Friday, September 29, 2006

Let's buy it! - May 2006

Barn in a sea of grass So our decision was made, it was the Greenhouse. But first thngs first. There is quite some confusion and difference of opinion over what foreigners can and can't buy in Slovakia, so this you need to check out quite thoroughly. Basically you can own;

  • a house / apartment + garden
  • 'meadows' adjoining your house
  • land designated for building - 'stavebny pozemok'

However, land designated for agriculture is a no-no, unless you have rented it and farmed it for at least 3 years already, or unless you can apply to the local authorities to have the designation changed - but of course you can't make this application until you own the land itself, so risky.

Forestry is also a bit tricky and there are strict requirements for a university trained land manager etc that will probably make this unnattractive for most people. One last type of ownership to be aware of; it is possible that you will find a house for sale, but that it is only the building -and not the land under the building- that you are buying.
definitely need to cut that grass

So get yourself a good lawyer who can check this out for you ... I did talk to a couple of the so-called 'real-estate advisors' on this issue, but was no clearer afterwards on what you can and can't own.
Normally property sales (very often from individual to individual) is overseen by a Slovak notary, and in this case we were told that the seller already had one to propose. Notaries are considerably cheaper than lawyers, but I wasn't too comfortable about having just 1 person handling the sale seeing as I'm a foreigner and would have to take a lot on trust. Whatever the cost difference, having lived in Belgium for many years, I know just how tempted people can be to take advantage. So, I sourced my lawyer in the nearby town of Trencin, and after signing a power of attorney and having confirmed an estimate of fees, she set about the background checks on ownership that in this country have to be very thoroughly gone into.
The local brand!
Basically, when the communists came to power after the chaos of WWII, much private property was confiscated, and in the years that followed ownership became increasingly confused and opaque. While there has been a recent period for original owners or their heirs to reclaim this property, many claims are outstanding so be sure that the ownership is very clearly identified in the local cadaster. Even if you're sure that the owners are the 'real' owners, there will probably be several of them if the property (as is usually the case) is an inheritance. In this case, all the owners have to give their legal consent to the sale which can take some time if -as in our case- one of them lives abroad. View
But all in all it was a pretty smooth process, and negotiation is well worthwhile. The seller initially said that none of the tools in the barn would be staying. However, I replied through my lawyer that the tools were essential to maintaining the land, and so should be included in the asking price. At that the seller merely shrugged and agreed, saving us quite a bit of time and money amassing all the various bits and pieces needed to try to control the surrounding nature.
We handled the final purchase without actually going to Slovakia. Our lawyer mailed us the originals which we signed and DHL'd back, and she took care of the rest - very smooth.
So apart from registering with the mayor for taxes, changing the electricity to our names and getting some insurance on the place, there now just remained the daunting task of renovating the place...
How many tons of apples..? This is proving rather interesting - even at the early stage of finding materials, which in this part of Slovakia are limited to a rather narrow choice. And while some things can be reasonable, others -even stones like Indian granite- are much dearer than in the west ... probably because of the land transport from whichever port they arrive in. But hey, that's another story.


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