Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Buying Homes & Land in Serbia

In response to a reader who emailed me about buying a farmhouse and orchard in Serbia: It's my understanding, that currently only Serbs can buy land in Serbia. (It's the same in Croatia.) Foreigners are able to buy condos, houses, and even ruined houses with land attached, but you can't buy land by itself.

Individuals and companies sometimes buy land using a Serb attorney as their frontman. (This happens in other countries with similar laws too.) But you have to really trust your local attorney. It's also common to buy a rental contract for Serbian land for 100 years - just like Hong Kong used to be rented by the UK.

The main problem in negotiations that I've heard many Serbs complain about is that most bits of farmland with houses have complex ownership - often multiple descendants of the original owner, at least some of whom have emigrated outside Serbia. If you get all of them to agree to sell/rent to you, you still can run into problems. Seems that as soon as a foreigner appears very interested in a piece of land, suddenly locals start reconsidering whether they should buy it instead. Your local lawyer gets jealous and undercuts your deal. Honestly, it's happened recently to a friend of mine!

Lastly, as a foreigner or a returning expat, of course you'll pay foreigner prices. When my husband and I started looking for a bit of farmland in the Sombor area, we contracted a local friend to be our agent instead of showing up too obviously ourselves... which may save us real money in the end (we're still looking for the right place.)

By the way, if you're considering buying a condo in Belgrade, now is the time. Just this year alone, prices have gone up in desirable neighborhoods by roughly 30% in five months. It's not a scary bubble yet either. Prices are still lower than neighboring countries' capitals and well under historic highs. Plus, renting your place out is apparently fairly easy, although rents are low (100-200 Euros a month total perhaps) compared to your condo investment unless you luck out and attract foreigners. Read advice from Belgrade residents on the local real estate scene in the comments on my b92 blog on the topic here.

1 comment:

Christina said...

I bought land by itself in Croatia without problem. Building permission took four years, but I know some Croatian citizens who also waited that long for permits. Buying the land, as an unincorporated individual and US citizen posed no problem at all.