The Slovenia Times

Foreign Policy



When Justin Young from Slovenia Estates casts his mind back to July 2006, he suddenly sounds a lot like someone remembering a carefree summer of childhood.
"It was a very straightforward time," Young says simply. "We were dealing with ever-increasing numbers of British buyers happy to squeeze as much equity as possible from their UK home to fund their dream of owning a holiday home in the little gem that is Slovenia. Austrian and Italian enquiries were common too, and Russian investors seemed to have just discovered that Slovenia had a coast, and a pretty nice one at that!"
"We agencies knew our market, we enjoyed our jobs, and we sold - and pretty easily too," recalls Young.


If July 2006 was carefree childhood, July 2009 surely represented the sudden, occasionally painful challenge that is entering adulthood. "The landscape at that point was very, very different," remembers Young.
"We had gone through a year or more where the market was not a market - it was a desert," he says. "British buyers had disappeared because they were desperately trying to pay their mortgages in the UK. The last thing they were thinking of was buying another property in a foreign land. Austrian and Italian buyers quickly realised they could snap up the same holiday home for half the price in their own countries. And although we still had some interest from Russian buyers, it became less and less."

Between heaven and hell

The good news for those who rely on foreign buyers of Slovenian real estate is that the situation has now settled somewhere between the glory days of 2006 and the dark days of 2009. Summer 2011 may not have been carefree childhood but nor was it crippled by the challenges of adulthood. Perhaps instead it can be characterised as adolescence - not carefree, but not without a job to get through five days a week.
"The market is a market again now," confirms Young. "We have a series of compact, easy-to-predict groups of investors who know what they want and are willing to pay for it. There is some ebb and flow but on the whole it's pretty secure."

The British are back

Group one: the British. Buyers from the UK are certainly not back in their pre-2008 levels, says Young, but they are returning, keen to land a dream home in somewhere like Gorenjska. Most express interest in three bedroom two bathroom character houses with some land and a sea view - a demand which is relatively easy to meet thanks to a good supply of such properties. The majority don't want to spend more than EUR 200,000 and those with a lower price limit will tend to head east to Prekmurje.

Austria... and America

Buyers from Austria and Italy now fall into the second group, a "Rest of Europe" category. "They have been joined by some newcomers," explains Young. "Those from Belgium, Holland, France, Switzerland and Finland have all been our clients in the past 18 months. Their budgets tend to be the same as the British buyers but they don't go East. Most tend to favour older properties, often looking for something they can renovate. And with Dutch and Belgian buyers we often get requests for land alongside the house."
Group three comes from much further afield. "Americans have begun to wake up to the delights that Slovenia has to offer," says Young. "With lower property prices, many are drawn to Bled and Bohinj. We have had clients relocate here for retirement which always says a lot of the quality of life somewhere."
The Russian misconception
The final group is the one which Young says sellers most want to hear about - those from Russia. But he immediately seeks to correct what he says is a common misconception about buyers from this land: "They don't all come with EUR 3m in their back pocket, looking for the biggest, brightest place in town!"
Instead, Young says his experience is that Russian buyers are very astute and know exactly what they want and what price they should be paying. Yes, some have spent EUR 2m but the average is around EUR 400,000.
There are some other groups which are starting to emerge. Enquires have been reported from Israel, South Africa and the Middle East. But for now one gets the impression that Young and his colleagues are perfectly content with the four solid, reliable groups that have developed. It's a long way from July 2006 but, thankfully, it's an equally long way from July 2009.


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