Celebrities, sun-seekers fuel Montenegro property boom

Celebrities and sun-seekers from the East and West are fuelling a property boom in Montenegro that has seen prices surge two-fold in the year since the tiny Balkan state won independence

Investment speculators led the influx, snapping up houses, apartments and plots of land wedged between Montenegro’s craggy mountains and its glimmering Adriatic coastline

But, with the speculators having moved on to Albania after arriving from Croatia, the buyers today are a mixture of foreigners — mainly Russians, Britons and Irish citizens – looking for a place in the sun
When my son decided to buy a flat in Montenegro, I didn’t even know where it was, but it sounded exotic,” said Margaret Hodgson, who moved with her husband to the Bay of Kotor last year from a town near York, in northeastern Britain
“So we came down to spend a week here, and decided to buy a flat too. Here in the bay it is fabulous. We like the people and the food is excellent,” said the tanned Englishwoman, beaming with a smile

Along with Budva, Kotor’s old city — which is listed as world heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) for its well-preserved medieval structures — is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Montenegro, situated in a secluded part of a gulf described by some as Europe’s southernmost fjord

Other major attractions include the iconic island of Sveti Stefan, which features luxurious stone houses whose guests have included film stars such as Elizabeth Taylor and Sylvester Stallone

In January, Sveti Stefan’s famed hotel was leased out for 30 years to Singapore’s Aman Resorts in a deal that also included two other Montenegrin beach resorts

Among the celebrities reportedly showing an interest in the former communist republic are the US actor Michael Douglas, ex-Formula One champion Michael Schumacher, the Williams tennis sisters and businessmen like U.S. property tycoon Donald Trump

Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire who owns English football club Chelsea, has been buying up land along the Ulcinj riviera, further down the coast near the Albanian border, local residents said

The oil oligarch has focussed on Velika Plaza, a 13-kilometre-long (eight miles) stretch of beach where he reportedly wants to build a luxury tourist resort

Another project launched since Montenegro broke away from a union with Serbia in June 2006 following a historic independence referendum involves Canadian businessman Peter Munck

In October, Munck signed a deal with the government to buy a military shipyard and develop a stretch of coastline in Tivat, which has an airport that links the coast with European capitals

“The arrival of Canadian millionaire Peter Munck in Tivat caused prices to explode in this small town, where a square metre currently sells for between 2,000- 2,500 euros ($2,700-$3,300),” said Dragan Kascelan, a local property agent

That is part of a trend that has seen prices on Montenegro’s 200-kilometre (125-mile) coastline soar by up to 100 percent in a year, according to property agents

Although some local experts predict stagnation, a report this month by global real estate agents Colliers International said the growth “shows no sign of slowing down.” “Montenegro’s coastline has become one of the most potent property investment markets in the world, as our research shows,” said Jovan Jovanovic from the Serbian branch of Colliers

“Revenue from the sale of real estate in Montenegro has increased by 400 percent in just two years, according to official figures,” said Jovanovic

While the property boom has only made a slight impact on the Montenegrin economy, which posted growth of 4.5 percent in 2006, it is far more noticeable on the winding roads linking the capital Podgorica with the coast

Lorries loaded with bricks and other materials clog the route, along which an increasing number of warehouses have sprung up to provide a steady supply for new constructions

For the Hodgsons, there are no concerns however that the building boom might spiral out of control and harm the ambience of their new hometown

“We don’t want to see concrete buildings all the way around. Unlike in Budva, this area has a great harmony,” said Michael. “We do not think that the bay will get overdeveloped.”

Source: Serbianna

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