Saturday, 27 November 2021
Englishman in Dubrovnik Englishman in Dubrovnik

Don’t wait to buy real estate – buy real estate and wait

Written by  Nov 22, 2021

“We are looking for this apartment. Do you have any idea where it is?” asked a man as I leaned over my balcony.

I must be honest I haven’t really been following the prices of real estate in recent times. Yes, I read the bombastic headlines about properties being listed for sale at incredible prices, but pretty much ever since I solved my housing situation I’ve dropped out of the property loop. In my head property prices are fixed back over a decade ago when I was actively searching. It would appear that things have changed quite a lot.

The man showed me a photo of a one-level house on his phone. “It says it’s in Brašina,” he added. I scratched my head. Brašina is hardly the site of Manhattan, in fact half of the population of Croatia live on the small island of Manhattan, but I’d never seen this house before.

It was then I noticed the price! Mama Mia! Just over 70 metres squared and just over 200,000 Euros! When my grandfather told me that “bricks and mortar are the best investment” he wasn’t wrong.

How do young Croatians buy their first home?

Now, you often see prices quoted at ridiculous rates and often think, yes but nobody is really going to buy that, it’s just the advertised price. But this man in front of my home was proof that people are actually buying at these prices.

This encounter made me curious. So I started to jump back into the estate agents to see if this was just a one-off crazy price. It wasn’t! I’m often asked by foreigners how young people actually manage to buy their first home in Croatia. The answer is that the vast majority don’t. This isn’t a buoyant and vibrant market. The whole concept of the property ladder, you know buying a small apartment and then over the years as your career develops you buy a bigger house and so on, just doesn’t exist.

Whereas everyone from my generation that I know in England has a mortgage, and I mean everyone, on the flip side I don’t know anyone here with a mortgage. In fact, banks seem reluctant to actually sell people mortgages.

OK, I know that almost 90 percent of Croatians own their own home, and that living in that family home for the younger generations is quite normal. But ever if these young couple wanted to set up their own nest the options are limited due to the price.

Oh, how the property worm has turned

Again my curiosity got the better of me, so I searched for property prices in the UK. I left London out of my searches, for even if you sell a kidney and win the lottery you’ll struggle to buy a place in the capital. But further afield the prices are on a par with Dubrovnik! So with average wages considerably higher than here and house prices around the same the problem of home ownership is as clear as day.

And here is the absurd situation I find myself in, a kind of reverse situation. Theoretically I could sell my Brašina apartment and buy a comfortable sized house in the English countryside and still have a lump sum in the bank. Crazy!

Now, that is the complete opposite of times gone by. Downsizing, as it is called, is supposed to work the other way round. Why do you think so many English people live in Spain? Oh, how times have changed.

And is there an end to this price explosion? Zagreb is slowly catching Dubrovnik as far as property prices are concerned, which is logical and expected being the capital city and well located as far as the rest of Europe is concerned, but what does the future hold for the southernmost city? Will we reach London prices? A wise man once said “Don’t wait to buy real estate – buy real estate and wait.” And it seems like the waiting has really paid off. 

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