Monday, October 17, 2005

SIPP's might boost Bulgaria's holiday homes

BULGARIA appears set for a boost from changes to UK pension rules.

In the small ski resort town of Bansko – billed as “the best-kept secret in Bulgaria” – real-estate experts are closely following coming changes to UK pension rules, the International Herald Tribune said on October 7.

“Potentially it could explode the market,” the newspaper quoted Clive Ireland, corporate director of MacAnthony Realty International, which opened an office in Bansko in September.

Under the pending rules, UK pensioners will, for the first time, be allowed to use money in a self-invested personal pension fund (SIPP) to buy residential property, including second homes and investment property in other countries.

Bulgaria has a favourable exchange rate, which already is helping to attract more UK visitors. According to Bulgarian national statistics, the number of UK tourists jumped to 259 000 in 2004, a 63 per cent increase over the previous year.

In Bansko, tucked in the mountains in southwest Bulgaria, a furnished, 107 sq m three-bedroom apartment with a mountain view in a new development is sold for about 127 000 pounds, a small studio for as little as 46 000 pounds.

Ninety-five per cent of MacAnthony’s UK clients in Bulgaria are investors, Ireland said, enticed, in some cases, by guaranteed rental returns of 6.5 per cent a year for three years.

With the help of the new pension rules, a UK buyer in Bansko could reap UK tax benefits at the purchase and then sell the property without paying tax on the profit, thanks to Bulgaria’s “lenient” tax laws.

The recently held exhibition A Place in the Sun Live in London confirmed that Bulgaria continued to be the cheapest option for Britons looking to buy a second home abroad.

At the London exhibition, Bulgaria emerged as the only affordable option for retail investors in the market for mountain resort properties. On the segment for coastal homes, however, popular destinations like Spain and Cyprus and maturing markets like Turkey and Croatia provide stiff competition.

The Bulgarian properties showcased at the exhibition had little or no competition price-wise with one-bedroom apartments and studio apartments in both seaside and mountain locations asking just 30 000 to 80 000 euro. Turkey was the only other destination with some pricing power, but Bulgaria’s neighbour has the huge liability of the administrative hassle related to land purchases.

The capability of the tourism sector to further support the interest towards investing in Bulgarian property will also be checked in the period of October 21 by October 23 when this autumn’s Real Estate Expo will be held in Sofia. More than 100 leading property developers and real-estate agents will take part in the largest trade show in this sector on the Balkans.


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