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Article by: Chris Dunkerley firstname.lastname@example.org Published: 03/06/2009
The latest overseas property boom is coming from the mountains of Bulgaria. Mountain / ski property in Bulgaria is booming and many developments even have waiting lists of buyers prepared to give deposits before final plans are released!
Overseas property investment in Bulgaria is very popular as the capital appreciation and rental potential is extremely good in many areas. In Bansko we are seeing 15%-25% annual increases in price and some well specified and well located developments are increasing much quicker than this.
Winter Olympics 2014: Bulgaria is preparing its winter sports facilities for the 2014 Olympic bid. This is creating a lot of interest in the ski resorts and also a lot of public and private investment.
The rental income is also a very important factor to consider and in a resort like Bansko there is a very good winter season that has snow guaranteed by the latest snow making equipment from December to May. There is also the summer mountain activity season to consider. Bansko, located next to the UNESCO protected Pirin National Park (the largest in Bulgaria), has the potential to attract good rental income throughout the summer from walkers, mountain bikers, nature lovers, etc. This is a market that has not yet been fully developed and as the population of Europe gets wealthier and lives longer there will be far more people looking to have active summer holidays.
There are three main ski resorts in Bulgaria: Bansko, Borovets, Pamporovo. Of these the resort that is getting the most interest from overseas property buyers and investors, infrastructure investment and general resort/piste development is Bansko& and it is clear winner. Borovets and Pamporovo have a long way to go to catch up with the development that is already in progress in Bansko let alone the future planned development.
However each resort offers stunning views, pure air and affordable facilities and services.
My name is Chris Dunkerley and I am the Director of the Global Property Group and a keen snow border and mountain sports enthusiast. The views expressed in this article have come from many years experience in the overseas property industry and also from actually visiting Bansko, Borovets and Pamporovo. I have spent time in each resort using the facilities, the pistes and sampling the après ski. It is physically demanding research but as they say "someone has to do it".
Bansko is an old Bulgaria town at the foot of the Pirin mountain range. It is about 160km south of Sofia (about 2hrs drive) and accessing the resort should soon become easier and quicker when the road system from the Capital is fully upgraded (work is in progress).
The ski lifts in Bansko are modern, well maintained and use the latest card access systems so there is no need to enter your ski pass into a gate, just having it in your pocket as you walk up to the gate is enough to get access.
There is currently one gondola that goes from Bansko resort up to the ski area and it has a drop-off/collection point in each of the two main piste service areas. In each of these areas there are a selection of bars and restaurants that have very reasonable prices for on piste establishments. A small bottle of water is about 40p and a steak or very large Bulgarian sausage with salad and chips will cost between £3.50 - £5.
There is a second gondola planned for the very near future and it should be ready for the 2007/8 season if not before. This will dramatically expand the potential for the resort and make accessing the Bansko ski area even easier.
Once on the piste there is a good selection of modern fast (and slow pick-up/drop-off) chair lifts and drag lifts; all the resort can be accessed from chair lifts. The runs are also well connected with little walking required between lift systems.
The resort is expanding fast and has around 68km of runs in 2005/6, up from around 35km in 2004/5, and it has plans to increase this again for 2007/8. There are a selection of different difficulty grades and one blue/green run that is 16km long!
Bansko has a great deal of development taking place in all areas including roads, services, infrastructure, and commercial and residential property. There is a very good choice of property available to ski property buyers and overseas property investors. Many of the developments are very high quality and can offer leisure facilities like swimming pools, saunas, health spas on site.
Prices are still very reasonable but they are increasing quickly as more and more people invest in the area.
Bansko is the only ski resort in Bulgaria to be built around a historic old town and this really helps give the resort character and charm that is missing from many purpose built ski resorts located elsewhere in the World. There is a good selection of restaurants and bars and prices are very reasonable with a family meal costing around £20. A round of two alcoholic and two soft drinks will cost somewhere around £2.50 (yes, that is £2.50). There are a number of historic monuments and sites of interest in the area and tours can be booked from several operators in Bansko town.
There is also an expanding range of entertainment facilities in and around Bansko from ice skating, bowling, golf, mountain biking, etc.
A major future development that should dramatically increase interest in Bansko and also increase Bansko property prices is the planned development of an airport about 35km away.
