What to Avoid When Investing in Eastern Europe Real Estate

By: Christine Harrell

Eastern Europe continues to experience explosive growth as the nations modernize their economies, leading to terrific opportunities for savvy investors. Real estate in Eastern Europe is a solid investment with significant growth potential. As with any investment, you need to educate yourself about the potential problems. Inexperienced investors run the risk of losing their money, whether they are buying homes in Turkey or putting money in CDs at their local bank.

Here are three of the major pitfalls that people investing in East European real estate should avoid.

Never Buy Unseen Property

Some investors feel that Europe is so far away that to visit their potential property would be expensive and difficult. If that is the case, then this is probably not the best investment for you. It is absolutely essential that you inspect any real estate in Eastern Europe that you plan to purchase.

The seller is going to present the property's best features and is likely to underplay any problems. This doesn't mean they are dishonest, but any buyer should still look at the property in person. In addition to your own visit, have a home inspection professional examine the property. Structural defects that may be invisible to the casual observer will be obvious to a qualified home inspector and could save you thousands in repairs or prevent you from making a bad deal.

Understand the Local Laws

You must seek counsel from an attorney who is familiar with the real estate laws in the country you are buying property in. Real estate in Eastern Europe is governed by laws that may be very different from the laws in your home country.

This ensures that all of the papers are completed correctly and the sale goes through as planned. It also protects you as a property owner if you know all of your rights. Although laws governing private property in this part of the world have changed substantially in the last few decades, many countries still have laws that hark back to their socialist roots.

An example of how property owners can be hurt by foreign laws would be the Valencia land grab in 1994. It was an effort by the Spanish government to speed urbanization of the area by giving developers rights to develop private land, but some unscrupulous organizations used the law to legally buy land against the owner's wishes at far below the market price.

Can You Afford It?

Buying real estate in Eastern Europe may incur substantially more additional legal fees and taxes than buying locally. Investigate the full cost of a piece of property, not just purchase price quoted in a listing. Also be sure to inspect the title deeds of the property.

These extra costs are compounded by fluctuating currency rates. Depending on the future of the currency in your property's country, you should decide whether you want to get a local mortgage in your home nation's currency or a foreign mortgage in your property's national currency.

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