Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Buying a farm in Slovakia

Maybe we were just lucky but buying a farm in Slovakia was rather easy. Having lived in West Africa for several years, working for different employers and on short time contracts, moving every two or three years to a different place, with different neighbors, a different language and a different job, we felt the need to settle.

Where to start when looking for a farm in Slovakia? Most real estate agencies publish their offer on this website: Reality.sk, it contains a data base of over 100.000 properties in Slovakia.

In April 2008 an eight hectare property which had been on the website for over a year, but had always been far above our budget, lowered its asking price with more than 25%. It was on offer by one of the biggest agencies (Romanticke Chalupy) that has an English-speaking agent in the UK. We contacted her and the additional information she gave us made us very interested in the smallholding.

Since we couldn’t take time off we had to take the risk and buy the farm without ever having seen it. We asked a Dutchman living in Slovakia to have a look at it to be sure it was not next door to a nuclear plant, garbage dump or a national highway. He had a good feeling about the place, which made us want to buy it.

In Slovakia a foreigner cannot buy agricultural land, however you can own a company. Companies can buy land… Since living in Africa setting up a Private Limited Company, or S.R.O. in Slovak jargon, was more complicated than we thought. To summarize a long story: it did not work. So there we were, we had already paid a 20% advance to our farm but were only able to buy the buildings (a house and a barn) and not the land. The director of the real estate agency suggested that “for the time being” he would put the land titles on his name and would transfer the land to us when we would come to Slovakia and set up the S.R.O. This does not sound as something to do when you want to be on the safe side. However, we had no other option and the company gave us a good and trustworthy feeling.

In December 2008, three months after arriving in Slovakia, we met him to sign the papers and became official owners of our own smallholding in Slovakia!

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