What to Look Out for When Buying Property on THE Island

With so many people falling in love with the island on holiday, a not-uncommon question over dinner and a glass of wine at the island's waterfront restaurants is "how easy is it to buy property on Hvar"? 

A beautiful island, stunning views, gorgeous stone, the glistening Adriatic - the perfect holiday home!

The good news is that things are a little easier and more regulated these days to protect buyers from the many potholes that can exist in a Croatian property purchase. During the property boom of 2004, when seemingly every waiter had something for sale and doubled up as a real estate agent, there was no regulation whatsoever, and the dubious practices of certain lawyers meant that many properties were sold to unsuspecting buyers by people who did not own them either in part or at all. 

The culture of property selling to foreigners had not been developed in former Yugoslavia. Indeed, as properties passed from generation to generation, the title deeds were rarely updated, leading to extremely complicated situations where foreign buyers were presented with ownership documents where the registered owner had either died 50 years ago, or emigrated to Argentina. Or both. 

Thankfully, things have changed a lot in the last ten years, and buying property on Hvar is a lot easier and more transparent than it was a decade ago. The large number of property transactions back then resulted in many properties updating their unclean titles, and there are now many more properties for sale in clean ownership (or 'one through one' as it is known). A real estate law which was passed to regulate the industry has resulted in certain standards being raised, and suspect legal practices are on the decline. 

The most important advice, of course, is to get a good lawyer, and the registered real estate agencies on the island will be able to help in that regard. Property purchase in Croatia can be a lot trickier than back home, where the process is much more highly developed. Here are a few things to bear in mind when buying a property on Hvar.

1. All properties bullt before 1968 are legal, and the owner needs to produce a document to prove its pre-1968 status.

2. Properties built after 1968 should have a location, construction and usage permit (the usage permit is often missing as people would build more than they were allowed, as it was for their personal use, and they never had any intention to sell).

3. All properties now require an energy certificate.

4. If you are buying an apartment, ensure that the apartment is sub-divided (a process called 'etažiranje'), and that you are not simply buying a share of the building.

5. If you are looking to rent your property, make sure the property is zoned appropriately before you buy, as well as checking if it meets all the renting requirements for a permit.

6. Buying land to build your own house is a common dream, but one which is not easy to fulfil, and one has to be very careful when buying land. Ask your lawyer to check what permits already exist, what the process of construction is, and information about connection to services. Just because a plot is in a building zone, it does not mean you can automatically build. 

We wish you good luck - and good neighbors!

*Author - Paul Bradbury
*Photo Credit - Romulić & Stojčić multimedia studio