Where is the region in which ruralpropertycroatia.com operates?
We cover the inland area between Zagreb city in the south to the borders with Hungary and Slovenia to the north. The E71 motorway runs north-south through the middle of 'our' area, we have properties within about 25km either side of this highway. This map shows our patch within the green dots. We are based in the baroque city of Varaždin, here's a two minute YouTube
video of the place.
Why there? Why not on the coast?
The northern Croatia region has mountains, lakes, rivers, parks, valleys, forests, farmland and plenty of space. It is similar to Devon and Somerset but with definite seasons, a short snowy winter and a long warm summer. The price of property is relatively cheap whereas the coastal areas have a million agents, the prices are high and, for us, there are far too many legal/ownership issues. We like it here, that's why live here.
Why do people do this at all?
Experience has taught us that people of all ages, from all backgrounds and with a wide range of motivations come here. If pushed to identify a few....
- People looking to retire but lack the funds to live comfortably (mostly from UK, Ireland, Scandinavia) and reason that selling their home and buying here for much less and enjoying the lower cost of living will allow them to maintain or even improve their living standards whilst maintaining a healthy bank balance from the sale.
- Those who do not own their own property and see little chance they will ever will able to do so, the prospect of renting for ever is a daunting one. Buying here may well be within their reach and they begin preparing for an affordable future without paying rent.
- Living in a beautiful rural location is, certainly in western Europe, beyond the financial reach of nearly all of us. Not so here! There's plenty of space and many opportunities within reach even with a modest budget. Several people have taken advantage of that.
- We're located on the same latitude as south-central France (46 deg N), the weather is the perfect mix of long warm summers and short snowy winters. Those tired of the northern drabness find our blue skies, even in winter, very appealing.
If I find a few properties of interest, what is the next step?
Write down everything you want to know and ask us. We promise to give you plain language answers. Then arrange for a visit to see the properties, look around the local environment and get a feel for the place. We can organise that for you, anything from five star hotel accommodation and rent-a-Mercedes to hostel stays and budget travel. We will be here to show you around and answer your questions. Simply contact us and we'll organise your trip with you to suit your budget and plan. Expect to pay about £50 per day for 2 people + your air fares of course. If you want to arrange things for yourselves, no problem, we'll meet you and show you the properties of your interest.
What are the property prices?
Short of coming here to look around, look at our website (of course) and scan through 'nuskalo.hr'. It is in Croatian but there are countless properties for sale so you will get a feel for the prices.
As a very rough guide, agricultural land costs about one Euro per square metre, building land is roughly ten Euros per sq/m, only the best apartments go for about €1000 per square metre, normal houses in reasonable condition on a good sized plot are somewhere between €60k to €150k. €200k will buy you a substantial residence. The prices are higher in city centres. Cottages in the out-of-town areas range between €15k (fixer upper) to €50k for a good sized place in "move in" condition.
Costs.. the big picture
There are a few. Apart from the movement of furniture etc., across long distances, the other costs depend upon what you've purchased.
Shown here is a worst case scenario, full details of costs can be seen HERE .
The 'one-off' Lawyer's fees, registration fees, company establishment costs, Notarisation fees and other minor elements will be up to €1,000, perhaps a little less. If you do not require a Croatian company, thsi will drop the fee to about €300.
Add 2% (of the asking price) for our one-time property finders' fee.
Add 3% (of the sale price) for the one-time property transfer tax.
On-going costs for property taxes, rubbish collection, standing charges for gas, electric, phone, water, book keeper will come to very close to €650 per year, less if you do not require a book keeper.
Why would I want to open a Croatian company?
The short answer is 'politics'. Croatia will not allow non-Croatians to own any form of agricultural or forest land. If you buy a property wholly within a building zone then this is regarded as "non agricultural" and you may buy it in the normal way and not bother with opening a company. However, many properties have one section in a building zone (for the house) and the rest outside. For this type of property, you will need to open a Croatian company which will own the property on your behalf whilst you own the company. For EU and perhaps EEA area citizens, this restriction will be lifted in August 2020 when property prices may well increase as a result.
What is involved in owning a Croatian company?
