Somewhere between whipping up batches of fresh (and medicinal) mint mojitos in your cramped city apartment after work and getting sunburned on exotic beaches during your two measly weeks of vacation a year, a lightbulb switches on. Why not live the tropical life all year round? It’s a not-uncommon fantasy in these waning days of a long winter: Ditch the high heating bills, smothering winter coats, and oppressive tweetstorms of your homeland, decamp to an inexpensive beach town abroad—and live like royalty.
We’re here to tell you: It can be done.
But buying a home on U.S. soil is stressful enough. Finding an abode abroad can be even more so—you want somewhere both safe and affordable, with a community of expatriates for company. And once you whittle down your list of potential new homelands, you’ll have to contend with a host of laws governing foreigners buying property.
This is where the peripatetic data team at realtor.com® comes in. We found some of the most affordable international beach towns where expats-wannabes will want to live—and where the regulations make it entirely possible.
To create our list, the realtor.com data team first ruled out countries that have extremely restrictive policies on foreigners buying property. We also eliminated landlocked countries, and limited the final ranking to no more than five countries per continent. Then the following data points* were pulled in:
Citizenship ranking from U.S. News & World Report, which measures human rights, gender equality, and religious freedom
Top expat destinations ranking of 65 countries from InterNations, a global network
-Average internet connection speed (so you can work remotely)
-Low homicide rates
-Home affordability index from numbeo.com, a global consumer prices website
-Cost of living index from numbeo.com
-Average yearly temperature, to ensure plenty of beach days
Once we got our list of countries, we aggregated several international beach rankings from publications such as Condé Nast Traveler, CNN, and TripAdvisor to help us come up with our list of beaches. And we eliminated beach communities without nearby homes under $250,000.
Sunny Beach, Bulgaria
Bulgaria population: 7,084,571
Coastline length: 354 kilometers
Sunny Beach is a formerly notorious resort located on the coast of the Black Sea. It was built in the 1950s by the former Communist regime as a playground for the Soviet-era elite. Over the past decade or so it has come into its own as an expat hot spot for European and U.S. home buyers alike.
Buying in Bulgaria attracts mostly people seeking an alternative life: freelancers and IT professionals who can work from anywhere they choose. In Bulgaria there is great broadband internet everywhere, good quality of life, and foreigns can integrate with locals.
But where Sunny Beach really has the advantage is dollars and cents. Bulgaria is inexpensive. Among the countries on which we collected data, only three European countries had a lower cost of living: Belarus, Serbia, and Romania. And the country is friendly to foreign investment.
Foreigners are inquiring about Sunny Beach–area homes as of late. Most are looking around the 20,000 euro ($25,000) price point, for either a studio or one-bedroom. Bulgaria allows foreigners to buy apartments, condos, and homes—just not the land they sit on. But once you own the home, you’re allowed to rent it out. So you can net a little side cash.