A Nice Place to Visit in Croatia, But Would You Want to Live There?
So, you tell your family you are buying a house in Croatia. They look startled and a bit confused, as if they haven't heard you correctly. "Croatia?" they repeat. Soon, they begin to look at you as if you have revealed a slightly deranged side of yourself that they never before suspected. The incredulity does not pass, as if they are waiting for the punch line.
Then your best friend calls you for more than a week just to ask if "you've really thought this out?" If you get a pause in their concern, you describe a land of marble palaces and stone ruins, secluded coves, fishing villages and churches . . . a land with people who are quick to joke, play music, dance, a country with a modest economy but newfound democratic political stability and a still underpriced real estate market.
What can you tell them? Tell them you are traveling to Dalmatia.
Tell them Dalmatia it is an ancient strip of coast just across the sea from Italy, about the same latitude as Tuscany. Speak of the Illyrians, the Greeks, Romans, Venetians, French, Austrians. Entice them with the lure of a subtropical Mediterranean climate of long rainless summers and a sea swimmable from early May until late September. Seduce them with descriptions of the vineyards, pomegranates bursting on the vine, the lemon and palm trees that thrive there.
Dalmatia has long been a favorite of European tourists, especially Italians and Germans who traditionally arrive in June and stay through August. As a result, Dalmatia-and Croatia as a whole-is the most European of the Balkan states.
Because of the war, perhaps, Americans have been slower to discover this magical area. The war cut European tourism in half, and prices dropped throughout the region. Dalmatia remains not only exciting to visit but a place to purchase property at good value.
Dalmatia stretches from Zadar in the north to the World Heritage city of Dubrovnik in the south, a distance of 300 miles. In its middle lies the ancient coastal city of Split, which pre-dates the Romans.
Three large islands off the coast of Split are exceptionally beautiful and well worth exploring for property. Brac' is the large island you see nine miles south of Split's harbour. Hvar, just across a narrow strait south of Brac', is known for its herbs and the heady perfume of cultivated lilac in the spring air.
I have chosen Brac' for my part-time home because although it has several popular tourist destinations, it is in a quiet fishing village whose streets are too narrow for automobile traffic. My wife and I had made several trips to the general region, staying with the families of our former exchange students. Slowly, we became enticed with the idea of spending some serious time there. Our searches began with maps purchased in Europe, old guidebooks of Yugoslavia, and of course the Web. We easily discovered a wealth of websites on Croatia and Dalmatia (see below).
Buying Property in Croatia
Yes, you can buy property in Croatia thanks to recently privatized businesses. They are widely available for purchase in Croatia, as are private homes and land. Patience is most important. Selling personal property is a new experience for many Croatian and Serbian families. They are learning at the same time you are.
People are still seeking to discover what the market will bear, and of course they dream of pre-war prices and rich Americans. If you have time to do some exploring on your own, you should be able to find very good deals on houses and land, perhaps up to 30 percent below those listed by the agencies. Once you have made up your mind to buy, it is a good idea to keeping pushing to complete the deal. It is not unheard of for a seller to take earnest money, then drag his feet on the contract, deciding in the end that his property is worth far more than what you are paying. Ensure that a time limit is stipulated in the earnest money agreement.
Building permits, by all reports, are almost impossible to obtain. Check this out thoroughly if you have your heart set on the lovely piece of wooded land sloping to the blue Adriatic.
With all this uncertainty and risk, is it worth it?
I think it is. Do a little research. Have a glass of sljivovica, Croatian plum brandy. Listen to some Croatian music. Plan a vacation. There is a beauty and richness to this land, its people, and its history that I am unable to describe to you here.
JOHN HURD looks forward to early retirement so he can spend half the year in Dalmatia: painting, writing, traveling, and enjoying the richness of things.