Real Estate hunting in Serbia.

Speculation really got my attention in recent years. The art of flipping something for profit seems to me as a noble thing to do. Yes, some might argue about the ethics of such action. But, hear me out. Nobody is standing here with a loaded gun, demanding anybody to buy my product, property or security of any sort. Buying and selling is free market economics at it’s finest. If we cannot pursue such basic and vital activity in our lives, who are we to begin with. Millions of traders worldwide are trying to buy and sell ones and zeroes online everyday and yet speculation with property is somehow a taboo…

I don’t really see much of a difference between any profiteering whatsoever. If there is a market, there will be buyers and sellers. You must be the owner of your outcomes. Not the government or regulators of any sort. They are in fact the biggest distortion in most of the markets themselves.

So, why did property ownership become such a big topic? Well, first of all it is a product that 99% of normal human beings need or wish for. Actually you don’t even need to be the owner yourself. You can rent and be just fine. But that would not be fair right? How can somebody be an owner and profit off you renting his or her place… Since we live in the world where all of the land is being owned by the governments, we are forced to play this game. We can’t just go somewhere to the forest and build our own city, can we? In fact, good luck building up your tent somewhere without getting a ticket from a police officer early in the morning…

So now, as we laid down the framework, we do see how corrupt system we are forced to exist in. There is no free market in Real Estate what so ever. It is rigged from the get go. So how can we play it to our advantage you might ask?

I would suggest one forgets about all the cliches and rules whatsoever. We should look at the market through the eyes of a speculator now. Reasons of buying any property should be put upside down and turned around few times. Nobody really needs to be an owner of any house flat or piece of land… You only need to be able to use it if you need to. It is in fact your god given right to secure yourself from bad weather and danger when you need some rest. Heck, all the animals are using this right! So, why could’t we. The rabbit hole is maybe deeper that we thought. How deep I will have to leave to your imagination, because based on our background we all have different standards, ideas and perspectives and this article would keep on spinning around the idea that the government somehow robbed us of our freedom to live. So, let’s dive into the Real Estate speculation head first.

I have become a proud owner of property about a year ago. It is truly a warm feeling, if you come from renting and non stop moving to a stage of life when you can say I am going home. To a place where nobody is watching over your back, other than your neighbor, who has no say about your actions anyways. You can always say: ‘Hey, screw you neighbor!’.

For years I have been scrolling through numerous Real Estate portals, websites, bazaars and other listings. Not only in one country, but all around Europe. Real Estate market seemed to be a runaway train for most of my adult life. Anytime I thought I have worked hard enough and saved some amount of cash, prices went up. My first ever focus was on garages in Czech Rep. About ten years ago, you could have gotten your hands on the cheapest garage in the country for thousand bucks. Really, it was that cheap! My problem was I did’t had much, if any savings at that time. I was basically straight outta school. So, I missed that train. Nowadays, even with the green agenda all around, garages are selling ten times higher. Not bad for a zero maintenance property.

After this unrealized trade, I had to start looking around other countries to find the real deal. From western European countries like Portugal and Spain to eastern European states, I was doing my research pretty much everywhere. If we forget about those shady one euro deals in Italy, when you actually have to reinvest tens of thousands into the property within few years, Bulgaria seemed to have the best price/value ratio and I came to do some on the ground research in the summer of 2019.

I have traveled most of the country within a month, making sure I would visit all the highlights. I was dead serious about buying some holiday home somewhere out there in the Bulgarian countryside. Now I am really happy I didn’t find anything suitable that summer!

Bulgaria has a real problem with it’s Roma population. They would rip your house apart for few bucks when you’re not there. Specially if it is a remote destination, forget about leaving a bicycle locked inside your home really. You might be lucky to find windows at place when you get back the next season. So where to go next? Well for a short while, I have forgotten about my Real Estate hunt and moved on with my life. Than 2020 came and I was on my way to Georgia — yes the birthplace of Stalin — to pursue another business/adventure. But the lockdowns hit the world. My whole plan of starting a new prosperous life in Georgia collapsed and I was back on the grind, working in Austria until the second lockdown. Unbelievable as it sounds, I have escaped it back to Bulgaria with an idea that maybe this time it would be different. Well it was winter and i did not really found anything suitable yet again.

Few more months of drifting around the Balkans led me through Albania, Montenegro and finally I have landed in Serbia. A place so out of the map as you can imagine. Country that lives up to it’s traditions and history in a big fashion. To be honest the whole Balkan is that way and differences between these little countries are not great. Although the locals would for sure tell you otherwise and are very proud of their Nations. Fair enough. I do respect that and for exchange I ask for nothing more that a little respect back. That I found in Serbia. The people are warm and friendly, despite of what your local TV propagandist is trying to sell you. Now am I trying to sell you something? Hell no! This is my opinion based on real life observations and experiences.

So, back to Real Estate shall we. There are countries where you can own various types of land and buildings. There are some where you just cannot own as a foreigner at all. Take Iran as an example. In Serbia foreigners are allowed property ownership. But not the land itself. Only the part under your house if we are talking about a detached building. A flat in Belgrade would be a no-brainer, but to be honest you missed that train long time ago. Belgrade got somewhat expensive in last five years. And it deserves to be! It is the economical hub of the Balkans, which some call Berlin of the south… These days one must expect to pay the same prices like in some EU countries.

This is still not the case in the countryside though. But I would suggest that this will change quickly too. As locals will be priced out of Belgrade, they will be looking out for alternatives around and later even far out in the countryside. That brings us finally to my property. In the spring of 2021 I have found my little place in the world and bought my first house. If you can even call it that way. There were holes in the ceiling, dead rats around and generally the place was a ruin. That didn’t turned me off as I was really fed up with the never-ending pandemic. I bought my bug out holiday home in the Serbian countryside for equivalent of few months rent in some first world country’s capital city.

Sure I’ve spent lot of hours repairing my house, but I enjoy manual work and I am generally pretty skilled handyman. So, what would be horror for some, was a working holiday for me. Now, I have a place where I can lock few months of supply, mountain water running near my garden and forest full of wood to work with for free of charge. Basically a deal you cannot afford to miss. I bought my house with cash, debt free. I have so far spent just few months living there, but the whole experience was already well worth it.

The best aspect of owning a bug out property on the Balkans is that your utilities are virtually zero. After I finalized all the purchase fees, I am basically free from any other hustle. Yes, there is supposed to be a yearly property tax in Serbia, but I don’t care about it too much just yet. There is not enough enforcers to search for you out there in the mountains. For somebody who travels a lot, this is the most elegant solution. Anytime I want to feel a slightly more settled, I can now go back to my house, enjoy local nature, my zen garden and accumulate energy needed for another hustle…

I would like to encourage everyone that wants to accomplish the dream of house ownership to look around in other countries, where the economical situation might not be as great as back home and with a little help of international arbitrage you can achieve your goals. And who knows, maybe you’ll even flip your property for profit in the next few years to come.

Until next time,

Tom D’kar

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Tom D'kar

Tom D'kar

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Bohemian citizen with background in philosophy, economics and entrepreneurship. Off/on grid nomad and wannabe surfer...