Bulgaria: Welcome to Miami?
"My parents didn't want to move to Florida, but they turned sixty and that's the law," Jerry Seinfeld once said. Now imagine replacing Florida with Bulgaria! Sounds weird? Maybe, for now,...
... but there are a few reasons why this could start to sound logical: the aging of the European population, the good natural, climatic conditions, and the trends on the Bulgarian real estate market.
How about some statistics?
In the European Union, almost one person in five is over the age of 65. This represents 19.4 % of the EU population – an "army" of nearly 100 million people.
According to Eurostat, by 2080 the share of people aged 80 or more should double and it is going to reach 13 % of the European population. Currently, for each person over 65 there are only three people of active working age (15 – 64). The Old Continent is in fact growing older and older.
But aging of the population is not unique to Europe. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the rate of population aging is increasing dramatically around the world. By 2020, the number of people aged 60 and more worldwide is expected to outnumber children younger than five.
The WHO has pledged to devote its efforts to developing systems for long-term care (including palliative care) that meet the needs of seniors. It is also working to develop age-friendly cities and communities, including a Global Network of Age Friendly Cities and Communities and an interactive information sharing platform called Age-friendly World.
We will not dwell on the fabulous natural scenery, pleasant climate and numerous mineral springs in Bulgaria. This information is available in almost every advertising brochure for the country. We will focus on the fact that Bulgaria's real estate market seems to be following the WHO's efforts.
After a boom in the construction of small family-run hotels, the present situation is not as happy as expected. Poor management, lack of experience, and competition from large hotel chains and new rivals like Airbnb have led to a crisis in the segment. Dozens of family-run hotels are up for public auction, unable to pay back loans or other debts. Even in the Black Sea resorts, small hotels are changing hands at bargain bin prices.
But specialists have detected an exciting trend in the Bulgarian market: an increased interest in properties such as old hospitals, small hotels or larger holiday houses that can easily be converted into hospices and centres for elderly care. Doing this is not complicated, and regulation is lax. So far, demand is mostly driven by Bulgarian expatriates wishing to secure care for their elderly relatives. The developers are mainly small groups of medical professionals who are buying up the properties and transforming them into eldercare facilities. The most desirable properties are located near Sofia or other big cities like Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo and Varna. Sometimes it is the last way to recoup on a bad investment.
Years ago, Bulgaria became "the most desirable destination for living", according to British retirees. Today there are small communities of British, Dutch and even Japanese retirees who make wine, participate in golf tournaments or are engaged in other activities which they cannot afford at home.
Given the strong demand for eldercare centres, the duration of active life in Europe, and real estate market trends in Bulgaria, we may predict that it is not far in the future when the market will be dictated by the demand for suitable places for active social life for people beyond their working age.
This article was up to date as at the date of going to publishing on 10 December 2018.