The standard of accommodation in Bulgaria varies, and expats can easily find something that suits their needs and budget. Although property prices have been rising recently, they are still some of the lowest in the EU, and an increasing number of foreign buyers are investing in the country's property market. 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 an essential consideration. Those hoping to use Bulgaria's public transport should ensure 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 typical throughout most cities. Shared accommodation does exist and is especially popular in cities such as Sofia, due to its large student population.
Apartment styles range from Soviet-era blocks to apartments in historical buildings. Considering the low local construction and renovation costs, many expats purchase fixer-uppers, which they then renovate over time.
In rural areas and smaller towns, expats might find traditional Bulgarian houses, called kâšti. These homes are typically made of wood, stone or bricks and feature unique architectural elements such as wooden verandas and carved ornaments. Expats interested in a more authentic Bulgarian living experience might consider renting or purchasing such a property.
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 large appliances would usually be included.
For expats seeking temporary accommodation in Bulgaria, short-term leases offer a flexible and convenient solution. These fully furnished properties, available for stays ranging from a few weeks to several months, provide a comfortable home away from home. Expats can find various short-let options throughout the country, from modern city apartments to charming rural cottages, ensuring a perfect match for every lifestyle and budget.
Finding accommodation in Bulgaria
Expats can find accommodation online, but they are advised to look out for property scammers targeting 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 there are a number of agencies specialise in catering to the expat market. Tenants should be aware that they will havee to pay agency fees for securing a rental, typically equal to half a month's rent or up to one-and-a-half months' rent. When buying a property, tenants are responsible for an agency fee ranging from 3 to 10 percent of the property price.
When choosing accommodation, expats should consider the security measures provided by the building or complex, such as access control, security guards or surveillance cameras. Additionally, enquire about the maintenance of common areas, including cleaning, gardening and shared amenities like gyms or pools.
- Imot.bg, Imoti.net, Bulgarian Properties and Property.bg are popular Bulgarian rental websites.
- Popular international rental websites with Bulgarian properties include Realtor.com and HousingTarget.com.
Renting accommodation in Bulgaria
Renting accommodation in Bulgaria is an attractive option for expats who are either not ready to commit to purchasing property or prefer the flexibility of renting. Depending on the area, expats looking to rent in Bulgaria can find various accommodation options, from modern city flats to traditional houses in quaint villages.
Renting here can be quite affordable compared to other European countries, but expats need to familiarise themselves with the renting process and local regulations to ensure a smooth transition to their new home. 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.
Expats should be aware that some landlords may require a Bulgarian guarantor to co-sign the lease, particularly if the tenant doesn't have a local employment contract or a strong financial history in Bulgaria. In such cases, expats might need assistance from a friend, colleague or employer to act as a guarantor. Expats may also be able to find a rent guarantee service, although they're not very widespread in Bulgaria.
Once a suitable property has been found and an agreement has been made with the landlord, the estate agent will draw up the contract. Expats should have the lease translated into English to ensure they know precisely what's expected of them.
Rental contracts in Bulgaria are typically signed for a fixed term, usually one or two years, but expats may be able to negotiate this with an understanding landlord. When signing a lease, it's crucial to understand the terms related to rent increases. Some landlords might reserve the right to adjust the rent periodically, typically annually, based on inflation or other factors. Ensure that any rent increase provisions in the lease are clear and acceptable before signing the agreement.
Costs and fees
When negotiating the rent, expats should be aware that landlords often quote prices in euros, although payment is typically made in the local currency, the lev. In addition to the rent, tenants may be responsible for other costs, such as property maintenance and management fees. Ensure these responsibilities are clearly defined and included in the lease agreement to avoid misunderstandings. Some leases may also include a parking bay at an additional cost.
A security deposit is customary when renting accommodation in Bulgaria, and it generally ranges from one to three months' rent alongside the first month's rent. This deposit protects the landlord in case of property damage or unpaid rent.
Upon lease termination, if the property is in good condition and all outstanding bills are settled, the deposit should be returned to the tenant in full. To prevent disputes, inspect the property thoroughly before moving in and document any pre-existing damages with photographic evidence.
Terminating the lease
Should either party wish to terminate the lease early, Bulgarian rental agreements typically require a notice period of one to three months. It's essential to include a termination clause in the lease agreement, specifying the notice period and any potential penalties for early termination. Expats who need to leave the country unexpectedly should be mindful of these provisions, as landlords might withhold part or all of the security deposit if the tenant breaks the lease agreement without proper notice or justification.
Either party can legally terminate the contract early if the other party doesn't comply with the terms set out in the lease agreement.
Utilities in Bulgaria
Expats moving to Bulgaria should be aware of the various utilities in Bulgaria. These include electricity, gas, water supply, waste removal and internet and phone services. Utility bills are seldom included in the lease price, and the tenant is generally responsible for paying bills such as water and electricity. The registrations of utility meters aren't usually transferred to the tenant's name, and if the tenant falls behind on paying utilities, the landlord might use the deposit to cover these.
The main electricity providers in Bulgaria are CEZ, Energo-Pro, and EVN. There are also several gas providers, including Overgas and Bulgargaz. In most urban areas, gas is piped directly into homes, while in rural areas, expats may need to rely on canister gas for cooking and heating purposes. Tenants have various payment options at their disposal. They can pay their bills online, set up direct debit payments through their bank or visit designated payment offices in person.
Water usage is usually metered. The water supply in Bulgaria is managed by regional water and sewerage companies (ViK). Billing frequency varies depending on the area, with some companies issuing monthly or bi-monthly invoices. Payment methods include online payments, direct debit or at a local pay office.
Waste removal is generally not covered in the rent and is considered an additional cost for tenants. Collection schedules depend on the municipality, with most areas offering weekly or bi-weekly pickup. Bins are provided for general waste and recycling; some areas may have green waste collection for garden waste.
Expats moving to Bulgaria may be pleasantly surprised by the high-speed internet and competitive mobile phone services available in the country. Bulgaria boasts some of the fastest internet speeds in Europe, with fibre optic connections widely accessible in urban areas. Bulgaria's leading internet and phone service providers include Vivacom, A1 and Telenor. It is common to find bundle packages that combine internet, landline and mobile services, often at discounted rates.
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 exploiting this trend by requiring deposits for non-existent properties or hiding exorbitant costs within property agreements. Expats should rely on established real estate agents to secure their homes.
A further challenge that expats from certain countries face is the restrictions on purchasing land and property in Bulgaria. All EU and EEA citizens can buy property and the accompanying land on which the property is situated. On the other hand, expats who are not EU or EEA citizens can purchase buildings but are not allowed to own the land on which the property sits.
Many expats who don't have EU or EEA citizenship have managed to buy property and its corresponding land, by purchasing property under the name of a company they have registered in Bulgaria. The company then owns the property and land, with expats owning 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 instead of owning property in their name.
►For an overview of expenses in the country, read Cost of Living in Bulgaria.
►Read Culture Shock in Bulgaria to better understand lifestyle differences in the country.
"When we made the decision to move, we were both commuting to London for work. With the high housing prices in the UK, we had no chance of owning our own home – not unless we were prepared to take on a huge mortgage. Moving to Bulgaria meant that we could live life differently; we could buy a small house with no mortgage, have space to grow our own vegetables, enjoy more time together, enjoy better weather, and never need to commute again." See Claire's interview to find out how this British expat has adjusted to her new life in Bulgaria.
Are you an expat living in Bulgaria?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Bulgaria. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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