This week we bought a £4,500 house in Bulgaria, spent three days clearing it out then drove to Romania to continue our trip. That’s the short version.
This post gives the longer version but I appreciate the story of someone else’s house purchase is a bit like hearing about someone else’s dreams – every detail fascinating to the narrator but deeply tedious to the listener (as I well know from the glazed expressions received when I can’t resist recounting mine). So do please feel free to leave now and we will catch up again next week when we are back on the road.
Before you go, here are some photos of the outside of the house and the main road leading to it…
And for those still with us, here’s how we came to buy it in just 12 days from first viewing to unlocking the front door as the new owners.
First off, we weren’t quite as spontaneous as the couple we met this week who bought a house in the same village in an eBay auction. They were still in the UK, had never travelled to Bulgaria before and the bidding followed an evening in the pub. That was about six years ago and they have been coming to their new home regularly ever since. So no blurry hangover regrets there then.
By contrast we were actually in Bulgaria when the idea of buying a house in the country struck. We were about two weeks into our travels here and all the negative views we had of the country before arriving had evaporated.
But why negative in the first place?
Well it was mainly down to what we had heard from fellow travellers before we came. Gill and Chris from the UK (we met them first in Morocco and then caught up with them again in Greece) had the very nasty experience of being robbed on their first day in Bulgaria. Thieves broke into their motorhome while it was parked up in a supermarket car park and they lost a laptop, handbag, GPS, wallet. As they said, it is all stuff which can be replaced but understandably it left a sour taste.
And a week or so after hearing about their experience of Bulgaria, we were chatting to a German couple on a Greek campsite about their travels. They were taking their second circuit of the whole of Europe by motorhome, except for Bulgaria or Romania. They told us they would not go to either country because of ‘the crime and the dirt’. Their damming comments were then repeated to us by another couple of veteran motorhomers a few days later.
All in all, these stories (albeit two from people who had never even visited the country!) meant we weren’t in the best frame of mind about Bulgaria as we crossed over the border from Greece. Nevertheless we decided to focus on seeing as much of rural Bulgaria as we could hence our stays at Wild Farm in Gorno Pole….
…and Wild Thyme Farm in Palamartsa.
In between we stayed at the lovely Camping Velika Tarnova and had a great few days on the Black Sea coast in Varna. The positive stories from the ex-pats we met, the friendliness of the locals, the beautiful (and clean!) countryside, the glorious sunshine, the good food…..they cancelled out all the negative stuff we’d heard. Add to that the possibility of buying a home in the sun for the price of a car back home? So we were already starting to think on those lines when Claire from Wild Thyme was called on by her neighbour Dara.
Dara wanted to sell her house. Stuart was off in the woods foraging but there was no harm in me having a quick look…
Claire acted as translator in the first viewing – how much did Dara want to sell it for. She wanted £4,500. Most of important question of all, was she in a position to sell i.e. was she the sole owner? This is crucial given that many so properties in Bulgaria prove impossible to sell because of the multiple family owners (thanks to inheritance) are scattered round the world.
Yes she was….here’s the key document you need when buying a house in Bulgaria.
It’s the original ownership document which shows that Dara had legal title to sell.
Inside it was hard to believe that parts of the house were just 35 years old. The walls and floors are mainly made of cob which is a mixture of straw and clay and the roof is made from green oak beams with clay tiles. The same building materials and building style has been in use in the village for many years.
If we went for it, some clearing out would be needed. And a bathroom – there is no toilet in the house.
And definitely some new wiring.
What’s that famous Oscar Wilde misquote about wallpaper? Yep, that would definitely have to go.
Then Stuart came along to have a look….
Here he is deciding that if we did go for it, we’d need some windows in the back. Bulgarians sensibly never put windows on north facing walls because of the severely cold winters but to make the most of that fabulous view we need a couple in here.
And that was the big selling point…the great view out the back. We were sold.
The next day we met up with Mel from Living The Dream Bulgaria. From Wales originally, she has settled in the village with her husband John and is in the business of selling properties in the area. Mel agreed to act as our agent to sort all the formalities which involved:
- passing Dara’s and our identity documents to the solicitor in Popovo – the nearest town to Palamartsa;
- ordering a new skitza from the municipality – that’s the plan of the property; and
- ordering the government valuation document which sets the tax payable on the property.
Within a few days, everything was in hand except the government valuation document. The relevant person dealing with that at the municipality was ill and there was also the May Bank Holiday Monday in the way so that meant a delay of one day. One whole day to wait….
We did more touristy stuff….
…like visiting the Aladzha Monastery in the cliffs…
…and driving out to Cape Kaliakra where we hoped to see the moving statutes (and I don’t mean in the Ballinaspittle sense) of the local girls who tied their hair together and jumped to their death to avoid the marauding Ottomans. We did an about turn when we saw the bank holiday traffic. These statues would have to suffice.
And then it was back to Palamartsa where we heard the good news that the sale was ready to complete. That involved travelling back to Popova with Mel and Dara…
…visiting the solicitor to provide our original identity documents, visiting the bank to transfer the purchase funds to Dara and then all of us attending at the notary’s office to confirm officially that we had now paid the funds, Dara had received them and we could now be formally registered as the new owners.
After a spate of signing copy documents, we had completed on the sale. The whole process took no more than a couple of hours and we were now the owners. The only thing left to do was return to Popova the following day to collect the new ownership documents. All in all, the total cost was £5150 including the cost of the house, agent and lawyer’s fee plus the updated legal documents.
It was astoundingly efficient.
Back at the house, we helped Dara move out the last of her stuff….
….and gave her a wee something from home.
….and carried on with the clearout of the house, though my efforts ground to a screeching halt when I pulled up one of the beds to find this ex-rat.
Moving it was a blue task.
Somehow it was good to see that Dara who has been an agricultural worker all her life was just as squeamish as me. I didn’t feel such a townie wuss.
We spent three days clearing the house. Paul ( he of the wood gas powered car from last week’s post) was enlisted to help.
Stuart tackled clearing the attic.
And by good fortune, we had a monumental rain storm on the second night. That gave the perfect opportunity for Paul and Stuart to work out where the leaks were….
…and get up on the roof to fix them.
So the house is now, hopefully, weather-proofed. We won’t see it again until after our trip which now continues with our travels next week through Romania.