Irish investors hit by collapse of Bulgarian property agent


SCORES OF Irish investors have been hit by the collapse of a UK-based agent specialising in Bulgarian properties.

Bulgarian Dreams, which once claimed nearly 30 per cent of its customers came from Ireland, has ceased trading, shortly after it featured in a critical BBC documentary.

The company has blamed “extraordinarily difficult economic conditions” for its demise.

In January 2008, the Association of International Property Professionals said it expelled the company for breaching the association’s code of conduct. At the time, Bulgarian Dreams claimed it had not been expelled but had resigned some time earlier.

Exactly how many Irish customers of Bulgarian Dreams are affected is not clear, but Sofia-based lawyer Milen Hristov, who is filing claims on behalf of aggrieved customers, said he had received inquiries from a number of Irish purchasers.

Bulgarian Dreams marketed a number of its developments in Bansko, Pomporovo and other Bulgarian locations at property exhibitions in Ireland in recent years. Bulgarian apartments were popular with investors seeking low-price entry into the overseas property market and fast growth rates.

However, an oversupply of apartments on the market, together with the downturn in property markets, saw demand plummet and many investors are now left holding apartments that are impossible to sell.

Overseas property consultant Diarmuid Condon likened the collapse of the Bulgarian property market to events nearer home: “Bulgarian cities are doing okay, but the resorts where Irish investors have bought are like ghost towns. Building has stopped, apartments aren’t selling and developers can’t raise finance. There’s an awful lot of people sitting on properties that were supposed to have been completed but aren’t.”

Bulgarian Dreams advertised itself as a specialist real estate agent with “unparalleled local knowledge” of the local property market.

However, it came in for criticism from some customers who claimed it was not delivering on its promises. In particular, there were complaints about the non-completion of developments and missing facilities that had been promised.

The company said the problems had nothing to do with it and referred customers to the development companies.

Last year, it abandoned plans to build a €100 million Black Sea resort with an Arabic theme, which had been criticised by environmentalists and architects in Bulgaria.

Earlier this week, the company featured on BBC’s Watchdogprogramme, which said it was aware of 80 customers whose apartments remained uncompleted.