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Can Foreigners Buy Real Property in Serbia?

How can you find a suitable piece of real property in Serbia – an apartment, a house, or a garage? What sort of intermediaries can you avoid and when can’t you do without an intermediary? How much will you have to pay in addition to the cost of the property? How do prices differ depending on the property location? Does the number of the floor matter (when you purchase an apartment in a multistory building)? We are answering the most important questions pertaining to purchase of real property in Serbia in the text below.

Rights and obligations of foreign buyers of real estate in Serbia

What nationalities qualify for obtaining property rights in Serbia?

Foreign citizens have reciprocal rights to buy property in Serbia. What does this fancy term mean? It means the following: if Serbians are allowed to purchase property in a certain foreign country, then citizens of this country are allowed to purchase property in Serbia. The list includes a lot of countries: many European states, Israel, the USA, Canada, and so forth.

If you come from the ‘wrong’ country, there is a way out anyway. You can avoid the restrictions by registering the property in the name of a legal entity rather than your personal name.

Where can foreigners buy property in Serbia?

Foreign nationals are entitled to buy any kind of real property in Serbia with the exception of agricultural lands (these include forests, fields, orchards, communal and personal gardens, vineyards, meadows, pastures, ponds and marshes). Besides, foreigners cannot buy property in national parks and nature reserves. They also cannot buy buildings sitting on agricultural lands or in nature reserves.  

Does purchase of property make the foreigner entitled for a residence card?

Purchase of property makes the foreign national entitled for a 1-year residence permit (called ‘borovak’ in Serbian). If you live in your house or apartment in Serbia, you can extend your residence card every year. After doing so for 5 years in a row, you can apply for permanent residence and then citizenship in Serbia. The essential condition for obtaining Serbian citizenship is living there for more than 183 days each year. In other words, you have to make Serbia your home to qualify for citizenship of the country.

We must note that this is not a bad idea at all. Even though Serbia is a landlocked country, it has a number of lakes and the Danube River flows through it so water resources are plentiful in Serbia. Some natural views are truly fantastic there and the climate is rather nice too. As far as the ‘cost of living/ life quality’ ratio is concerned, it is quite beneficial in Serbia. Living in Serbia is cheaper than living in any Western European country but the quality of life is almost the same (not exactly the same but close to the Western European standards).  

Another important factor to make a note of is the opportunity to acquire residence permits for your core family members: your spouse and your children. Apply for ‘family reunification’ and your family can legally live with you in your house in Serbia.

If you are wondering if your property can make your friends qualified for legal residence in Serbia, the answer is ‘no’. However, you can help your friends anyway. Every foreigner arriving to Serbia has to register at a certain address in the country. Thus, you can register your friends at your house but they will have to find some other legal grounds for staying in Serbia over an extended period. These can be study, employment, or business operations in the country.

How to find a suitable piece of real property in Serbia

To begin with, you have to familiarize yourself with the situation in the Serbia real estate market.

Serbian websites will contain the most up-to-date information but many of them do not have English versions. The Serbian language is a hard one to master so you will have to use translation services if you want to search Serbian websites containing the information about real property for sale.

Who can you buy property from in Serbia?

Any rightful property owner can sell it to other people. They can do it on their own or otherwise, they can issue a Power of Attorney to somebody who will sell the property on their behalf. It is important to note that foreigners are free to sell their property located in Serbia without any restrictions.

Does the foreign buyer need a real estate agent?

The Serbian legislation does not require that you hire a realtor but most foreign buyers do employ this opportunity.

Legal support is usually included in the real estate agency’s service package. If you want to be 100% safe, you can also use a notary public to ascertain the legality of the deal. However, this is usually unnecessary unless you are a large foreign investor who is buying a land plot with the intention to build a high-rise building there.

Please note that a real estate agent has to have a license to provide the services. Make sure that you ask your realtor to show you the license. Alternatively, you can find out if the realtor really has a license on the Internet, as the information about real estate agents’ licenses is publically available in Serbia.

Real estate agent’s obligations in Serbia

The foreign buyer of property in Serbia has to face two obstacles: the language barrier and the specifics of the Serbian laws governing property rights transfer. Hiring a real estate agent will help you overcome both of these barriers. First, the agent may have some unique offers and second, he or she will have experience in working with the local lawyers. If you are lucky, you can find a realtor in Serbia who is fluent in English. Otherwise, you will have to find an interpreter.

Realtors in large cities popular with foreign investors (such as Belgrade or Novi Sad, for example) will often speak English. Things can become a bit more problematic for you if you want to purchase property in a rural area in Serbia.

The realtor’s obligations include the following ones:

  • Arrange property viewing;
  • Participate in the negotiations between the buyer and the seller;
  • Supply all the documents for the piece of property that the prospective buyer is considering;
  • Involve a certified lawyer in the process;
  • Organize and coordinate all the activities involved in making the preliminary and the final agreements as well as making the bank transfer. 

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