BIG BUSINESS

by Nadia Damon

Holiday lets are bug business in Bulgaria, so make sure your property can pay its way in an increasingly crowded marketlace

Whether you’ve invested in a sun, ski, city, golf or spa location in Bulgaria, if you want to see a serious rental return on your investment, you need to ensure that it ticks all the boxes for holidaying visitors.

The buy-to-let market in Bulgaria is booming and Bulgaria’s EU status is sure to attract additional hoards of foreigners keen to part with their hard-earned cash in return for a revenue-generating holiday home. According to advisory firm Assetz, investors in Bulgaria enjoyed yields of 12 percent and capital gains remained an impressive 36 percent in 2006. It also estimated the total return on cash invested in the country at 116 percent for that year.

Ross Elder, managing director of www.holidaylettings.co.uk, a UK-based firm which advertises properties for let in Bulgaria, as well as Spain, Italy, France, Turkey, Cyprus, Portugal, Florida and 70 other worldwide locations, says the southern Black Sea resort of Sunny Beach is the destination that dominates its Bulgarian listings, with two-bedroom apartments the most popular let. In Bulgaria, rental prices range from £95-£500 per week in Sunny Beach, with £99-£600 being paid for accommodation in the mountains (depending on the season).

Large numbers of investors can only mean one thing: competition. So you need to ensure your pad comes top of the list every time in terms of value for money and satisfied customers. “In a competitive market it is vital to do your homework so make sure you spend time and money marketing your property correctly and check that it is realistically priced,” advises Elder. “Prices in Spain can drop to lows of around £100 because it is an area with so many holiday homes available to let. With competition so intense, sometimes reducing prices is the only way to fill late availability or off-peak weeks.”

With the Black Sea coast subject to very cold temperatures during the winter months, it is vital that investors understand they will only have a limited season to make their money. The same scenario will also apply to properties in the ski resorts. The Bulgarian capital Sofia is realistically the only all-year-round prospect for investors, who will be able to capitalise on the corporate letting market. Thoroughly research your chosen area before making a purchase.

There is plenty of information available online – for instance, www.holidaylettings.co.uk has just launched an Owners’ Area on its website offering advice on all aspects of buying and letting a holiday home abroad. Do come again! Word of mouth is a powerful advertising and revenue-making tool; satisfied customers can easily be converted into regular visitors and are sure to tell their friends and family what a fantastic time they’ve had in your property. It can easily work the other way too though, so don’t let any minor niggles slide – if your guests are unhappy with the service you are offering it could prove costly in the long term. Property maintenance needs to be ongoing so you’ll need to ensure regular checks are carried out on the let and any outstanding issues attended to immediately. You should also furnish guests with a 24-hour emergency number in case of leaks or any other problems. Make sure the property is always clean – and get someone to ensure standards remain as high as you would like. If you don’t plan to live close to your investment, or get that involved with the day-to-day running and bookings side of the let, you will need to employ a third party to manage the property. This may be a local individual or a dedicated property management company.

There are plenty of bespoke property management companies operating in Bulgaria who should ensure your property is up to scratch when clients arrive. Check out Bulgarian-specific web forums such as www.mybulgaria.info or visit a property expo to shop around for a reputable company. Property management firms offer a number of services ranging from the management of bookings to regular cleaning, laundry changes, guest pick-ups and key holding to ensure your property is always ready for visitors. Advertising matters If you’re planning to be more hands-on with your investment, the Internet is going to be your new best friend. Advertising your property on the Internet will enable you to cut down on property management services and manage your own clients personally. “Advertising on the Internet is the most cost-effective way to rent your property and ensure you get the maximum return on your investment,” says Ross McGowan, sales director, www.holiday-rentals.co.uk. “In the past, you would have needed to employ a management company, who can take up to 30 percent of profits. By advertising online and managing rentals yourself, you can cut out the middleman and keep all of that 6.3 percent return for yourself!”

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