The standard of accommodation in Bulgaria varies, and expats will quite easily be able to find something that suits their needs and budget. Property prices have been rising in recent years, despite covid-19, but as they are still some of the lowest in the EU, many expats are buying property in the country. Those looking to rent will also be able to find affordable options.
There are many things to consider when deciding where to live in Bulgaria. Many expats prefer to live on the outskirts of Bulgarian cities as this provides greater access to the country’s famed landscapes. This can be seen outside of Sofia, where expats have invested in luxurious modern villas.
Expats with cars will discover that parking can be scarce in the cities and finding accommodation with parking bays is therefore an important consideration. Those hoping to use Bulgaria’s public transport should ensure that their homes are close to the public transport network.
Types of accommodation in Bulgaria
Expats can find luxury homes on the outskirts of Bulgaria’s urban centres, while apartments are common throughout most cities. Accommodation options vary and both furnished and unfurnished houses and apartments are available. Shared accommodation does exist and is especially popular in cities such as Sofia, due to its large student population.
Apartment styles range from communist-era blocks to apartments in historical buildings. As labour is relatively cheap in Bulgaria, many expats purchase ‘fixer-uppers’, which they then renovate over time.
Finding accommodation in Bulgaria
Expats can find accommodation online, but expats are advised to look out for property scammers who exploit the expat property market. Language barriers might also affect accommodation negotiations and, for these reasons, many expats prefer to find their accommodation through accredited real-estate agents.
In Bulgaria, many real-estate agents speak English and many agencies specialise in catering to the expat market. Tenants should be aware that they must pay agency fees for securing a rental, which is typically equal to half a month's rent, but can be up to one and a half month's rent. For buying a property, however, tenants are responsible for an agency fee which ranges from three to 10 percent of the property price.
Renting property in Bulgaria
Depending on the area, expats looking to rent in Bulgaria will be able to find a variety of accommodation options.
Furnished or unfurnished
Apartments for rent in Bulgaria are generally fully or partially furnished, but there are also listings for unfurnished flats. 'Furnished' may mean various things in Bulgaria, but usually large appliances would be included.
The rental process
Expats typically make use of real-estate agents to find accommodation in Bulgaria. It is recommended that expats narrow their preferred neighbourhoods down based on budget. Once they have chosen their ideal neighbourhood or area, they can schedule an appointment with an agent to view the available properties.
Once a suitable property has been found, and an agreement has been made with the landlord, the estate agent will draw up the contact. To ensure that expats know exactly what’s expected of them, it’s imperative to have the lease translated directly into English.
Rental contracts in Bulgaria usually last 12 months, but this can be negotiated depending on the landlord. Landlords and tenants can legally terminate the contract early if the other party doesn’t comply with the terms set out in the lease agreement. Prior notice needs to be given before the lease can be terminated.
Deposits and fees
Initial rental costs generally include paying a deposit equal to one month of rent, as well as paying at least the first month’s rent in advance. Many apartment buildings charge additional fees for building cleaning and maintenance. Some leases may also include a parking bay at an additional cost.
Utility bills are seldom included in the lease price. The tenant is generally responsible for paying bills such as water and electricity. The registration of utility meters aren't usually transferred to the tenant's name. The deposit paid when signing the lease will be used if the tenant falls behind on paying utilities.
Buying property in Bulgaria
Attracted by competitive property prices and a low cost of living, many expats are buying homes in Bulgaria. Property scammers have tried to exploit this trend by requiring deposits for non-existent properties or by hiding exorbitant costs within property agreements. Expats should, therefore, rely on established real-estate agents to secure their home.
A further challenge that expats from certain countries face is the restriction placed on purchasing both land and property in Bulgaria. All EU and EEA citizens are allowed to purchase property as well as the accompanying land that the property is situated on. Conversely, expats who are not EU or EEA citizens are able to purchase buildings but they are not allowed to own the land that the property sits on.
Many expats who don't have EU or EEA citizenship have managed to buy property, as well as its corresponding land, by purchasing property under the name of a company that they have registered in Bulgaria. The property and land are then owned by the company, with expats holding ownership of the company and its assets. Many real-estate agencies offer their services in establishing a Bulgarian company with the intent to purchase a property. Although this process is common, expats should explore the implications of owning property through a company as opposed to owning property in their name.