Bulgarian Property Buyers Guide

Remember to register your new property ownership with the local authorities after completion for rating purposes. This should be done within 60 days following completion.

What Is Available?
An average villa close to the sea can be purchased for around £30,000 with rural properties being offered for as little as £5,000. Do bear in mind though that properties appearing by our standards to be very cheap will almost certainly require work doing to them to bring them up to the standards you are used to. The less expensive or even 'better value' properties will be older style and normally more remotely located. Because of this we don’t advocate that you buy blind or unseen. It is important that you visit the area and the property first.

There are an increasing number of new developments under construction, in particular in ski resorts and on the coast, where properties may be purchased 'off plan' either direct with the developer or via a host of brokers. These properties can be viewed in the ‘OFF Plan’ section on My Bulgaria.

The law on foreigners owning property in Bulgaria
According to the Bulgarian Constitution, foreign individuals can buy buildings but not land. Therefore the most common method for foreigners buying property in Bulgaria where they also wish to own the land is to set up a company which then owns the land and the buildings. The law is expected to change on this within the short to medium term with the expected entry of Bulgaria into the European Union (2007). This historic restriction is one of the reasons why property in Bulgaria is so competitively priced compared to Western and Central Europe. Current amendments to the constitution will allow citizens of countries with which Bulgaria has agreements on land sales to buy land in 2007 when the amendments would come into effect, while EU citizens will have the right to buy land in 2014. In the meantime a company is still required for land ownership.

If your purchase includes land a Limited Liability Company (OOD) will need to be formed.

Who can form a Limited Liability Company & how?
A foreign or Bulgarian person (judicial or physical). The company owners will be liable for the company's obligations to the value of his/hers share in the company's registered capital. Articles of Incorporation are prepared & signed by all shareholders.

A company bank account is opened to collect all share capital. The minimum share capital required is 5,000 leva. Shareholders at time of registration must have paid up at least one third of their respective shares. It is required that at least 70% (3,500 leva) of the capital is raised at time of registration. The company exists from the moment it is added to the Commercial Register of the district court of where the company will be based. The entry is made upon issue of a district court decision for the incorporation. The following documents must be available at the time of the submission of the application to the district court:

1. Articles of incorporation;
2. Memorandum for appointment of Directors;
3. Proof that each shareholder has paid at least one third of its interest, but not less than 10 leva;
4. Proof that at least 70 per cent of the registered capital has been paid.

The Bulgarian State Gazette is the official paper within which all Bulgarian legislation is published. Publication of the company entry in the Commercial Register does not complete your company formation, it announces to the general public the act of formation. The process of forming your company can take anywhere between a few days to a few weeks. Finally, your new company will need to register immediately with the National Tax Register Authority. The costs involved are: 3,500 leva = 70% share capital.

Administrative costs (payable to the state & registration court) are 250 leva (just over £70). This is the minimum capital that you need to raise for registration. Once the entire share capital has been paid up these funds can be accessed and withdrawn. Allow betwen EUR 500 - 700 for charges relating to the formation and registration of your company.

Real Estate Tax Summary
Apart from corporate tax, no other direct taxes are levied on the transfer of real property. The transfer is however subject to notary and municipal fees. The notary fees are paid on the higher of the market price or the book value of the property at varying rates, with the maximum being BGN 3,500. In addition, 2% of the market value of the property is paid to the municipality in which the property is situated upon completion. This is a little like the UK equivalent of Stamp Duty.

Local taxes and rates
The owner of a building or a plot is obliged to pay a property tax. Where a building is built on a State or municipal plot, the value of the plot will also be included in the tax base. The tax is equal to 0.15% of the book value of the property. Arable land is exempt from local taxes. In addition to the property tax, owners also pay waste-collection fees. These fees are determined when you register your ownership with the municipality, which should be done within 60 days of completion. Small fines are levied where this registration is done after 60 days.

Value Added Tax
Transactions with land and lease of property for residential purposes are exempt from VAT (Value Added Tax), all other real estate transactions are subject to VAT at the uniform rate of 20% assuming that the seller is VAT registered. The buyer is entitled to a VAT refund, provided that it is registered for VAT purposes.

Estate Agents Charges
Fees charged by brokers for introducing you to a property that you subsequently purchase vary enormously, as do the levels of service you can expect to receive from one to another! The buyer can be charged anything from 3% of the purchase price to as high as 10%! More often than not a 'minimum' commission is charged regardless of the purchase price of between EUR 500 - 1,000. You will also find that many agents in Bulgaria will want to charge you to go on viewings (refundable if you actually purchase), whereas some will just charge you for the taxi fare should you not have your own transport.

The above is merely a summary designed to give a broad overview of what is involved and what you can expect. Perhaps the best advice is to find a real estate broker that has your interests at heart and who you can come to trust. The better ones are invaluable with regard to helping you through all of the formalities including introducing you to a good lawyer in the vicinity of your intended purchase. Perhaps most important of all is to do your research before you travel and familiarise yourself with the procedure.