Mar 092018

The Irish Independent recently started a two-part series looking at the former overseas property ‘hotpspots’ where people bought in the boom. Written by the renowned property journalists Mark Keenan, the pieces examine what was said about the prospects of the countries during the boom and how they’ve performed since. The first country that the series focused on was Bulgaria and Mark asked our founder and MD Dylan Cullen to comment on how Bulgaria has performed. An excerpt of the article relating to Bulgaria can be read below, or the full article can be viewed direct on

The ten most popular destinations that enticed Celtic Tiger Irish buyers In the first of a two-part series Mark Keenan looks at the ten most popular destinations in which boom-era Irish buyers made over 200,000 property purchases and discovers just how the investments panned out.

IT was mid-2006, the Celtic Tiger was roaring (albeit with early signs of a frog in its throat) and Dublin taxi drivers were busy re-mortgaging their homes to buy holiday home apartments in Cape Verde, Dubai and along Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast.

Some were even investigating Jonestown-like enclaves hacked out of the jungle coast of Brazil as well as apartments on the other side of the world in New Zealand.

At a point in time when it was estimated that we Irish were spending over a billion euros per year on overseas properties, the foreign home market was experiencing a huge injection as the first tranches of €14bn, released under the Special Savings Incentive Accounts (SSIA), were awash in Irish pockets and with Irish property prices at an all-time high, much of that was being used to buy property abroad.

In June 2006, Prestige Properties, the leading seller of overseas bricks and mortar to Irish investors at the time, brought out its first ‘International Hotspots Index’ indicating the best places for Irish buyers to acquire second homes. Warsaw topped the table followed by Florida, Cape Verde, the Algarve and Sofia. Also included were the Costas in Spain and Cape Town in South Africa. France and Britain (cities like London, Leeds and Manchester) were also hugely popular with a sea of Irish investors.

So, eight years after the dust has settled on a world economic crash, a massive Irish property crash and the near bankruptcy of the country itself, how did the taxi man’s SSIA investment fare?


In 2008 the Bulgarian property market collapsed. Reliant on overseas purchasing from Russia, the UK and Ireland, it stuttered and stopped when buyers from the latter two dried up. Property prices fell by 30pc in two of the three most popular locations – the Black Sea and in Sofia, the capital. The ski resorts saw values collapse by 50pc by the time the market reached bottom last year. They have been static since.

Dylan Cullen’s company Appreciating Assets runs an office in Dublin and three in Bulgaria in the areas where it is estimated that the Irish bought 50,000 properties, largely between 2003 and 2007. He has spent a number of years offloading properties on behalf of stricken Irish – mainly to Russian buyers.

“The funny thing is that most Irish buyers I have talked to recently were glad they bought in Bulgaria. Because the loans were taken out here in Ireland, they were not impacted by any issues with the Bulgarian banks. It also meant that although they might have sold for 30pc less than they purchased, they were getting cash to bring home in a market where values fell by 60pc. So if they reinvested at home, they did well,” said Dylan.

“There are two types of buyers. Lifestyle buyers appreciate going to a country with lovely beaches or ski resorts where the locals get paid five grand a year and it means that they can live like kings on their holidays. 

These don’t really care. Investors are looking to get their money out and are taking a hit. At the moment Russians are buying because they fear capital acquisition sanctions.

“But in the medium-term, development has started again, the Bulgarian economy is flat and it still has 100 miles of virgin coast to develop. My advice is, if you’re a lifestyle buyer, then you don’t need to worry. If you’re investment driven then prices are likely to remain flat for many years to come, so you’d be better getting your cash back to Ireland.”


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