Let’s buy another house?

Let's buy a house in Istria. (Part 1)

Thinking about buying a property abroad? Follow our recent house hunt for a holiday rental property in Istria for some real-life experience of what it takes.


The hunt begins…

“Why don’t we buy another house?” This wasn’t quite the completely mad, extravagant statement to make out of the blue that it may seem. Like lots of folks, we’ve been badly hit by the economic crash and were keen to find ways of generating more income – not always a straightforward task for two English expats living in Istria, with only limited Croatian. We already earned part of our income from two houses we let to tourists in the summer, so why not add a third?

We were in town delivering Christmas cards and had stopped for a coffee. “We’re going into Tetida,” I said, waving the card at Phil. (Azra and her team at Tetida are the estate agents who sold us our houses in Istria.) “Why don’t we see what Azra thinks? Property prices are really low at the moment, it might be a good time to pick up a bargain.”

“Not a bad idea,” said Phil, “We’re due some money next year. If we start searching in January, perhaps we may even find somewhere by the middle of the year.”

Such was the plan. However, we’d hardly handed over our Christmas card before we were swept out the door to view two properties. And, by the end of the afternoon, we’d found a possible house to buy. Life’s sometimes like that: last time, in 2006/7, it took us eighteen months to find somewhere suitable. This time, in 2010, it seemed we might only need an afternoon!


Fuškulin – tiny but perfectly formed

fuskulin2We never held out much hope for the house in Fuškulin; it sounded just too small. But we wanted to see it anyway, as it was a very reasonable price (€100,000). It was gorgeous and beautifully restored. Unfortunately, as we thought, it was oh so tiny. With only one bedroom and the smallest amount of land, it would never rent for much – pretty, but not a real money earner. Time for the next one.


Mugeba – a refurb close to the sea

Prices have seriously tumbled in the last few years. A few years ago €130,000 would have only bought us a flat, so I was stunned when we pulled up outside a cute stone cottage in Mugeba.

1,-kucaWhen buying property, the mantra’s always location, location, location and that’s exactly what Mugeba has. Just 3 km from the sea and Porec, it’s a very desirable village. And we were being offered an old stone cottage with a small garden for €130k. There had to be a catch. Well there was. Just one look inside and the house screamed 1970s. While structurally sound, the interior needed ripping out. Everything had to go. But with work, it could be a lovely, small, three-bedroom cottage. There was even room for a small pool in the garden.

This was exactly what we were looking for. I was all set to make an offer on the spot, but a wiser head prevailed. “We’re just about to head off to the UK for Christmas,” Phil said. “No-one’s buying at the moment. Prices might even come down and we don’t actually have the money yet. It needs a lot of work, so why don’t you revisit the house with a builder when we get back. We can get a better grasp on the potential renovation costs and make sure it really is the one.”

So that’s what we did. We went to the UK for Christmas and, when we got back, I went and visited the house with a tape measure and Miro, a local builder.

So a great start, but life in Croatia is rarely simple. Was this our dream house? How much did Miro think it would cost to restore? Did we make a successful offer? The tale continues when I revisit Mugeba.


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