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Golf grabs Bulgaria!
Updated: 2005-09-28

Wednesday, 13 April 2005 (16:26:31)

Posted by At the present time there are only three golf courses in the whole of Bulgaria: one at Elin Pelin, near the capital, Sofia, and two owned by Air Sofia. These are located at Ihtiman, opened in 2000, 40km from Sofia, and at Sliven, opened in 2004, 90km from the Black Sea. Because of the increasingly rapid rise in foreign interest in Bulgaria recently, several more golf courses are proposed. One of these will be located at Razgrad, in the north-east, about 90km from the Black Sea. More are scheduled to open in the next few years: two at Kavarna and one at Primorsko, near Sozopol...

Mountain and ski areas will be represented by a golf course in the ski town of Bansko this year, and a very large golf complex between Kostenets and Borovets, the country's foremost ski resort. This is scheduled for 2007, the year of Bulgaria's entry into the European Union, and will be located at Dolna Banya, already near Bulgaria's first golf course at Ihtiman.

'Don't expect, though, the ambience of the south to become like that of the north. When I discussed the subject with the Chairman of the Bulgarian Foreign Investment Agency last year - an extremely intelligent and able young man, I must add - he told me in no uncertain terms that he did not want the south to become like the north. His very words were: "We don't want another Benidorm." So, prospective property purchasers need to bear this in mind, and balance their desire for more capital growth, or their willingness to accept less, with the different rental market appeal of the two regions, along with their own taste in holidays.

'There is one highly significant factor, however, which very often goes unnoticed until it is too late; and it applies to the whole coast. Most people don't know that it freezes on the coast in winter. When they see the coastal resorts basking in the hot summer sunshine, it's difficult to imagine snow on the ground. The entire coast simply shuts down in the winter, and nothing happens. It's a dead as a doornail. Therefore, rental income can be fairly assured for 15 weeks, possibly 20, plus some odd bits in the shoulder seasons of April and October. The coast has a five-month season from May to September, compared to nine months in the ski areas. Those people buying only for rental income, therefore, would find the mountains far more lucrative.

'Rents vary greatly, and depend on many factors, most of which should be obvious: location, size, view, amenities. The standard of finish and the condition of the property can also determine your market quite radically. To appeal to west Europeans, and to command the highest rents, your property must be well finished and appointed, and be in tip-top condition. If it is not, you still have a market for east Europeans, who tolerate less salubrious surroundings because they pay much less, usually about half of the west European rates.

'Generally, summer rental rates on the coast equate to winter rates in the ski resorts, both seasons being about five months. Remember that you also have about four months' additional rent, though at lower rates, during the summer in the mountains. These rates should increase gradually, as the Government programmes to make the ski towns more popular for summer holidays make their mark.

'There are several Bulgarian agencies willing to manage your rental properties for you. Expect to pay about 20% of the rent as a fee."

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