Jewel that thrilled By­ron and Bond

The lit­tle Balkan state of Mon­tene­gro is in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar now it has sev­ered its ties with Ser­bia and rep­re­sents a tempt­ing in­vest­ment op­por­tu­nity, says Nik Pollinger

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Overseas -

Jasna, a prop­erty sales­woman in Mon­tene­gro, is still puz­zled by her first Bri­tish cus­tomer’s re­ac­tion to learn­ing more about his prospec­tive neigh­bours: “The house was per­fect for him, and I hap­pened to men­tion that his coun­try­men had al­ready bought in the vil­lage. Rus­sian buy­ers would find that ap­peal­ing.”

Alas for Jasna, in­stead of clos­ing the deal, her rev­e­la­tion cost it. It also chal­lenged her oth­er­wise solid grasp of the Bri­tish psy­che: “I haven’t vol­un­teered this in­for­ma­tion since,” she says, wryly. But with Bri­tish buy­ers ar­riv­ing in this Balkan state in in­creas­ing num­bers, even she will find it im­pos­si­ble to con­ceal their pres­ence from one an­other.

A for­mer English teacher, Jasna’s change of job is typ­i­cal of that made by many Mon­tene­grins who have some­thing to of­fer the boom­ing prop­erty and tourism in­dus­tries. The first stop in Mon­tene­gro for many vis­i­tors fly­ing into Dubrovnik, just across the bor­der in Croa­tia, is Boka Ko­torska, the Gulf of Ko­tor. The area has be­come a mag­net for Mon­tene­grins seek­ing to earn more than the cur­rent av­er­age in­come of £2,000 per year.

It is not hard to see why the area has also been a mag­net for the Bri­tish: Lord By­ron was one of many vis­i­tors taken by its spec­tac­u­lar scenery and gushed: “At the mo­ment of birth of our planet, the most beau­ti­ful meet­ing of land and sea was on the Mon­tene­grin coast.” Many of the cream stone build­ings he would have seen clus­tered in vil­lages at the junc­tion of rugged grey-green moun­tains and calm turquoise seas are now at­tract­ing the most at­ten­tion from buy­ers. Par­tic­u­larly prized are the sub­stan­tial, Vene­tian-era “cap­tains’ houses” right on the shore­line.

Cather­ine Ze­taJones is one of the fa­mous names who have joined the lat­est wave of house-hunters in Boka Ko­torska. More ad­ven­tur­ous types ar­rived be­fore the coun­try be­came in­de­pen­dent from Ser­bia last May, and many of these have seen their pur­chases ap­pre­ci­ate con­sid­er­ably since.

Neigh­bour­ing Croa­tia, which has much in com­mon with Mon­tene­gro, in­di­cates where the mar­ket might go. In Dubrovnik prices have reached about €5,500 (£3,875) per square me­tre, whereas sim­i­lar prop­er­ties in Ko­tor, its smaller Mon­tene­grin equiv­a­lent, can now reach more than €3,000, (£2,110), up from €2,000 a year ago.

Old Ko­tor, an ar­che­typal, walled Mediter­ranean town which is now ush­er­ing ac­quis­i­tive in­ter­lop­ers past its for­ti­fi­ca­tions, has seen some of the fastest growth in val­u­a­tions, de­spite be­ing some­what dark and noisy. Laura McCoy, from Mac­cles­field, bought three floors of a con­verted town­house in its wind­ing back al­leys when on a tem­po­rary as­sign­ment as an es­tate agent this year. She has al­most fin­ished ren­o­vat­ing and adapt­ing them into two one-bed­room apart­ments of 23sqm and 50sqm, keep­ing orig­i­nal fea­tures such as ex­posed tim­ber beams: “My first pri­or­i­ties were to make bet­ter use of the space — and to find de­cent builders,” she says.

Ms McCoy, who paid €115,000 (£81,000) and spent €60,000 (£42,250) on ren­o­va­tions, in­tends to sell the larger apart­ment for €190,000 (£133,800) at the end of the year. She may rent out the smaller apart­ment for €150-200 per month to a lo­cal or make €50-60 per night rent­ing to hol­i­day­mak­ers in high sea­son.

Ren­tal de­mand is pre­dicted to re­main high: Mon­tene­gro is rated as the world’s fastest grow­ing tourist des­ti­na­tion but still lacks qual­ity ac­com­mo­da­tion. Its ap­peal is bound to grow fur­ther if, as is ru­moured, a bud­get air­line opens a route to nearby Ti­vat soon. And now James Bond is vis­it­ing Mon­tene­gro in his next film, Casino Royale, the coun­try’s ca­chet is sure to in­crease.

Steve Tat­ter­shall, from Dorset, first dipped his toe into Mon­tene­gro’s warm Adri­atic wa­ter in Septem­ber, 2005. He has since owned three apart­ments in the Boka Ko­torska area and is now con­sid­er­ing mov­ing there with his wife and two chil­dren to iden­tify land and de­velop prop­erty. His ad­vice is: “Get in­volved now, be­fore it’s too late. We have in­vested in Es­to­nia, Morocco and Bul­garia but Mon­tene­gro beats them all for re­turns and at­mos­phere. I was do­ing re­search on the in­ter­net and saw some amaz­ing apart­ments on the wa­ter’s edge. Break­ing ev­ery rule in the book, I put down the stan­dard 10 per cent de­posit for my favourite be­fore even hav­ing flown out to see it. The deal was com­pleted a day af­ter we ar­rived be­cause you’re on a level play­ing field with the lo­cals. Even bet­ter, there’s no cap­i­tal gains tax on a sale.”

In just nine months, the value of Tat­ter­shall’s apart­ment in Sto­liv had soared from €72,000 (£50,700) to €106,000 (£74,650) when he sold it in June. To get the best deal, he sug­gests putting in a rea­son­ably low of­fer at the start: lo­cal sell­ers are likely to find even a low fig­ure at­trac­tive, given their low in­comes. And, when it comes to choos­ing be­tween bid­ders, they of­ten pre­fer to go on per­sonal chem­istry rather than the size of the of­fer.

The area’s par­tic­u­lar at­trac­tion for him is the fact that its ge­og­ra­phy puts a nat­u­ral limit on ex­pan­sion, which is re­in­forced

Many happy re­turns: Perast, on the Gulf of Ko­tor, above, is as pretty as they come but lacks qual­ity ac­com­mo­da­tion; Laura McCoy, right, bought a town­house in Ko­tor

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