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Bulgarian property prices fall back to 2007 levels

The price falls are fairly universal across locations with only the luxury real estate market remaining immune from the property downturn, according to the latest survey from Raiffeisen Real Estate agency.

There are no official state figures issued in Bulgaria but this new index using cumulative data for real estate and pricing for the period 2006 through to 2009 is regarded as one of the most reliable.

Analysts do not expect a sudden recovery and sellers are still expecting too much for their properties which are not selling because of the gulf between what is being asked and what buyers realistically want to pay.

The report says that luxury real estate has remained immune because of a lack of equilibrium as there is still a stronger demand for such expensive properties than there is ready supply.

But in the middle real estate sector the margin is about 20% between the demand and contracted prices and this trend is attributed to vendors' reluctance or inability to adjust to the new market conditions and to the market's plunge back to levels last seen two years ago.

Another major worry for sellers is that in spite of cheaper prices, there is still a significant reduction in demand and processed contracts due to a lack of credit and mortgage loans released by financial institutions.

The most substantial drops in residential real estate values are in the resorts of Sveti Vlas and Slunchev Briag (Sunny Beach), the largest summer resort on the Bulgarian Black Sea. In those areas prices have fallen to such an extent that currently there are brand new luxurious three bedroom flats on offer for €70 000 euros.

A similar fate has befallen the Alpine ski resort of Bansko where new, completed modern apartments in key locations are being offered for €70 000 or less.

'The Bulgarian real estate market has hit rock bottom and will not recover any time soon,' said Yavlena agency manager Strahil Ivanov. He expects prices will drop another 5 to 10% but pointed out that this is good news for bargain hunters.

The number of transactions have also fallen steeply with very little movement in January and February. The survey also found that asking prices in some areas like Sofia were an average of 20% higher than buyers are prepared to pay, slowing sales even further.