Fresh-air fanatics are finding more bang for their bucks in unspoilt Slovenia
When Adriaan Neervoort, a record shop owner from Croydon, south London, set out to buy a property in the mountains, his first thoughts were of Italy, France and Switzerland. Then he saw a television documentary on Slovenia, the tiny former Yugoslav republic draped across the Julian Alps.
Most Exclusive Villa in Slovenia with a lot of privacy. (Slovenia - Primorje)
“The more I researched it on the internet, the more fantastic it sounded,” he says. “I always wanted a place in the mountains, but the bang for your bucks elsewhere wasn’t very good.”
After remortgaging his two-bedroom flat, Neervoort, 41, is now the proud owner of a six-bedroom house in Srednja Vas, a small village in northwestern Slovenia, near the town of Bohinj and on the edge of Triglav national park.
“It’s everything that Croydon isn’t,” he says. “In terms of getting away from the rat race, it’s perfect. I was lying in bed one morning and the only sound I could hear was a man chopping wood.”
The house, bought for £140,000, is 35 years old and in need of some refurbishment, but Neervoort intends to work on it as a long-term project and eventually to retire there.
The businessman is one of a small but growing band of British buyers who have discovered that Slovenia offers a healthy dose of the outdoor life at a fraction of the cost of neighbouring Austria and Italy. More than a third of this country of 2m people is covered by mountains, and the scenery is spectacular.
Foreigners used to face a number of obstacles to buying property in the country, but since it joined the European Union in May 2004, the market has opened up. British buyers are now the biggest European investors in Slovenian property, though the numbers are still small: Britons own just 652 homes there, according to the latest figures from the Slovenian tax authorities.
A further boost is likely to come on January 1 next year, when Slovenia adopts the euro. “It sends a message to foreigners that Slovenia has got its house in order,” says Nick Barnes, a European residential research specialist at Knight Frank. The estate agency predicts that prices, which have been growing in double figures for the past few years, will increase 10%-15% next year.
Neil Saxon and his family were the only British people in Mojstrana, a village near the ski resort of Kranjska Gora, when they bought their five-bedroom house for £150,000 about 18 months ago, but they have now been joined by another family.
“Slovenia offers lots to do, no matter what the season,” says Saxon, 45, a computer specialist from Hilton, near Derby. “In winter, you can go skiing. In spring, there is fantastic foliage, and in summer, the weather is more guaranteed than here and there’s loads of mountain- biking and water-rafting.”
Getting to Slovenia is easier than ever, with budget flights to Ljubljana, the capital, and to Trieste, just over the Italian border. The roads in Slovenia are also good, which makes travelling in the country easy.
Slovenia is not just about spectacular mountains, though. Although it occupies an area smaller than Wales, it also has spas, wine-growing regions, caves and a small sliver of coast, all within easy reach of each other.
Frances Sargent, managing director of Slovenian Properties, says she is receiving increasing numbers of inquiries from British buyers looking for a flat in the capital, which they can use both for city breaks and as a base for trips to the Alps, just over an hour’s drive away.
More adventurous would-be purchasers are heading for Slovenia’s second city of Maribor, in the northeast. “It offers all the fun of a city break because it has a riverside area and an old castle, but you can also take a tram from the centre and in a few minutes you are on the ski slopes,” says Sargent. Property there is cheaper than in Ljubljana.
If there’s a downside, it’s that finding the perfect property may take a little more work in Slovenia than in more developed destinations, such as Bulgaria or Croatia. “It is a niche market,” says Sargent. “There are not many off-plan developments.” Mortgages are also still difficult to arrange locally, which means you may need to remortgage at home.
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