What else is out there? Let’s find out.

Let’s buy a house in Istria (part 4)

In our our hunt for a rental property in Istria our little side-trip to Pula showed we weren’t cut out to be property developers, so we went back to what we know best – rental houses. The first place we’d seen, in Mugeba, was still a great possibility. But before we finally committed to it, we decided to have a look around to see what else was out there. My on-line search revealed two other suitable properties, so out we went on another field trip with an agent we know well, Karlo of Habito.


What’s gone before – The hunt begins | Mugeba revisited | Property developers extraordinaire


Vižinada – pretty, but pretty tiny

Part of the tiny house in VizinadaFirst up was a beautifully restored, gorgeous looking old stone house in the pretty and very desirable village of Vižinada – a great start. All the on-line agents had it on their books and, while they had it at all sorts of prices (which proves it pays to shop around), it seemed incredibly good value. It all looked too good to be true, what was the catch? 

As we drove up to the property everything looked fine, so it wasn’t misrepresented on the websites and it even had fantastic views. The problem was inside: while it was beautifully restored, it was tiny, even smaller than the house in Fuškulin , something you just couldn’t tell from the pictures. We now understood why it was so cheap. And being so small, it wasn’t for us, but it reinforced why it’s essential to see things in the flesh.



Baderna – any redeeming features?

Renovation prospect near BadernaMost older properties need some work. So, I wondered, why not go the whole hog and buy a wreck? On paper, a restoration project on the edge of Baderna looked as if it could shape up nicely: the land was big enough for a pool, garden and parking, and the house large enough for three bedrooms. And the price tag would leave enough money in the budget for restoration.

This time, as we pulled up outside, we could see it was a disaster. How they managed to get such good photos of such an ugly house, I’ll never know. Everything was 60s concrete, not old stone. And as we walked around, we could see the neighbour had access across ‘our’ house’s terrace. Sorting out the paperwork for that would be a nightmare! At least it was a quick job to rule this turkey out. And Karlo, who had it on his books,  but hadn’t seen it himself, agreed immediately (which is one of the reason we like dealing with him –  he won’t try and sell you something he can see is not what you’re after).


So much for my on-line house-hunting skills, both my shortlisted properties were wash-outs. But Karlo, as a good agent, had some others he thought might be suitable.


Babudri – view to die for

The house at BabudriSet in a small village about 1 km outside the pretty hill town of Višnjan, the house had an enticing rosemary-lined drive and small front garden. Beyond that, we couldn’t see anything else positive as the house itself was a horrible concrete block. “What is Karlo thinking, bringing us here?” I wondered. As we walked round the back of the house, it all became clear. Set on the edge of a hill, it had a stupendous view, looking over forest to the sea in the distance. Never mind renting it, I wanted to live here!

The house came with about 1900 m2 of land. Flat at the top of the hill, around the house, the land then cascaded down the hill. With such a large amount of land, we weren’t surprised to find the price tag was outside our budget. It was also far too big a plot for a rental house.

View from the terrace to the seaOf course Karlo had a plan. He suggested we parcel the land; sell the bottom plot and use the money to fund the restoration/re-build of the house. Good idea, but a lot of work and with no guarantee we’d find a buyer, possibly for years. Also, with a 70s-built house, we’d have problems getting a tourist classification. A lovely idea – and we did think long and hard about the possibility of moving there ourselves to enjoy the fantastic views – but in the end, it wasn’t a realistic business proposal.


Fabci – rural restoration

Fabci house, unrestored“If you want a restoration project, this is a good option,” said Karlo, as we drove into the tiny village of Fabci. He was right. Five years ago we had looked for exactly this type of house and never found it. Attached to an already restored stone house, it was set in the middle of the village. It was big enough for three good-sized bedrooms, and the garden could take parking, a pool and summer kitchen area, and still have space for kids to run around safely. It was pretty too, with a couple of large, attractive trees for shade and surrounding stone walls for privacy. A wreck now, but there was a gem underneath.

With a project like this, the property is always the cheapest part. It’s the restoration which costs. A bargain a couple of years ago, in today’s market, we felt they were asking too much, but what we could offer would depend on the restoration costs. I arranged to come back a few days later to see the house with Damir, an architect/ builder friend of Karlo’s, to get a rough quote.

Time-keeping is not a valued skill in Istria, so Karlo and I weren’t surprised when he turned up 45 minutes late. Good spoken English also isn’t usual for an Istrian builder, but this time I was surprised. Damir’s English proved fantastic and more than that, he was straight talking, knowledgeable and very open and passionate about old houses. We got along famously and were soon discussing the floor-plans I’d worked out. If his price was good, and the house price worked out, we had a really good possibility.


The Mugeba house now had competition, but Karlo wasn’t finished. “I’ve got something even better to show you,” he said and we drove off into the hills (honest, we did) to see a built-for-rent option


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