Our Investment Story…

After 2 years of living in Kosovo and the prospect of my husbands job continuing, we needed to make some decisions. We only ever expected to stay for 1 year, however we were enjoying life here, although both very conscious of the fact we had no roots, we had sold our house in the UK and most of our belongings were in storage.

The more time we spent in the UK we realised we needed a base, somewhere to call home, although we had very hospitable friends & family when we were visiting, we needed something more permanent, a financial commitment.

Towards the end of 2014 we decided we should start looking for another property in the UK, we were both keen for a project as we had both enjoyed renovating previous properties we have owned and felt now was a good time to re invest and get ourselves back on the property ladder, this however became a complete nightmare; we found a property quickly and had an offer accepted but the nightmare began whilst we were trying to secure a mortgage – this was a lot harder than we expected because we were living outside the UK and we had no financial commitments in England, after a very long 9 months and still no mortgage offer we decided to withdraw from the house purchase.

Unfortunately we put our trust in one person to get us the mortgage and we were massively let down, we later learned this person had not even submitted our application, this was obviously a big disappointment, although after 9 months for me it felt like ‘it wasn’t meant to be’

During this time I was also researching the property market in Albania, becoming more and more despondent with the mortgage process in the UK and the time it was taking. I was pleasantly surprised by what I was finding, the amount of property available, also the price – we could buy a property with no mortgage in another country, one we had visited a few times by then, although still developing, tourism was growing and the government were actively seeking foreign investment in this sector.

The question for me was ‘why not’ there are no restrictions for foreigners to invest in Albanian property and the process seemed fairly straightforward. I was excited to explore this opportunity further and surprisingly so was my husband.

We began our initial search for property on the internet, one property stood out for both of us – an old stone house, located in a village close to Vlore. Both still keen for a project we made some enquiries with the agent and my husband asked his colleague Ylli, who is from Albania for some advice.

Within 2 weeks we had arranged to see the property, along with Ylli and his lovely wife Dese, they were both happy to help us with the process and have continued to do throughout this journey. We couldn’t be more grateful for their help.

It was great to have their view of Vlore too, it was our first time this far South in Albania so we knew very little about this area, fortunately Ylli did. We met them for lunch at Hotel Liro located right at the sea, on the road south as you leave Vlore, beautiful views from the restaurant. It was a grey rainy day but we enjoyed a lovely seafood lunch and were excited to learn more about Albania.

There was big change happening in Vlore, Ylli told us about the “Vlore Waterfront Promenade” (Lungomare) project, this was underway and was due for completion in 3 years, this was very apparent when we drove through, although we could see the potential from what we had seen and experienced by this time.

After lunch we met the agent and set off on the road South out of Vlore to view the old stone house, we drove around 4 km along the coast road towards Radhime, a nice small coastal resort with a good selection of hotels, restaurants and shops, just past the Paradise Beach Hotel (where we were staying the night, now one of our favourite hotels to stay) we turned left and headed up to Radhime Village, the road was not for the fant hearted and some parts even missing! I was slightly concerned to where we were heading, the higher we got though we could see the views were beautiful, overlooking the Bay of Vlore, eventually we arrived at the house, in the centre of this rustic Albanian village.

Radhimë Village, view from the house

The views were amazing from the road, the house was nestled down a very steep hill, set within a nice stone walled garden, accessed by a few steps. When we entered the garden to see the plot, I think we could both see the potential, we knew the house was derelict and would need a total re-build, however we had no idea if this was achievable or even realistic at this point.

We also knew the house came with the title deeds, it is important to make sure you are buying from the true owners and they have the right to sell the property. Since the end of Communism in the early 1990’s properties in Albania were handed back to the people from the state. It is estimated that some 85 per cent of property has now been checked to have correct title deeds, but the remaining 15 per cent is mostly in Tirana and on the coast. Most reputable estate agents will only sell property that has the correct title deeds.

There was a lot to take in and we had 1000 questions to ask, mostly for the process to purchase a property in Albania and more importantly the procedure for re-building such a property, “is it even possible” as well as the costs involved, there was a lot to think about.

We took lots of pictures and discussed possible options for re-building the property, one thing we both agreed is the house had to be constructed with 2 floors, to take full advantage of the views. We were told this could be possible but there were “no guarantees” you have to obtain permission from the Vlore municipality for re-building, similar to the UK system for obtaining planning permission, however this process in Albania was in the midst of change at the time, little known about the full procedure or costs involved.

After around an hour we decided to retreat somewhere to continue the discussions out of the rain, we headed back to Vlore and ended up at the New York Hotel situated in the Uje i Ftohte (cold water) area of Vlore, overlooking the sea. My daughter was extremely bored by this point so I took her down to the sea to keep her occupied and left my husband, along with Ylli, Illir the estate agent and Miftar the owner of the house to continue the talks and to hopefully answer some of our burning questions.

