Home Searching in Croatia: A Fashionable Mountain Villa for $1.2 Million

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This three bedroom vacation home is located in the heart of the Croatian mountainous region of Gorski Kotar, a north-western pocket of the country – known as the “green lungs” of Croatia – which extends to the Adriatic Sea.

The three-story home was completed in 2019 and sits on a sloping 4 acre lot. It features the traditional wooden construction often found in Gorski Kotar, which is known for its woodworking. The main materials are Siberian larch and local iron, which is in line with the owner’s request that the 2,368-square-foot house be built by local workers using sustainable materials. Even the furniture and shelves were made from solid wood by local artisans. The exterior cladding is designed to protect the house from harsh Croatian winters.

“My guiding principle was longevity and resistance to extreme weather conditions because it is Gorski Kotar, after all,” said the owner, who asked not to be named for privacy reasons. “But I wanted it to be as natural as possible and contain as few chemicals as possible so that it would blend in with the unspoiled nature of the region.”

The home has been designed with a minimalist Scandinavian aesthetic, with moss-covered paneling and floor-to-ceiling reflective glass windows that open up the main living area with views of the mountains. “It really is a Croatian product,” said Mirjana Micetic, a broker at Croatia Sotheby’s International Realty, who has the listing.

The basement enters the lower two-car garage and has an entertainment lounge, sauna, bathroom and wine cellar designed in the style of a Croatian tavern, Ms. Micetic said.

A path leads from the driveway past a landscaped garden to the main entrance. On the ground floor, an iron fireplace separates the kitchen from the living room with wall-to-wall windows and a door that leads to the platform deck, heated pool and spa. The kitchen, which is also accessible through glass doors on the side of the house, has a table for 10 people.

The second floor, rising slightly above the deck, has three en-suite bedrooms, the largest of which looks out onto the forest through a wall of windows. A fire pit, grill, open dining area and garden are in the back yard.

The accommodation is located in the village of Ravna Gora, which lies between the larger towns of Delnice and Vrbovsko. Risnjak National Park is about 30 minutes away. The Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and popular hiking destination, is just an hour and a half away. Rijeka, a port city about 45 minutes to the west, is a melting pot of European influences with a growing tourism scene and an international airport. Zagreb, the Croatian capital, is about an hour northeast.

Croatia was one of the few European countries that reacted quickly to the coronavirus and ordered a full quarantine in mid-March, which successfully contained the spread of the virus. The lockdown was lifted in May and a flood of tourists and shoppers poured into the country in June, sparking a second wave of infections that lasted into the fall. As of October 13, Croatia had reported 20,993 Covid-19 cases and 330 deaths, according to the New York Times’ coronavirus map.

The country’s real estate industry, which has grown steadily over several years, has managed to keep going. “The market never really died,” said Ms. Micetic. “My feeling is that it has been pushed back by two to three months.” She said she had virtual demonstrations with potential buyers throughout the lockdown, while those who wanted to come in the spring were postponed for July, August and September.

Elena Nevskaya, a senior consultant at Adrionika Consultancy and Coordination, said that tourism is the most common source of inquiries for real estate along the Croatian Adriatic coast. According to a report by Adrionika, there were twice as many inquiries from foreigners in May and June as in the same period of 2019. Many were for stand-alone villas with pools on the Istrian peninsula for around 300,000 to 350,000 euros and seaside villas in Dalmatia for around 1.5 to 2 million euros (1.8 to 2.4 million US dollars). (Croatia operates with the kuna, although many transactions are made in euros.)

Ms. Nevskaya said the outbreak of the pandemic, along with the effects of an earthquake that hit Zagreb on March 22, caused prices to fall across the country, aided by low home loan interest rates, which are now around 2.5 percent.

However, the latest quarterly report from the Croatian Statistical Office found that property prices were up 8 percent compared to the second quarter of 2019, including a 9 percent increase in Zagreb. The earthquake that damaged many downtown homes reduced inventory levels and shifted focus for some potential buyers.

“We have seen an increase in the number of people looking for houses and building plots compared to apartments,” said Boro Vujovic, director of Zagreb-based agency Opereta and vice president of the Real Estate Brokerage Business Association in the Croatian Chamber of Commerce. “Both the coronavirus and the earthquake made the people on the ground feel better with a piece of their own land.”

In the luxury market, Ms. Micetic said Sotheby’s has seen a slight decrease in foreign interest over the past seven months as people have been unable to visit homes in the spring. But there is a niche clientele that never runs dry. From January to September of that year, the company listed 69 properties and 11 sold, out of 61 listed properties and eight sales in the same period in 2019.

The rural Gorski Kotar region, like other less densely populated areas in Croatia, does not attract much interest from foreigners, but interest is slowly growing, brokers said.

Mr Vujovic said the pandemic had boosted activity for vacation homes and agricultural land in the area. Customers were looking for clean air and water, as well as being close to Zagreb and the coast. “After the pandemic,” he said, “the value of isolation, nature and peace has increased significantly.”

According to a report by Sotheby’s, foreign buyers account for around 15 percent of property transactions in normal years, with Slovenes usually topping the list given the shared border with Croatia.

Ms. Micetic said she had seen inquiries from Austrian, Slovenian and German buyers this year. So does Peter Ellis, the director of Croatian Property Services, who has attracted increasing attention from Germans on the Istrian peninsula, where buyers may be looking for second homes by the sea.

Nowadays, new buyers typically come just a few miles from Croatia, Ellis said, especially from western Europe, and often inquire about second homes or investment properties.

Croatia, which joined the European Union in 2013, makes it easier for European citizens to access its real estate through a reciprocity law that allows Europeans to buy real estate without restrictions, as long as Croatians have the same rights in the buyer’s home country.

More than half of the US states also have reciprocity with Croatia, including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and California.

Non-European citizens must obtain permission from the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Croatia to purchase real estate. From there, a buyer wants to find a Croatian lawyer – usually in-house with the broker – to handle the closing. Once an offer is accepted, buyers pay approximately 7 percent of the total cost of the home in taxes and fees, including amounts owed to the agent and legal advisor, as well as property transfer tax.

Croatian; there (1 there = $ 0.16)

There is no annual property tax in Croatia when the house is used as a primary residence, Ms. Micetic said.

Mirjana Micetic, Croatia Sotheby’s International Realty, 011-385-21-586-957; sothebysrealty.hr

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