It sounds much more complicated than it is. Your lawyer can do it for you for about 2,000 kuna and it only takes a day or two. New since 2018: a simplified version of company registration has been introduced which is easier to set up and you are not now required to post 20,000 kuna into your bank account at the outset. Things just got a fair bit simpler. You will need an accountant or book-keeper who will charge you about 250 kuna per month (Inc VAT) to keep your records in the legal manner and make the annual reports to the financial bodies on your behalf. That's it. 90% of foreign owners do it this way, including us.
What does ruralpropertycroatia.com charge?
We are a little unusual in that we charge only the buyers. Our rate is 2% of the original asking price with a minimum of €500, there's nothing extra to pay. Why do we charge buyers? It is our experience that all such costs are merely added to the asking price by the seller, in the end, the buyer pays anyway. This way, the buyer is clearly identified as the customer, we think that's how it ought to be. It also adds some leverage for buyers when the time comes for negotiation with the seller. Perhaps the key issue is that we offer a free service to sellers - so we get to pick the best available properties!
Why is it so complicated?
It does seem complicated at first but it really isn't. We are advised that Croatia cannot maintain this restriction for EU citizens beyond August 2020 at which time the relevant EU rules will be implemented. We are told the purpose was to maintain the character of the countryside and to avoid it falling into the building free-for-all we all witnessed in Spain just a few years ago. Nearly all our customers purchased their properties via "the company route", none have reported having any problems with that aspect although there are a few costs involved.
What about visas and permission to remain?
Croatia is about to become a full member of the Schengen group of states (August 2020). This means the current borders with neighbouring EU states will be scrapped giving free access to Slovenia and Hungary and the rest of bordewrless EU. As we understand things, there remains the requirement for foreigners to obtain a tourist visa (you can get two per year, they last 90 days each) but without borders this will become untenable. EU citizens will be able to remain indefinitely.
If you want to get a job, this will depend upon the reciprocal agreement Croatia has with your home country. There are no residential restrictions (for EU citizens) who wish to start their own business or become self employed.
The shambles in the UK known as Brexit merely starts the formal negotiating process, we cannot tell what effect this may have on UK citizens wishing to reside in Croatia. It will not affect holiday home owners however.
I am not an EU citizen, I have no family connection with Croatia, is there any hope for me?
With the notable exception of UK citizens who are currently amid 'Brexit' negotiations, as a general rule, it is as difficult for an American/Canadian/Australian (for example) to reside in Croatia as it is for an EU citizen to reside in the USA/Canada/Australia. There are ways but age restrictions, financial support, educational achievements all apply. Having said that, we have welcomed US and South African people who have overcome the hurdles. We have affordable experienced and knowledgeable people who will be happy to advise you individually, just call us for a no obligation referral.
I've heard some horror stories about people being cheated, do I need to protect myself?
The fact is that previous Yugoslav/Croatian governments did not rigorously keep accurate records of land ownership, nor did the citizens always declare inheritance (in order to avoid taxes). In many cases, particularly at coastal areas, dozens of people claim part ownership of a property on the basis of their great grandparents (for example) and many of these have entered into intra-family agreements which do not appear on the land registry books. Many registered owners are long dead or have emigrated. It is necessary to study the history of any property to ascertain who is registered as the owner and to investigate if that is valid and unchallenged. We apply a stringent investigation process to every property we advertise, all which appear on our lists are problem free except for a few where we make it clear that some work is outstanding. If such shortcomings require long and/or complex work, we do not accept the property.
Why do you have so few properties on your books?
In view of the above points, we find it very difficult to find properties where the ownership appears to be 'clean', where the property has at least one attractive feature and where the owners have a realistic view in terms of the asking price. It isn't difficult to find thousands of properties for sale but most are by opportunistic owners and agents hoping to make a killing, most have been advertising for many years. We could flood our pages with such 'opportunities' but we choose not to.
Croatian is not the easiest language to learn and you are unlikely to "pick it up" just by being here. Words are changed to reflect how you use them, it depends upon the sentence which contains it and the applicable grammar rules. However, there are robust rules about how language is used and with a little formal instruction you can unlock it all. Be prepared to get language instruction and you'll find it all logical. Nearly everyone under the age of 40 speaks excellent English. In the experience of other ex-pats, language is not the problem you'd imagine it to be.