularly hear jackals howling at night outside the villages and even occasionally wolves. It's a beautiful thing to experience, yet you very rarely catch more than a glimpse if you're lucky. Bulgaria is also home to the European wildcats and they are regularly spotted dashing under cover whilst driving in the countryside, alongside hares, pine martens and other field rodents. Lizards, tortoises and snakes are common place along forest walks. There are no deadly snakes in Bulgaria, however it is best to treat with caution the horn - nosed viper and the Adder. If bitten you will require medical attention. Wild boars still scatter the forests and plains, as do wild horses. Recently wild bison have been re introduced. There have been no wild bear sightings in our area for a very long time. You would need to travel at least two hours south and west towards Kurdzhali and beyond, up high and deep in to the Rhodopes to be in with a chance of ever seeing one.
Q. How far are you to the sea? A. We like to boast that we are just a two hour drive to the coast in three different countries. In Bulgaria, Burgas is the nearest coastal destination. In Greece it is Alexandroupolis and in Turkey you have Tekirdağ. All are fantastic holiday destinations and we highly recommend visiting them all for weekends away.
Q. What are the nearest airports? A. Plovdiv and Burgas are the closest and out of them both, Plovdiv is the easiest with getting to us. However we normally fly to and from the capital Sofia because of the amount of flights available and because it's usually cheaper. The motorway and railway run directly from Sofia to Istanbul via Plovdiv and Svilengrad. Depending on how you choose to travel the trip length varies. For us, the drive to Sofia takes 2 and a half - 3 hours but is very easy on mostly empty roads. We are yet to ever see a traffic jam. We recommend hiring a car from the airport. You can find deals as cheap as 20 lv a day.
Q. Where will i stay while I'm visiting the area and viewing properties? A. We can recommend a good range of different accommodation options while you are visiting our area. From smart modern hotels in town to small village guest houses and everything in between. Let us know your preferences and we can suggest a few places we think you might like.
Q. How easy is it to buy a house? A. This largely depends on where you currently hold citizenship, but we always aim to make the process as simple as possible for you with translation, negotiation, trustworthy connections and legal advice. Once a price has been agreed for the sale of a property and giving that all the paperwork is present and in order at our end and the money is ready at your end, completion can commence just 1 week after agreeing a price. The new title deeds will be ready for collection from the notary just 3 days later. Do bare in mind though, that with certain properties it is not uncommon for the whole process to take a few weeks or even a month. It's best to allow time for the latter. Many sellers will be willing to accept deposits, as are we, until you are ready to complete. Monthly payment plans are also sometimes available and something we can always arrange on your behalf with the sellers and our solicitor. If there is a property you are interested in purchasing on a payment plan, please email us for more information.
Q. Are the house prices ever negotiable? A. While our fees along with the legal fees are not negotiable, we find that most sellers are willing to seriously consider offers and almost all of our sales complete at a reduction from the asking price. We also feel that all the starting prices on each of our properties are fair, reflective of the local area and at the same price the locals would pay. We unfortunately have to regularly turn down overpriced properties.
Q. In which areas of Bulgaria do you sell properties? A. We generally only sell houses in the Haskovo region. And while we are actually based 70 km from the city of Haskovo, we reside and work within the Haskovo Region which is like a county. We want to offer a more personal service where we know the villages we sell in, we know the locals and we have a close understanding of how things work. We're passionate about where we live and what we do and want to invite like minded people around the world to come and experience this life. We love all the houses we sell. In Fact the property section on our website is pretty much a "Houses We Want To Buy" list. We chose to live in this area of Bulgaria over other regions for many different reasons. One, because the climate is the best in the whole country, receiving the shortest winters and the longest summers. Secondly the wildlife, nature and the wildness here captivated us There is still so much wild! We love the fact that we have Greece and Turkey right on our doorstep and also because we feel like it's an up and coming area. Svilengrad has changed a lot in the last 10 years. The EU, the Bulgarian Government and private investors have put a lot money into the town and it's fast becoming a very desirable place to live with great facilities. We must too see it as a great sign for the future that Bulgarians are also now buying up properties and returning to live in the villages here.
