Unique Estates

Analysis of the Real Estate Market in Bulgaria for 2017

Unique Estates, the leading luxury property company in Bulgaria, has presented its analysis of the real estate market for 2017. Among the highlighted trends and forecasts are:

·         The growth in new constructions supply will balance the market in 2018

·         The prices of luxury homes have risen by 13% over the past year

Overview

In line with the overall growth of the economy and the residential market, the year was dynamic for the sales of luxury properties. In 2017, we witnessed an increase in transactions, a steady number of customer inquiries and leveling off or rise in prices in different regions of Sofia.

Key economic indicators
GDP growth (2017) 3,9%

Unemployment (Q3 2017) – 5,8%

Inflation (December 2017) – 0,4%

Annual growth of building construction – 12,2%

Annual growth of housing prices – 6,3%

Interest on housing loans in EUR – 4,11%

Interest on housing loans in BGN – 3,79%

Throughout the year, the interest in luxury purchases both for residential and investment purposes remained high. Unlike the mass market, the dynamics of which is largely driven by the increase in crediting, the key factor for the higher price range is the buyer’s disposable income. The lack of suitable investment alternatives also works in favor of greater activity in the luxury property market in the past quarters of the year.

New zones

As a result of the increasing demand and the development of the infrastructure of Sofia, new promising zones for positioning luxury properties were established. The supply of luxury properties is still lagging behind the corresponding demand, but the market will move towards better balance with the new projects planned for 2018. Construction activity is high and together with the well-known and established neighborhoods, more and more buildings are emerging in new luxury zones preferred by the buyers.

Among the examples is the area around Paradise Center, which is developing fast thanks to the opening of the Vitosha Metro Station and the overall improvement of the infrastructure. Data from deals in the region show that prices are rising and the standard supply already starts at EUR 1,200 per sqm, reaching even higher price levels for luxury properties. The proximity to Vitosha and the improving infrastructure are also beneficial for the area around The Bells (Kambanite) and Residential Park Sofia, which becomes more and more attractive to buyers of luxury constructions. In the central part of the city, the interest in developing projects and realizing purchases has also grown in favor of Vasil Levski Monument and Dondukov Blvd., and is expected to advance in the coming years. Other promising areas are the district of Izgrev and the periphery of Dianabath district, where on the site of the Furnir factory appeared an area of high-class residential projects. This part of Sofia has radically changed its appearance in recent years and enjoys strong interest from buyers. According to Unique Estates, there is already a secondary market in the region, and property prices start at EUR 1,500 per sqm.

“We have observed dynamic demand and a significant volume of transactions in the emerging, as well as the already established areas of the luxury construction market over the past year. We expect an active market in 2018, as in the same time, the rise in new construction will contribute to leveling the prices off”, noted Vesela Ilieva, Managing Partner at Unique Estates.

Development of the luxury segment

Overall, 2017 was marked by an active luxury property market, with a growth of 9% in rental deals and an increase of 6% in sales, according to Unique Estates.

A significant rise was noted in deals in the highest price class —over EUR 800,000. In this category are mainly single-family houses and residences, the interest to which rose in the past year.

“A buyer was searched for those properties for a long time, but now the market is catching up with their price. On the other hand, we are observing an increase in the number of customers who are interested in very high-end properties, but supply has not grown. This demand has led to a rise in transactions over EUR 1 million, as we also had individual sales of over EUR 2 million”, commented Svetoslava Georgieva, Chief Operating Officer at Unique Estates.

An active interest in the lower segment of the luxury real estate market was also recorded throughout the year — costs were up to EUR 300,000 – 350,000. The main purchases in this price range are made by people looking for apartments and houses for investment purposes. They buy properties in prestigious areas, which are easily sold on the rental market.

With regard to old construction in this price class, a strong demand for housing, suitable for complete renovation and resale, is also observed. Buyers of such properties usually have budgets up to EUR 150,000 — 200,000, and the demand is directed towards apartments in the central part of Sofia.

According to Unique Estates, this trend was more evident in 2017 and is now increasingly becoming a business venture for people with disposable income. Most attractive are two-bedroom apartments with an area of around 100 sqm. The possibility of renting such properties through Airbnb and the influx of foreign tourists in recent years has further increased their appeal.

At the expense of the revival of the high and low segment of the luxury market, properties in the middle price class are hard to find. This relates mainly to houses in the price range between EUR 350,000 and 600,000. Most often these are properties with good locations, but built more than 10 years ago, with relatively small yards of 500 — 600 sqm. They lack enough bathrooms and sufficient height of ceilings. As a result, these constructions do not meet the criteria of modern buyers of luxury properties and it is hard to find a market for them.

In the opinion of brokers in this segment, there is great supply, but less demand in the sector. Buyers with greater expenditure opportunities migrate to the upper price range and those with more limited budgets—to the lower price class.

“In a few cases, customers with a budget of EUR 300,000—400,000 invest in the purchase of two apartments for rent. Others are looking for high-end properties with a total area of 250 to 300 sqm, but they require an accommodation of higher class, including atmosphere, technologies, comfort, space, height”, says Svetoslava Georgieva.

In her opinion, buyers’ reorientation to other types of luxury properties will require revision in house prices from the middle segment.

Prices, demand, and supply

In 2017 there was no significant increase in the prices of luxury apartments. In most neighborhoods, leveling off or a slight rise in costs was recorded, while average market prices remained at the same level as in the previous year, according to Unique Estates’ statistics.

The landscape of the mass housing market was similar, as in 2017 prices grew by 6.3% on average. The leveling off of costs in the luxury segment can be explained by the smaller volume of the market and the higher class of the properties in it, which makes them less prone to large price fluctuations.

More noticeable increase in costs was recorded for houses in the Vitosha Collar, where average prices in 2017 reached EUR 1,500 per sqm. Compared to statistics from a year earlier, the rise is approximately of 13%. This growth is partly due to buyers’ reorientation towards the highest segment of the luxury market mentioned above, which is at the expense of the demand for properties in the average class.

Forecasts

Unique Estates’ expectations are that there will be no lack of surprises in 2018 with regard to the most attractive locations and that the prices of unique properties will grow.

In the case of standard luxury construction, however, the expectations are for costs to remain the same in line with the growing supply. A similar trend has already been observed in areas such as the Lozenets district, where emblematic projects have been launched on the market in recent months. Currently, there is a slight retention of sales, as buyers need more time to find their way on the market and to make decisions.