Bulgarian property market suffering from global economic fall out

The global property downturn is being felt further in Bulgaria where prices and sales of property have already been declining.

Now property developers are putting projects on hold or selling them and a tough time is being predicted for the property market.

Rossen Plevneliev, manager of property developer Lindner Immobilien Management, said the next year will be hard but he hopes that the property sector will start to pick up in 2010.

Property investors are adopting a wait and see attitude and many are either not investing or even pulling out of projects, according to Tihomir Tsakov, owner of real estate agency Aristo.

Under pressure from shareholders property funds have already started selling assets in Bulgaria. Private equity firm Equest sold its City Center Sofia shopping mall to US real estate investment management firm Heitman at a humble profit of €7.5 million a few days ago and the company's cinema halls have also been put up for sale.

Property funds listed on the alternative segment of the London Stock Exchange are also shedding Bulgarian assets after their share prices halved in the past year.

Immoeast AG, the Austrian real-estate developer that focuses on Eastern Europe, said it plans to freeze or abandon projects worth €2 billion to boost liquidity.

Bulgarian Land Development has halted projects in the ski resort of Borovets and Kavarna on the Black Sea coast which are now for sale. Black Sea Property has given up on its Tsarevo development. And Bulgarian Property Development has halted its investments in Bansko.

The holiday property segment is being hit the worst with the number of deals shrinking by 10%, according to data from the Registry Agency.

Speculators are fleeing the market and selling homes for virtually no profit, claimed Nikolai Pehlivanov, director of investment company Green Life. Foros real estate agency said that some 50,000 holiday properties are for sale on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast.

Foreign direct investment, a large part of which has gone into the property market since the end of 2005, has shrunk.

Those who are benefitting appear to be property investors from Russia and the Middle East who are snapping up property at low prices.