Your Story….A Tampa Gardens investor from Yorkshire, UK

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White Mountain: Tell us how you discovered Tampa Gardens, Brasov, Romania for investing?

John G: I was attracted to Romania during the boom years when property was far outstripping equities as a form of investment. Unfortunately, by the time I had actually signed the final sales contract on my apartment in Tampa Gardens in Brasov, in Jan 2010, things were very different. It was however still a worthwhile investment, once you got forgot the impossible promises of the absolute scoundrels who pedal foriegn property investments from their cupboards in london (here here, about time someone spoke up!). Property investment remains a mid to long term investment whichever country you invest in and that seems to be the thing to remember.

In short, I view this as an alternative investment, something different, interesting, fun – a great excuse to visit.

White Mountain: What has being so involved has meant to you?

Romania itself (in my brief experience) is a fascinating, exasperating and exciting place to do business and travel. I thoroughly enjoyed my two trips travelling through Romania to get to Brasov and the chance to get to see a few more areas of Romania because you are buying property than you would just as a tourist.  I am a cauious Yorkshireman so my route to purchase was long and torterous as Damian will testify, but I like to think I dotted most of the i’s (a few times), so others may be happy taking a slightly more cavalier route which I am sure worked out well in the end, However these are my experiences.

There is no substitute for getting on the plane and sorting things out face to face however difficult it is to organise getting the time off!  At one point I was going to have a local lawyer to the final signing for me and then we also needed a poa for White Mountain to act as managing agents on our behalf. I don’t know how much time and money I wasted with UK lawyers doing powers of attorneys for people (I didn’t really know!) to act on my behalf in Romania and then not using them because  the wording had to be ‘slightly’ changed. Damian did warn me however several times that it is much quicker and cheaper to do the poas necessary in Romania, as they have to be in Romanian anyway! Of course, I didn’t head his advice but ended up doing them again in Brasov when visiting, on top of doing them in England!

White Mountain: Any special advice for someone starting out?

Get a local lawyer (preferably recommended) to look over the sales documents. The lawyer acting for the developer was also the one put forward by the uk investment property finder, and I wondered why they didn’t seem that active on our part. So I took on another lawyer who ripped through the sales agreement and made the developer sit up and notice. This gives you some comfort. I also paid the lawyer to hold my hand at the signing just to make sure I was signing the right thing (I don’t read or speak Romanian, do
you?)

A wise (Yorkshire) man once said to me that it is hard enough buying property in the uk, so they weren’t about to try abroad. This is I found to be true. But it is good fun if you can roll with the punches. I can’t really but someone like Damian can so I learnt to cut him some slack to make some independent decisions and let him take them for me. ie I trusted him to design and fit my apartment to the Romanian high-spec taste and it saved me thrashing around at Ikea etc).

As with all business, it is good to be in it with some else. I ended up buying this with my 75 year old father. We enjoyed our trips out together to see the property, it eased the hassles involved and having a grumpy but experienced retired businessman on your side does get you some way!

White Mountain: Anything interesting or unusual you wish to add?

John G: I spent months and months exploring the different options of getting round the land ownership conundrum.  I am a now a Romanian resident. I don’t really want to be a Romanian resident. My mother rang me at one point to check that I wouldn’t be called up for Romanian national service. (I’m not) When I bought, foreigners couldn’t own land, only the right of superfecies (ie the building on that land.)

The deal proposed was that the developer was to keep ownership of that land until the law changed (which it was promised to but hasn’t as far as I know.) Being an over cautious YM, this didn’t appeal as what might happen to the land if the developer went bust (which it did a year later.) So the lawyer suggested the way round was for me to report to the local police station, with my euro health card, passport and E15.00 and 30 mins later I had a certificate with my very own CNP number. All slightly too easy for someone who likes to do things the hard way.

Anyway, I am not the first to do this and at least can now eventually sell my property, building and land which should make it a bit easier.

My father & I enjoyed trying to make the attractively but determinately miserable looking girls smile. We didn’t enjoy the bureaucracy, the over confident but harmless property salesmen. I became tremendously frustrated trying to apply normal uk property rules to Romanian transactions (circle in a square hole).

John’s investment remains one of the best furnished examples & most sought after of Tampa Gardens development. Some agents climb over each other to add it to their books when it becomes vacant again as it represents a well presented luxury apartment & yet was done on an affordable budget.

This was achieved in part by using custom made, fixed furniture which will prove more durable & timeless than fashionable furniture from places like Mobexpert. Strong but plain wall papers, strong but popular colours for the sofa, kitchen & bedroom furniture should ensure this apartment does not need to be refreshed until 2021 or so, making it a great investment. Many people make the mistake of equipping their places entirely from Ikea because it is easy. Check the receipt & youl will see it is not in fact always cheap, & can age more quickly than you would like, with some styles.The video below shows the before & after process.  The most important thing to remember is, for a given budget, a would-be tenant should walk in & be wowed instantly. If it does not invoke that feeling, you will have a perpetually half-committed tenant always ready to move. It costs almost as much to furnish with poor quality materials as it does with desirable items.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFdo3_sBokA[/youtube]

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