Public body: Notary
Start your property search
Prepare for the search by asking yourself all the important questions:
How much can you afford to spend? Where do you wish to buy it? What do you need the property for? How many square meters? What are your must-have features?
Start with a familiar online property search platform. A good example in the UK would be Rightmove and their overseas section. Once you exhaust all the search results, move to a local Bulgarian equivalent IMOT.BG. They offer a map of the country where you can select an area for your search. And there are plenty of other filters to use such as type of property (example house – in Bulgarian къща). Finally check the online shopping site OLX.BG where there is a dedicated category for properties.
The conventional marketing of land in Bulgaria still relies heavily on “word of mouth”. This is especially common for rural areas, where estate agents are less popular.
Google Maps to your rescue
Once you have identified a property, use Google Maps to review their aerial photographs and check out if the Google street view option is available. This offers an actual recording of the property at ground level. In addition, one can always check neighbouring restaurants, libraries, schools, and parks for recent visitors’ reviews and pictures. At this stage, there is a large financial benefit to a buyer to be able to filter properties at a distance to identify any defects and render them unsuitable. The next step is the review of the spatial details and title.
Tip: Google maps provide you with a clever way to take approximate measurements of an area and will return an answer in square meters.
Access to register and cadastre
The Registry agency in Bulgaria maintains all records on title deeds. The information is recorded in notarial deeds which pass title from one owner to another in succession. They provide information online via an internet portal available to all members of the public. Here, titles can be inspected and printed out https://portal.registryagency.bg/PR/en/Services. Users must register with a valid email and an electronic signature is also required to access the online service.
Spatial details of all properties are kept in a cadastre. There is an online version that can be accessed free of charge https://kais.cadastre.bg/en/Map. Occasionally, the property or land may not be available on the digital cadastre. In this case, a basic map (called skitza) is available for a fee from the local municipality. For official use, one must always receive a stamped, paper copy of the relevant map from the vendor.
Assessment of the property, its extent, and condition
The structural soundness of the property is going to be the number one concern of the buyer. Therefore a visit to the property is recommended. Once there, check the physical footprint of the property and the land and compare it to the cadastre (skitza). When a buyer applies for a mortgage, most banks in Bulgaria would expect a survey done by an independent expert. Otherwise, it is unusual to have a full survey done on a property in Bulgaria. Reliance is placed on the vendor’s duty to disclose defects.
The notary is responsible to check the identity of the buyer and the vendor. In addition, they also check the vendor is the legal owner of the property and must inform the buyer of any legal impediment with regards to the transfer of ownership. Both parties together with the notary sign the notarial deeds. Personal attendance at completion is common in Bulgaria, unlike other countries where this can be done remotely. Whilst the buyer may appoint a delegate to act on his or her behalf, by power of attorney, the procedure can be inconvenient.
In summary, they would oversee the process and ensure all legal documents are in place, witness the signatures of the two parties in the exchange and register the transaction with the Registry Agency.
Cost of purchasing a property
One should start with an overall understanding of the cost structure before even starting a property search. Next, a detailed breakdown of the budget would be required before committing to a purchase.
There are various transactional costs one needs to consider. These include legal fees (notary fee and fee for power of attorney, if applicable), estate agent fee, bank fees. There is also a local municipality tax with the purchase of the property (2.5%).
For your information, notary fees are usually about 1% of the value of the property. For example, if you are looking to buy a house for 50,000 BGN expect to pay circa 500 BGN in notary fees.
Documents for successful completion of a transaction
- Document of ownership of the property – Title Deed.
- Certificate of Tax assessment of the property – issued by the tax office at the location of the property. This will confirm there are no outstanding tax liabilities for the property.
- Sketch of the property, in the event of a transfer of land (the plot of land on which the property is built). It is issued by the municipality where the property is located and is valid for 6 months.
- Certificate of Encumbrances on the property- issued by the Registry Agency.
- Identity document (ID card or passport).