Borovets ski resort is a purpose built resort in the Rila mountains and at only 73km south of Sofia it is the closest to an airport at about 50 minutes drive. The first thing to mention about Borovets is the nightlife, it is by far the most lively of the resorts (but Bansko is catching up fast) with the most bars and clubs with some staying open to 4-5am; the Buzz bar in the centre of the resort being the most popular. There is also a good choice of restaurants and snack/kebab places. There is family entertainment in the form of swimming, bowling, skidoo hire, Bulgarian evenings, historic monument excursions, etc. A popular excursion is an evening skidoo trip to a nearby traditional restaurant with guests taken home by jeep as most are not safe driving a skidoo after an evening of Bulgarian food, wine and rakiya!
However, even with the high quality hotels and restaurants Borovets somehow lacked the charm, sophistication and energy of Bansko and the main street in Borovets is in need of modernisation and re-planning. Ultimately I think this resort is going places, it has the right location and room to expand and it could be one to watch for the future but it needs investment, careful planning and more freehold property development. All this will be answered by the Super Borovets Project that is planning investment projects in the resort area until 2009. There have however been problems with the organisation and management of the project and it currently has an uncertain future.
If you are thinking of visiting a great hotel to both stay in and eat in is the Alpin, located about 20m from the piste, http://www.alpin-hotel.bg
Borovets has a wide variety of pistes to suit beginners and also experts. There are three ski areas that are not interconnected by lifts so a walk is required between them. One area is purely cross country the other two offer a good selection of down hill runs although some runs are only accessible by drag lifts. One of these areas is accessed by a gondola whereas the other has chair lifts. The lifts are not as modern as Bansko or Pamporovo and they use a card system that must be placed into a reader in the gate rather than the automatic scan system adopted by the other resorts.
Borovets has the potential to add more runs and open up new ski areas and there are plans to put in another gondola to the nearby town of Samokov. Most of this development is dependent on the Super Borovets Project getting back on track.
There are a number of small property developments in and around Borovets resort but it is a world away from the property development that is happening in Bansko. Some may say this is a good thing but a healthy property development market brings competition and helps to maintain and increase building standards and generally ensures a location is upgrading services and infrastructure. Borovets is yet to get the property development and interest from overseas buyers that will bring in new money and investment like Bansko is currently getting. The Super Borovets Project should address this if/when it gets sorted out but for the moment the vast majority of overseas property purchases and investment money is heading to Bansko.
Pamporovo is the most southerly ski resort in Europe and it is located in the Rhodope Mountains. It is centred around a purpose built resort centre consisting of a number of 2, 3, 4 and 5 star hotels. There are also a selection of bars and restaurants and a small shopping centre. It is by far the smallest and quietest resort of the three although there are organised bar crawls and events to keep package tour visitors merry. It is a good resort for families who want ski lessons.
The lift system is modern and most of the resort can be accessed by chair lifts rather than drag lifts. There are a number of good beginner pistes and it is a good place for people to go to learn to ski. Unfortunately there are also a few runs that are too flat for boarders to do without some walking.
There has been some expansion of the piste system over the last few years but the resort is based on a single mountain rather than a mountain range so it may be difficult to expand the system much more.
There are a number of new developments happening in and around Pamporovo ranging from apartments with leisure facilities on site to detached chalets in the forests. However the property and resort development is nothing like the same scale as Bansko.
Many potential Bulgarian property investors may be tempted to hire a car from the airport and drive round different resorts to look at property. I would however only recommend this to the most confident of drivers as the driving conditions in Bulgaria are somewhat different to the conditions one can expect in more developed countries.
The first problem is the road conditions: they are quite simply terrible! Even the main Sofia ring road has holes in it that can easily buckle a car wheel and/or burst a tier. Once away from the main roads and into the mountains it is not surprising to simply find that part of the road is missing or so degraded that it is hard to recognise as a road.
The second major problem is the road signs: they just do not have that many of them so a good sense of direction is essential and even when they do have a sign it will invariably be written only in Bulgarian. This is a huge problem as Bulgaria uses a different alphabet to the rest of Europe so there is virtually no way to decipher place names from the signs unless you learn some Bulgarian before you visit.
In general it is far safer to get taxis, public transport or have someone collect you from the airport and take you to your destination.
If you are looking for a ski property in Bulgaria then there is one resort that is currently a clear winner in terms of facilities, atmosphere, inward investment and that can offer a good choice of high quality ski property investment opportunities& and that is Bansko.
The Global Property Group has property in Bansko, Borovets and Pamporovo, contact us for up to date availability and prices. We can also help arrange inspection trips for potential buyers& and we will collect you from the airport!
The Global Property Group will keep researching overseas property markets and we can offer help and advice to people interested in ski property investment in Bulgaria. Contact us on 0044 (0)1457 833 083 for further information.
Please contact the author at email@example.com for more information.
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