Property abroad High rolling in Slovakia
by This is Money
Longing for mountain life but can't afford the dizzy heights of the Alps? The High Tatra mountains in Slovakia are a tourist-free alternative.
'They are stunning and quite unspoiled,' says John Pybus, who came across this impressive area by chance when seeking a property investment and holiday home.
'I looked at buying in the Alps, but in France and Switzerland the prices were too high. I thought of Eastern Europe and through Property Frontiers chose Slovakia.
'The economy there is booming and the countryside is lovely. I'd visited the capital, Bratislava, on a stag weekend and found the people friendly. There was a buzz.'
John, who runs a small travel agency in South London, bought the property with a friend. They put down a 20% deposit on a £160,000 three-bedroom flat in Silver Resort, a development close to a golf course and to ski lifts into the High Tatras.
Property gurus say John may well have picked the ideal time to buy in Slovakia. The economy took off as a result of the low, flat tax rate of 19% after the split from the former Czechoslovakia.
Slovakia joins the euro in January. And prices of new homes, already rising by 18% a year, are expected to rise still further. The High Tatras are served by budget airlines including Sky Europe and Czech Airlines.
Janka Polyakova, of King Sturge estate agents, says: 'Now is a good time to invest in Slovakia. Those who entered the market two or three years back have done even better.
'In Poprad, demand is exceptionally high from local and foreign investors who want a second home in the mountains. The High Tatras are seeing a complete reinvention with ski slopes and many resorts.'
The mountains are part of a national park, and development within the park is limited to restoration projects.
And you may see more from your window than a fabulous view. The national park is home to wolves, lynx, owls, deer, wild boar, buzzards, eagles, goshawks and 1,300 plant species. The best time to see the dazzling Alpine flowers is late spring to early summer.
Despite the strict planning rules, ritzy developments are springing up, from restored Gothic-looking hotels to flats. The Silver Resort has onebedroom flats from £52,000 and four-bedroom villas from £395,000.
These are on the site of an old Soviet-era youth camp. The grimlooking blocks, where good communist boys used to enjoy healthy, but far from luxurious holidays, are being transformed into swish apartments.
These will have views of the High Tatras or of the other, more distant mountain range, the Low Tatras.
Silver Resort will not be completed until 2010, but a quarter of the properties have already been sold.
'Slovakia has its own middle class who are buying top-level property. It makes it a much safer investment if the local market is involved,' says John Pybus.
And you will need to go no farther than the resort for your apres ski or summer entertainment.
Winter sports in Slovakia already attract 17m visitors a year who ski, hike, cycle or visit the hot springs and baths. Hundreds of Poles cross the border daily to visit AquaCity in Poprad for its thermally heated spas and pools where you can also have your heart checked by a doctor.
So not only will it be good for your wallet, it may just prove beneficial for your health.