The number of sales of real estate in Bulgaria totalled almost 49 thousand in the first three months of 2022, up 10.8% compared to the same period in 2021, when they were nearly 44 thousand. Thus, the results surpass the levels registered before the pandemic-marred 2020. Deals in buildings, ideal parts of buildings and land in the same quarter of 2019 totalled 40 thousand, and in 2020 the number fell to 37.7 thousand, according to the Registry Agency.
Not surprisingly, Sofia is first in terms of the number of transactions in the period under review, followed by major cities traditionally among top 10 - Plovdiv, Varna and Burgas. However, one city stands out with a 104.6% jump in sales compared to 2021. In the first quarter of 2022, in Nessebar 1438 transactions were concluded, while a year earlier there were only 703. Cities in the top 10 with over 1000 deals are also Stara Zagora, Ruse and Pleven, and Pazardzhik and Veliko Tarnovo complement the club of champions with about 870 deals in the quarter.
If we take into account that sales in January - March 2020 were impacted by Covid-19 and compare sales in the first quarter of last year with the same period in 2019, the growth rate in 2021 is 10.3%, i.e. we can talk about sustainable growth.
Sofia grows slowly
In the first quarter of 2022, there were 7268 real estate transactions in the capital, which is 8.8% more compared with the same period of 2021. If we compare 2021 with 2019, the growth rate achieved last year was 18.5% ( 6683 transactions versus 5641), which indicates a certain slowdown in activity in Sofia. The supply chain crisis has affected the world, but Russia's invasion of Ukraine has hit even harder. Uncertainty over the implications of the war and rising property prices have scared many, although fears of inflation accelerating further are pushing them to buy.
Growth reversed in Plovdiv
In the first three months of 2022, a total of 3534 deals were concluded in Plovdiv, which is 3% less compared with the same period in 2021. The increase in January - March 2021 compared to the same period of 2019 was 21.3%. A possible explanation may be the boom in the last quarter of 2021 when 5716 sales were concluded, or about 38% more than now. Another reason is the oversaturation of the local market, which can be seen in the declining number of building permits issued in 2021.
Bronze for Varna, fourth place for Burgas
If we go back to 2015, we will see that in the first three months of the year Varna and Burgas always come after Sofia and Plovdiv. Varna's growth has now increased by 34.6% in Q1 2022, which represents 893 more transactions compared to the first quarter of 2021, when there were 2578.
From January to March 2022, Burgas had twice as fewer deals as Varna, or 1679, which is exactly 18% more than in the first quarter of 2021.
Nessebar's curious growth
For the first time (at least in the last four years), Nessebar, located on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast, enters the top 10, and also ranks fifth, before Stara Zagora and Ruse which typically occupy this position. Compared to the same period of 2021, the reported increase in the number of deals in Nessebar is 104.6%. Last year it was only 15.8%, and a year earlier - a modest 3.6%.
It is important to note that the number of transactions includes deals concluded not only in Nessebar but also in Ravda, Sunny Beach, Saint Vlas and Obzor - all seaside resorts and towns where the demand for holiday properties is booming. For a year or two, the buyers of real estate on the Black Sea coast have been mostly Bulgarians investing in real estate savings before their prices rise even more. For Dobromir Ganev, chairman of the National Real Estate Association, Nessebar's entry into the top 5 is no surprise, as the real estate transactions have been increasing since last year.
The properties offered from Ravda to Saint Vlas are currently not that many. The jump in January - March 2022 is due to a rise in the number of notarized transactions that were carried out in the summer and autumn of 2021, Elena Toncheva, a chief broker at real estate agency Yavlena - Nessebar told Capital Weekly. At the moment, "there is demand, but there is no real estate [on offer]", she said.
Apart from the Bulgarians who started buying properties on the Black Sea coast last year, there are foreigners still interested, Toncheva said. The agency has clients from countries not so popular in the Bulgarian real estate market, such as France, Italy, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Housing prices in the country rose by 9.4% on average in the last quarter of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, according to data published by the National Statistical Institute. Of the big cities, the most significant is the rise in prices in Varna, where the increase is 10.8%. Plovdiv is next with 9.5% and then Sofia ranks with 9.1%. In fourth place is Burgas with 9%, followed by Stara Zagora and Ruse with 8.8%.