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June 2006, 2/6/2006

Dear Valued Stara Planina Properties Client,

The June newsletter is with you now. As it is summertime we thought to give some information on building private swimming pools in Bulgaria as well as some travel news and a story of a family who settled and started business in Bulgaria few years ago.

Private Swimming Pools - What is Offered and How Much Does It Cost in Bulgaria

Many people consider building a pool in their garden and hope to turn it into the dreamed oasis. To choose the right pool you need to consider few issues - budget, completion time, characteristics of the land plot and, of course, your personal likings.

Firstly, planning permission is only needed if the pool capacity is grater than 100 cubic metres so you usually would not have any administrative issues. Secondly, you need to find a proper place considering your plot and especially existence of underground waters. The construction is not recommended in case you have water in the garden at a depth of 0.5-1 m. There shouldn't be a septic tank in the proximity either.

You can choose between variety of shapes and finishes but the more important decision to make is the pool type. There are two basic types offered in Bulgaria - prefabricated vinyl- liner pool and pool with concrete structure.

The vinyl-liner pool is delivered in a kit form. It can be installed above ground or in-ground. If you go for the latter choice then an excavation must be made, panel walls fastened together and supported at the bottom by a concrete footing. Afterwards the vinyl liner is spread over and sealed. The advantages of the vinyl-liner pool are: (1) quick and easy installation with minimum construction works; (2) lower price; (3) it is possible to replace the vinyl coating when it wears out with the time.

These pools are offered only in standard forms and we give below approximate prices for in-ground installation (the costs depend very much on the plot where the pool will be installed and are approximate):

Round-shaped pool (diametre - 4 m, depth - 1.2 m) - the equipment costs 1,850 euros and the total cost would be approximately 5,000 euros including the construction works.

Oval-shaped pool (width - 3 m, length - 5 m, depth - 1,2 m) - equipment costs 2,500 euros and the total cost would be about 5,500 euros.

Eight-shaped pool (width - 4,6 m, length - 7,25 m, depth - 1,2 m) - equipment costs 4,500 euros and construction costs approximately 11,000 euros.

Some pool companies offer only installation of the equipment and ask the owner to arrange for the ground works separately. We recommend to employ one company to finish the whole job from start to finish thus evading problems with coordination of two contractors.

The concrete pool is the most solid and long lasting type. It takes longer to construct (2-3 months), but the exploitation period is more than 50 years. You can give a free ride of your imagination when it comes to form and design. The options for the finishing works are also numerous - glass-ceramic tiles, porcelain tiles, PVC liner, concrete paint, pebble finishes, mosaic.

The construction includes digging, formwork and reinforcement of the concrete bottom and walls and then insulating to prevent leakage and laying the chosen finish. The circulation and filtration of the water is provided through skimmers or through overflow channels - in the latter option the surface of the pool looks like a mirror.

The concrete pools offer best value for money in Bulgaria. For example, a rectangular pool with dimensions 4 m by 8 m, depth - from 1 to 1.5 m and total capacity of 40 cubic m completed with mosaic tiles, ladder, spotlight would cost you approximately 13,500 euros.

All pools require regular maintenance in the summer season - chemical treatment, cleaning of the floor, walls and the filter system and proper winterizing. The pool companies offer this service for around 50 euros per month, but the enthusiasts can manage with the application of pH and chlorine correction pills themselves.

As a conclusion the investment in a swimming pool is not such a big challenge in Bulgaria, but it could be very rewarding if calculated in raised jolly mood and nice tanned outlook.

Their Story

Two Brits moved to Bulgaria and started ambitious business project several years ago

Jain and Chris Goodall originally came to Bulgaria to buy a house. Shocked at the lack of service and decent advice they returned home disappointed. Upon their return they reflected on what was happening in Bulgaria for English speaking people trying to buy property there.

An idea started to form - ten years ago they had moved to France where they had created and established a magazine to better inform and assist English speaking property buyers. What was happening in Bulgaria with a lack of good information, was just like in France all those years ago.

With their considerable first hand knowledge and experience over the previous 20 years (Chris in design and print and Jain in a notarial office running their real estate section in France), they decided not just to buy a house in Bulgaria but establish an English language magazine again, this time dedicated to helping all those buying and investing in Bulgaria. Chris had been visiting and doing business with Bulgaria since 1984 and Jain's family were Hungarian, so moving east was not at all daunting - besides they felt it essential that to offer correct advice about Bulgaria they really had to live in the country!

Moving out in winter 2004, the Bulgarian temperatures were a total shock - coming from South-West France where it hardly ever went below zero, they weren't quite prepared for the minus 20 that Sofia threw at them. Nevertheless, they spent the next six months talking to many Bulgarian companies about the creation of the magazine. Positive feedback from everyone they spoke to, both Bulgarians and Brits alike, kept them going as they put the whole idea together.

From long-term D visas, through Lichna Karta (local ID cards), importing a vehicle, to learning the language (alphabet first!) and setting up a company, VAT registration... they went through it all themselves. Chris worked mainly on the magazine and internet site design and style, whilst Jain visited lawyers, estate agents, accountants, travel agents, currency brokers and so on.

‘Nothing really prepared us for it even though we had done a magazine before. The business culture in Bulgaria is totally different and you have to be prepared to adapt. Our minds were on the part of exploding with all the things to do and learn, let alone moving to a new country and trying to settle in at the same time. We thought things in France were slow with administration, but the Bulgarian systems beat that hands down? ’, said Chris, who went on to add ‘However, over time we gathered around a team of reputable, reliable and trustworthy professionals who agreed to contribute to the magazine every month and even provide free advice on our online discussion board. These contributions are critical to the magazine as it’s really important to have articles written by experts offering correct and good advice. ’

In March 2004 the magazine, Quest Bulgaria, was launched - the first of its kind for Bulgaria. At only 24 pages it was certainly a slim edition but much hard work and two years later, the magazine now stands at 72 pages and offers enormous help and advice to English speakers interested in the Bulgarian property market. Chris said 'One thing we can say is that although it’s been a rollercoaster 24 months, there have been more ups than downs. It was really hard work and not without pain but it’s great to know that it’s all been worthwhile and the magazine is helping thousands of people. ’

Read more about Jain and Chris’s project - Quest Bulgaria Magazine..

Hemus Air Announced New Flights London-Sofia

Being the first private Bulgarian airlines Hemus Air now covers a number of European destinations. Their rates for flights between London Heathrow and Sofia start from 125 pounds for a return ticket (all airport taxes included). They fly five days every week to Sofia and start to operate a flight every Sunday from 9th July 2006.
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