Jo is no slickly suited snake oil salesman. His home is here, as is his family; he speaks Bulgarian and he’s living, not selling an alternative life in a country he loves. He’s bought and renovated houses and his knowledge, contacts and support are invaluable to anyone looking to step into a world that can seem bewilderingly different from the one they’re used to. I doubt Jo gives much thought to his USP as a businessman but that’s because it’s the evident integrity, good humour and charm that he and his partner Jess exude. These are good people, investing in a community they love. Buying a house from Jo comes with an invitation to step into the generosity of this vision, and participate in a world they cherish. Sitting on the veranda of our new house, looking out over the village, I realise the privilege of doing so, and we are grateful to Jo and Jess for enabling it to happen.Rupert Crisswell
Cannot recommend these guys enough, what a tough year it’s been. But however tough it’s been despite all the restrictions due to covid, Joe and Jess still found a way to secure my dream home in stunning Bulgaria. If you’re looking to buy in BG I highly recommend using these guys, they’ve done all the hard graft themselves so you don’t have to! If you’re thinking about it, just do it. You won’t regret it. Find yourself a Beautiful home surrounded by fields, mountains and forestry for the price of a 2nd hand car! Turn your dream into a reality, there’s nothing quite like sipping a nice glass of home made wine sitting in your garden staring into the Bulgarian valleys and wilderness. Thanks Joe and Jess for everything, you guys are awesome.Chaz Hodge
We recently bought a property there, and found the whole process fairly straightforward, and Joe and Jess are so helpful. We are so pleased to have found them. Know like many others, we had heard so many horror stories about buying a property in Bulgaria, but these worries soon went after meeting Joe & Jess. They took us to see many properties that they thought would tick the boxes on our wish list, and gave us a lot to think about. We came back to the UK to think about things ( there is NO pushy hard sell with these guys ) and decided on which one we wanted. To anyone thinking of buying in Bulgaria, all I can say is that we love it there. We went over for a few days with an open mind, but soon fell for its old-time charm, and relaxing lifestyle. What started off as an investment/holiday home, may even become a permanent home ! Will be flying over again this month, to arrange for builders to start work on our place. Just want to say a massive thank you Joe and Jess.Patrick Chapman
We were interested in finding a property in Bulgaria as we'd heard great things but we didn't know where to start. We came across Joe and Jess on a Facebook page and got in contact - not really expecting anything to come of it. However, they answered all of our questions and we realised the best thing to do would be to go to south-eastern Bulgaria and have a look at some properties. Joe and Jess took us under their wing and spent full days with us - showing us properties, taking us to local cafes, explaining the culture, and lots more. We fell in love with a property and made an offer very quickly. We met a fantastic solictor and were introduced to a local notary before we had to return home. As we had no contacts in Bulgaria and couldn't get back immediately, we left the sale and legal matters with Joe and Jess. This was a real leap of faith but it felt right. We were justified in our trust and the service we received was exemplary - most of this happening over Xmas. We didn't have to worry about anything. We returned in January to collect deeds, keys, etc. and Joe and Jess treated us like old friends - taking us around to local places and helping us sort out security and services. We've only known Joe and Jess since November but we know they are absolutley trustworthy - the service they provide is incredible. It also helps that they are warm, compassionate people and won't hesitate to help. If you want to find a new home/life/adventure in Bulgaria, please get in touch with these guys!JP Dunin & Donna Meenan
I can't recommend, or praise them highly enough. It was such a blessing to cross paths on FB and I'm so glad I followed my instincts and bought my 1st home just weeks later, after being shown round a variety of potential properties. I couldn't imagine a more positive experience. Joe and Jess are beautiful people, and spread good vibes wherever they go. At the same time very professional and 100% trustworthy and ALTERNATIVE!Sandra Jamieson
I can't thank Joe and Jess enough. They found my dream home and organized everything for me. They are honest, trustworthy and lovely folk. I'm so fortunate to know them. Am looking forward to my new life in this beautiful country and its all down to them. Thank you so much.Jane Artuch
I cannot recommend Alternative Living Bulgaria highly enough. I travelled over in November to view some of the properties they had in their portfolio. They could not have been more friendly and helpful; never put any pressure on me everything conducted in a relaxed and open manner. When I decided to put in an offer, they introduced me to a solicitor who arranged a proxy and notary and the house purchase was arranged in a speedy and satisfactory manner. If you are thinking of buying in Bulgaria but are concerned about the language barrier, navigating regulations and all the incidentals that come with such a major purchase get in touch with them. You won't be disappointed.Gerry Lafferty
Joe and Jess offer the full package from choosing carefully which property might suit you, to putting you in touch with a solicitor and sharing their knowledge of the country and culture with you. Not only are they extremely nice people, they are very much liked by the locals. Can highly recommend!Susan Ploetz
Joe showed me around various properties and did the leg work for several inquiries. Much of the research I did before heading to Bulgaria was full of doubt due to the way people conduct themselves in facebook forums, I lacked confidence and delayed my trip several times over what Id learned from other expats who blindly and for some reason were extremely bitter about helping me be successful. In the end, it was Joe who convinced me to come out and see him, to check out Svilengrad. Joe is extremely approachable, friendly and very interested in my success, which is to find value and property. His understanding is extremely realistic and what I loved most was his vision and understanding of what I wanted to accomplish. I never bought anything but Joe still sends me updates and properties that he knows I will be interested in. If you made it to this review and recommendation its because you were like me, looking for answers. I can assure you that you won't be disappointed with your trip, I've traveled the world for 23 years and hope to end up in the area Joe manages.Wesley Yates
Myself and my husband recently made a decision after 16 years of living in Dubai to relocate to Bulgaria. A friend of ours recommended us to contact Joe & Jess at Alternative Living. Joe and Jess were very welcoming and knowledgeable about the area they are living in and put together a portfolio of 6 properties for us to visit at very short notice. Although we have not gone ahead as yet to buy and are still looking, they have continued to stay in contact and are keeping us updated with any new properties they have. All in all excellent service and would highly recommend Joe & Jess to anyone considering buying property in their region.Suze Crane
I had the pleasure of meeting and spend time with Jess and Joe while I was looking at properties in Bulgaria. They went out of their way to assist me in every way and I give them a 5/5. Two wonderful people who I would highly recommend.Brigitte Alex
Joe & Jess are a lovely couple that know quite a lot about the local areas & couldnt be more helpful we where made to feel very welcome and viewed quite a few of the properties it was really helpful that Joe can speak fluent Bulgarian and translated any Bulgarian owners information and we hope to be out again soon for some second viewings. Thanks guys will be in touch.Glen Livi