Having decided against renovating our house in Geshanovo, we started house hunting. Oh my, what a disappointing and stressful past time! We were looking for a property with a reasonable plot, around a 1000sqm, preferably with an open plan lounge/diner/kitchen, 3 bedrooms for our use and a couple decent sized rooms or granny annexe for mum. We didn’t mind if it needed a little alteration i.e new wiring, plumbing and new roof so long as the basic structure had decent sized rooms and we could if necessary build an extension off it.
We started by looking at so called newly built or renovated houses, that on paper and looking at the pictures met our wish list. Our first viewing was to a house in the hills to the south of Dobrich. It was described as two houses for one, and consisted of a 2 storey house and a single storey annexe with a summer kitchen, living room and a bathroom, combined living space of 240 sqm on a 1700 sqm plot. In the photos it looked lovely and the gardens were beautiful. In reality, you needed a machete to clear a path through the spiky bushes that covered the entrance way and a scythe to clear the weeds that had sprung up in the garden to reach the front door! The house itself was very sad, the paint work was no longer pristine white and the window frames were all beginning to rot, the door to the upper floor was swollen shut and refused budge. The annexe had a tree growing up
through the open area and Ed put his foot through the floor in the enclosed living area! Turns out the house had been renovated in 2009 and no one had bought it due to the recession, nor had the builder been bac k to maintain it and it was quietly rotting away. So, so sad 😢 Unfortunately, many houses were built/renovated around this time and estate agents websites are full of pictures showing them as they were with a nice fat price tag attached and not as they are now rotting away unwanted and neglected. Also be ware of other expats who bought and renovated their house before the recession, and paid a lot of money to do so, as they are oblivious to the fact that houses prices in the UK crashed during 2009-2010 and that although prices in the UK are slowly recovering they have still not recovered to were they were. Nor do they accept that their house should not have increased 10 fold!!
We looked at properties in the village in which we are renting and really liked one. It was described as 120sqms living space and 2500sqm plot. The house was immaculate as was the well maintained garden which had many fruit trees and a vineyard. It needed modernising and we would need to build an extension but we could definitely see that we could make it work. We negotiated a price and went back for a second viewing armed with a tape measure, so that we could visit an architect with an accurate drawing of the property……… Once measured it turns out the house was only 85sqms (the estate agent when we told him this asked if we had taken into account the thickness of the wall? Really?? 😂😂😂) and the land was only 1500sqms as the other 1000sqms belonged to other family members but we might be able to buy it of them 🤔 Hmmm, let me see, that would be a NO! Offer reduced and rejected. OK, you can continue to have you house sitting on the estate agents website for another 2 or 3 years!
One day just before Christmas, we were driving out of the village heading to Varna for Christmas shopping and a car coming towards us flashed its lights, not unusual as the people in the village are really, really friendly so we waved back and thought no more of it. Unbeknownst to us the car turned round, and began to follow us, eventually we pulled in to a garage on the outskirts of Dobrich and lo and behold it pulled in behind us! Out jumps Chattie Man (as named by mum!) one of the builders we had discussed renovations to our house in Geshanovo with, with a friend of his from Texas, who used to build houses in Texas and is now looking to start building American style wooden houses here in Bulgaria, would we be interested? Well yes we would, we love American style houses and having living in Canada we know how warm wooden built houses can be. Great! We arranged to meet up in a few days time to discuss designs and possible costs 😊 The following week, they turned up at the house and showed us some designs and we said which ones we liked and which ones didn’t fire our rockets. As Christmas was nearly upon us it was agreed that we would meet up in the new year and Chattie Man could show us his plots in Tsarichino and Tex could come up with a design and possible costs of building something along these lines Mmmm, lovely! Middle of January saw us looking at 2 plots in Tsarichino and a couple of old village houses which required renovating. Chattie Man rashly suggested he could build something like the above for €50,000. Really? Done!! A week later we met up at a cafe in General Toshevo to discuss what they had come up with and despite only having two bedrooms and one bathroom and a living/kitchen/diner approx a metre shorter than we wanted for our use (one side of the downstairs was for mums use) and a price tag of €64,500 we seriously considered it. The following week we met with Chattie Man, Tex and an architect in Kavarna to discuss obtaining planning permission. The architect said it would normally take around 5 months for planning to be approved but we were in luck as he was just finishing up a major project and would be able to meet with Ed and I the following week to commence the drawing process. He said the only hold up he could foresee was finding a construction engineer who was available to sign off on the design. These guys and gals are apparently fastidious and real jobs worths, so if you need one be extra nice to them they have the power to smash your dreams to smithereens! He felt as this was a new way of constructing buildings in Bulgaria that they would be even more pedantic than usual. Alarm bells were ringing though when we left Chattie Man and Tex and these were due to their not having sourced any treated timber in Bulgaria (timber in BG isn’t treated and wood worm is common place in both old and new timber), although Tex said they were in discussions with a company in General Toshevo who provided timber to a German company for use in their kit homes.
A week went by and we heard nothing from the architect and during this time we stopped thinking with our hearts and began to really analys what we were being offered. Did it include the plot being fenced? Did it include a driveway and a path from the garage to the front porch? We had asked these questions but Chattie Man had sidled passed them with the ease of a politician! Then the date of the in/out referendum was announced and the pound dropped against the Euro from 1.30 to 1.26 and if it continued to lose it would mean we wouldn’t have enough money to complete the house. Tex rang about 10 days after our meeting with the architect and was surprised to hear that we hadn’t heard from him. He also said that Chattie Man had obtained a permit to build on the land??! How is this possible without plans?? We agreed to meet with them in Varna. When we met them, it was explained the price did not include fencing but that this would be needed before the build went ahead to ensure their building equipment was secure overnight 😕. It was explained that Chattie Man had obtained permission to build ahead of planning and that this would be granted post build as the original architect was still busy! Really?? Oh and as for the wood required for the house, he was talking to Russian friend of his about importing the house in kit form from Russia but there was a trade imbargo in place and it might not get through!! 🤔 Hmmmmm, back to the drawing board and plan c! Lovely guys but just too many variables for us to proceed. (Update, We recently met them again and I am happy to say that they have permission to import the kit houses 🤗 and will start building them in the near future. I really hope they do and that they proove to be popular as they are really great guys 😊 Tis a pity that we weren’t able to be their first customers but c’est la vie).
We went home and went back to searching the Internet for a house. We contacted Petar from “Relocate Bulgaria” with a view to seeing a couple of houses and Mariana from “Homes Direct”. Both agents are extremely fluent in English and very helpful. Petar showed us two very nice properties both owned by Brits, one was a work in progress and one was fully renovated. Neither leant themselves to being converted to suit our needs without quite a considerable amount of money being spent in doing so, and although they were both reasonably priced (around €30,000) it put them out of our reach. The final house and most expensive was in Petrov Dol and I, for one, had fallen in love with it on the net. It didn’t disappoint! It was just as lovely in real life 😃 It is right at the top of our budget and although after giving Mum two rooms, it only leaves us with two bedrooms, one for us and one for Ben, the generous living areas definitely tick the boxes as does the location on the edge of a lovely village and the views I have to say are stunning. Oh happy days! We have finally found our forever home! 😍😍🎉🍾😍😍