Back to Black Sea: Bulgarian property back in fashion?

Bulgaria’s beaches may be back in fashion among overseas buyers, new research by TheMoveChannel.com reveals.

Bulgaria was one of the most popular destinations on the overseas property portal in September 2016, re-entering the site’s monthly Top of the Props chart for the first time in 18 months. Enquiries rose 177 per cent month-on-month, sending the country flying into September’s Top 10 to become the sixth most sought-after location.

The spike in demand, though, marks a steadier rise in interest: enquiries for Bulgarian property across the three months to September 2016 climbed 70 per cent compared to Q2 2016. Enquiries in Q3 2016 were also 1 per cent higher than Q1 2016. In the first nine months of the year, Bulgaria has only been outside the Top of the Props Top 15 two times.

What is driving this rise? Analysis by TheMoveChannel.com compared interest in the country’s property in 2016 to several years ago, highlighting a shift in focus. Where investors were once focusing on the mountain resorts of Borovets and Bansko, ranked by the Post Office Travel Money as Europe’s most affordable ski hotspot, investors are now heading back to the warmer climes of the Black Sea coast.

In the first three quarters of 2016, the province of Burgas, home to Sunny Beach, was responsible for 30 per cent of enquiries. Varna, also on the Black Sea Coast, made up 13 per cent of enquiries. Together, the country’s two main beach hotspots almost accounted for half of house-hunting activity. Blagoevgrad, home to Bansko and Sofia, home to Borovets, generated 14 per cent and 7 per cent of enquiries respectively. Agents at BulgarianProperties.com highlight rising interest towards resorts in the South of Burgas, in particular, with Lozenets and Sozopol both proving popular. At one property exhibition earlier this year, the firm reported twice as many leads from visitors as last year.

Another factor behind Bulgaria’s growing popularity is the UK’s vote to leave the European Union. The fallout of the EU referendum has seen the pound weaken against other major currencies, causing buyers to turn to more affordable opportunities.

“With the sharp decline in Sterling versus the Euro, buyers are looking towards value destinations, as traditional markets feel more expensive,” Dan Johnson, CEO of TheMoveChannel.com, told Delian Petrishki in an interview with BloombergTV Bulgaria.

Indeed, anecdotal reports from agents in Spain, for example, suggest British buyers are now focusing on the lower tiers of the property market, to counter the weaker exchange rate.

Bulgaria’s relative affordability is certainly attracting a growing number of tourists from overseas: international arrivals in the country climbed 12.9 per cent year-on-year in Septemebr 2016, with the number of visitors for holiday or recreational purposes rising 15.5 per cent. The total number of nights spent in all types of accommodation rose 13.1 per cent.

At the same time, optimism is starting to spread through Bulgaria’s recovering property market, with property prices up 6.4 per cent year-on-year in Q2 2016, according to Bulgaria’s National Statistics Institute, following growth of 4.6 per cent in Q1 2016 and 4 per cent in Q4 2015.

“There are some investors who want to buy property because they work in Bulgaria, and there are some commercial investors, but the majority of people who are interested in Bulgaria looking for an affordable second home for their own vacations,” adds Johnson.

With British interest currently around 20 per cent lower than 2007 levels, the question is whether interest will ever return to those heights.

For more on Bulgarian property, click here. To keep up-to-date with our Top of the Props reports, click here.

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