In recent years the property rental market in Sofia has come along in leaps and bounds. Nowadays you can find hundreds of properties on the market for rent in Sofia, from luxury houses in fancy gated communities to period apartments in the city centre.
What should you look out for when choosing a property to rent in Sofia?
Check out the different neighbourhoods in Sofia, ask your future colleagues or your relocation company for advice. As a general rule the upmarket locations are from the centre to the East and South of the city, encompassing the villages at the foot of Vitosha mountain. Popular Sofia suburbs are Boyana, Simeonovo, Dragalevtsi, Kambanite and the villages of Bistritsa and Zheleznitsa. They are all to the south of Sofia, on Vitosha mountain. Luxury properties abound, though the state of the roads may leave something to be desired, and a 4 wheel drive is all but mandatory, especially when the snow falls.
Living in the city: the advantages are many, from convenience getting to your work or going out at night to very few problems with utilities: while the outskirts often experience electricity blackouts this is virtually unheard of in the city. Heating, too, is centrally supplied in the city and has very few problems. Many parts of the city are now serviced by the expanding subway system, and taxis are plentiful and cheap. The major disadvantage is the poor air quality, which is particularly bad in the winter. Parking space can also be a disadvantage so do ask your prospective landlord whether they can arrange a parking space or check whether the property is in the blue or green parking zone and whether you will be able to get a parking sticker. The parking sticker costs 150 lv for one year but does not guarantee a space. It covers an area of several streets close to property, where you should usually be able to find a free space.
Living in the suburbs: the main advantages are space and fresh air. Up above the Ring Road at the foot of Vitosha mountain you can find both houses and apartments, with many new apartment compounds appearing. Disadvantages are electricity blackouts, snow cleaning and transport arrangements. Be aware that many small roads do not get cleared of snow by the local authorities and you risk being snowed in a couple of times a year. Rubbish is also not uniformly collected.
Although Sofia is not a particularly dangerous city luxury properties are susceptible to break-ins. This is a particular problem in the suburbs and for those who live in houses. Many expats opt for properties in so-called 'gated communities' or 'closed compounds', where there is usually live 24 hour security as well as security cameras on the permiter fencing. If you choose to rent a house that is not part of a compound then make sure to take good security advice and how to avoid burglary. If you are renting an apartment in Sofia city then check the main entrance door to the building - does it lock, how easily do your neighbours buzz strangers into the building? Is your own door secure? You may also want to ask for a burglar alarm to be installed in your property.
3. Communal areas and maintenance fees
Even if you find a beautiful property in downtown Sofia you may find the communal area (entrance, staircase, lift) to be a letdown. Discuss with your owner of the property if you really love the apartment and see whether he can arrange for improvements to be made, or perhaps even invest in improvements himself in order to increase the value of his property. Many other buildings and gated communities have a maintenance fee - the more services the higher the fee. Check this fee, what it includes and whether it is included in the rental price.
4. Choice of agency
There are tons of real estate agencies in Sofia, all focussed on the lucrative expat market. If you do a Google search you'll come across many of them and they all have a large database of properties. How do you know whether they will give you the best advice, though, and meet your needs? If you know people in Sofia then ask around, or try our partners listed here. They all have a wide experience serving expat needs and know the market well. Agencies take a commission of the first month's rent so ask how much this is - it is usually half the first month's rent but some agencies have a minimum charge. Check also whether they will provide the contract and do make sure the contract covers you well. Look out for: length of contract, options for terminating before the contract ends, date of rental payment, how much deposit you are supposed to pay (usually 1 month), how and when you pay the overheads and utilities, whether the landlord has the right to enter the property and what furnishings are included. You might also want to request a professional clean of the apartment or house before you move in and new or cleaned mattresses and toilet seats.