Renovations & Building Costs

After 4 lots of Bulgarian builders, I would be very wary about employing any Bulgarian ‘trades men’ (and I say that in the loosest of sense). I have employed village “miesters”  and ended up just re-doing the job myself (far better) a year later. As in the UK, it can be very difficult to find good, reliable builders as they are usually very busy and working on larger projects. It can be particularly difficult to find builders to do smaller jobs.

RENOVATING PROPERTY IN BULGARIA…….expect the un-expected….!

1. When removing property in Bulgaria, the first very important piece of advice to remember is: Renovations are NOT cheap – VERY IMPORTANT, DO NOT BUY AN OLD RURAL HOUSE UNLESS YOU UNDERSTAND IT IS GOING TO COST YOU A MINIMUM OF 10,000 TO 15,000 EUROS FOR RENOVATIONS FOR A SMALL HOUSE

Many people come over with the preconception that they will be able to buy a house for a few thousand and then renovate it to a good standard for a few thousand more. While the land and house maybe cheap, renovating property in Bulgaria can get expensive. For example a new septic tank (required in most cases) will set you back 1,000 to 2,000 Euros depending on plumbing required, new PVC windows are around 75 Euros per square metre at a rough estimate so for an average small rural house budget for at least another 1,000 to 2,000 Euros or so for the cheapest type, a shower room together with tiling and appliances will be maybe another 1,000 Euros, kitchen will be at least another couple of thousand Euros, any structural work gets expensive. For a small rural house you are looking at all new wiring, plumbing, putting in a bathroom, a kitchen, often internal plastering, roof repairs, new windows and so on. Budget at least 10,000 Euros for modest renovations but to do up to a good standard at least 15,000 Euros.

2. You need bucket loads of patience and nerves of steel!

The most important thing to remember is everything takes forever in Bulgaria. The supply chain is horrendous, nothing arrives on time, an early start usually means around midday, there are then numerous fag breaks….For example it took two days to fit a small kitchen in one of my apartments. All the cupboards came flat packed so just needed putting together. The walls were rather uneven but all the same it took forever and little progress seemed to be made. The fitters would arrive at midday and then work until past 8.00pm. And then they did not plumb in the sink or wire up the hob because that was not part of their job!

Regardless of the date you are given for delivery of items, add a further two or three weeks to this at most. My kitchens arrived 6 weeks later than anticipated and then it took a further two weeks to get the fitters scheduled in to deliver and fit the kitchens. My new staircase and balcony railings were meant to be ready and delivered by the last week in October… they arrived mid December [2006].

Just because you order and pay for something does not mean it will arrive or indeed even be available. I ordered blinds in a particular colour, paid for them and was told they would take around 2 weeks. A week later I received a phone call to say the colour I had chosen was not available so I had to choose another one which meant a further two weeks wait!

Tiles I choose and ordered were suddenly no longer produced, despite still being on show in shop and then shop taking the order and payment for them!

A delivery date for furniture of 30 days after ordering, is more likely to mean 45 to 60 days later.

3. There WILL be unforeseen costs when renovating property in Bulgaria

When giving a quote for renovations on a house you will get a cost for certain work such as new windows, re-plastering, re-roofing etc but please keep in mind that until work starts, it is impossible to tell exactly what will need doing and replacing…Be prepared and put something aside in your budget for some unforeseen costs that are bound to arise.

4. Bulgarian vs British (or foreign) Prices

Much is made about foreigners being ripped off and charged extortionate amounts for building work, much more than a Bulgarian would be expected to pay. And of course this does happen in some cases. I am often asked about building costs and usually explain that the costs of a new build are between 400 to 450 euros per sqm (finished costs with bathrooms, plastered, painted etc). This is often met with the belief that these are ‘British’ prices and the customer only wants to pay ‘Bulgarian’ prices and refuses to be ripped off.

And you can get work done for cheaper than this, by locals in the village say, but I have seen renovations done by cheaper, village builders and the reason why the work is done for less is because the standard is nowhere near as good as it should be. Plus can take forever. You get what you pay for at the end of the day. And please also take into account that Bulgarian renovation and building standards, particularly in the villages, is not high. I do not mean this derogatively but they finish buildings so they are functional, not necessarily pleasing to the eye.

So for example, new doors and windows will be put in, but the plaster around the new frames will not be carefully filled in or smoothed off so you could be left with large holes and exposed brick work, tiles are sometimes not laid straight, wood may not be properly treated, there may not be proper insulation included, guttering and downspouts may not be replaced and so on…..

However, just finding decent builders in Bulgaria is a difficult task in itself and even if you pay higher prices you are unlikely to get a high quality finish as would be expected.

Whilst it is much much cheaper here to build a house from scratch or renovate here than it is in say the UK, do not expect to buy a plot of land and build a new 2 bedroom house (100sqm say) for under 60,000 Euros. And do not buy an old rural property and expect to renovate it for any less than 10,000 to 15,000 Euros. Be realistic. Prices of petrol and thus transport and delivery have gone up a fair bit in the last few years, bricks, concrete and so on have also increased. You can still build or renovate a lovely house here for a fraction of the price in the UK, but not for peanuts.

Oh and architects are expensive here. They charge around 5 to 15 Euros per sqm. Therefore for designs, plans and permissions for your 100sqm house, the architect alone is going to cost you maybe 1500 Euros.

Example Of Renovations Costs

Below is a short breakdown of the costs you could expect for general renovations, but please keep in mind much depends on the size of your house, the state of repair, your choice of finishing works such as colour and type of PVC windows (white cheaper than wood effect say), tiles, wood or laminate flooring and of course size of rooms and the area you are building in (around larger towns and cities tends to be more expensive) but it should give you some idea:

Septic Tank & Plumbing, Pipes etc 2,000 Euros (proper plastic tank to EU standards)
New Shower Room (say 3m x 2m) – levelling, new plumbing etc 500 to 1,000 Euros
Taking out old kitchen units, taking off any old tiles, new tiling and plumbing etc for new kitchen 500 Euros (depending on size)
Roof Insulation (average 2 bed house) 1,000 Euros [Larger house say 2,000 Euros]
Complete plaster boarding inside and ceilings of say large 3 bed house Around 5,000 Euros
Roof Repairs (general patchwork, work on casing etc) Say 1,000 to 2,000 Euros depending on size, state of roof
New PVC windows (say 8 windows of various sizes – tilting mechanism and mosquito nets) Around 2,000 to 3,000 Euros
Inspection of wiring, new circuits, fuse box, switches and sockets etc 2,000 Euros complete re-wire of large house
New internal MDF doors including fitting and plaster work 150 Euros each
External Painting and Repair of Plasterwork for 3 bed house 4,000 Euros
Guttering and Downspouts 1,000 Euros
Secure metal fencing with 20 cm concrete foundation i.e dog proof Around 20 Euros per metre

On top of this there will be some transport and carrying costs! Carrying costs will usually be around 3% to 8% of renovation costs depending on how rural your village is and how accessible.

Make sure you understand exactly what you are paying for and when any payments are due. Check work regularly, keep good notes of money spent and do not just leave the builders to their own devices. AND DO NOT hand over all the money until you are completely satisfied with all the work done. Try and hold back at least 10% of the total cost. Ask for receipts at each stage for items bought and used and make sure these are in your name, so if you want to sell on later, you have evidence of renovation costs to put against any profit for tax reasons (if you are lucky enough to make a profit).