That night was filled with lots of ‘if, but and maybe’ discussions to weather we should buy the old stone house or invest in Albania, we still had lots to consider but this was a good starting point and we were excited to see more of what the property market had to offer here.

Thanks for reading, please like and share to spread the word.

Albania should be top of your holiday list for 2020

Simply Albania

If you would like more information on investing in property or visiting Albania please feel free to contact me.

Other titles to look out for:

‘Exploring Albania’

‘Top tips for visiting’

‘Where we are now’

Follow my blog to discover more about this exciting destination and keep updated with new posts.

Where the journey began…

Our journey began when we moved to Kosovo as a family back in February 2012, my husband was already working in the country and was also posted here during his time in the British Army, so following an initial visit with my daughter in September 2011, my husbands knowledge of the country and the prospect of us all being together again we made the decision to move.

It was enough for me to give up my career in travel; which I loved, sell our house, leave family and friends and move to a country and area I knew little about.

I have to say it was a move I do not regret, although originally our plan was to emigrate to Australia for a better life we found it in a place we least expected to ever live, being closer to home, friends and family also made it easier.

The move gave us quality time together and wonderful opportunities to travel and explore this amazing Balkan Region.

Time spent in Kosovo as well as weekends and holidays in North Macedonia, Greece & Croatia, all very accessible by car from where we live; something my husband has loved as he hates flying, so a driving holiday is preferable for him.

We have also been very fortunate to meet some lovely people, hopefully now life long friends from Kosovo, Albania & Croatia, it was some of these friends that first introduced us to Albania – A country closed off from the world during the Communist era, one I knew little about or ever expected to go to on holiday.

Our first trip to Albania was in September 2013, we stayed for 1 night in Tirana then headed South just past Durres, near Kavaje to a place called Plazhi i Gjeneralit (General’s Beach) our good friends Jeremy & Altina recommended a stay here, they were frequent visitors when they wanted to escape for a few days by the sea, being the nearest coast to Kosovo and the tips we have had from Altina we decided to give it a try.

To be perfectly honest that first trip was not without problems, we found the roads and traffic chaotic, especially in Tirana, we got lost numerous times, even with written instructions from our friends to Plazhi i Gjeneralit.

‘At that time the infrastructure was still a working progress and there were limited signs to follow’

However once we arrived to find a deserted beach, small wooden villas dotted around the gardens of a secluded bay and the restaurant serving delicious fresh seafood, we could see the attraction.

Yes the villas were basic and very rustic, wifi was non existent and the hot water was temperamental, however for 30 euro per night we were not complaining because the weather was perfect, we were by the sea and we enjoyed long days on the beach, my daughter loved exploring the rock pools, burying us in the sand and we all enjoyed the beautiful sunsets at the end of the day.

‘It reminded me of caravan holidays spent in Cornwall, with family as a child’

Evenings were spent at the restaurant, where the food and hospitality were great. We struggled slightly with the language but managed with the very little Albanian we new – we took Altina’s advice to pre order the village bird (roast chicken dish, cooked in rice and vegetables) for dinner one night, which was delicious, also to try the homemade pizzas & salads, both amazing. Seafood was also delicious, fresh from the catch of the day.

They also have a great wine selection and rakia (fruit brandy popular in the Balkans) a drink myself and my husband now have a taste for – the best we have tried is raspberry rakia, which apparently is hard to find, if anyone knows someone producing or supplying raspberry rakia I would love to hear from you.

The restaurant also serves a light breakfast, eggs cooked to your preference, bread, cheese, jam, tea & juice included in the room rate. This is a typical breakfast in Albania and one I really enjoy.

This family run beach resort is a real find, we have since returned twice, most recently in August this year, where we met up with Jeremy & Altina. We hadn’t seen each other for 4 years so it was so nice to meet up here again in Albania, time spent relaxing on the beach and catching up with old friends.

It was also great to see how much the resort had improved in the years since we were last there, from the new scandi type villas (highly recommended) to the new sun loungers/parasols and beach bar, this place is now on the tourist map, much easier to find with better signs and road improvements made, also wifi in the new villas.

This confirmed to me how much tourism has grown since our first visit and continues to do so. Read more

It’s where our love affair with Albania began and why I am now on a mission to show you what this beautiful country has to offer.

Thanks for reading my first blog, please like and share to spread the word.

Albania should be top of your holiday list for 2020

Simply Albania

If you would like more information on Plazhi i Gjeneralit please feel free to contact me.

My next blog title to look out for:

‘Our Investment Story’