Montenegro fast becoming property hot spot thanks to 007
You saw it as the backdrop to Daniel Craig's James Bond in Casino Royale (MI6 note: it was actually filmed in the Czech Republic)
. Pictures of it litter advertisements for the grunge fashion chain Fat Face. And soon, it may be one of Europe's property hotspots - reports The Guardian
Montenegro became Europe's newest nation after its formal split from neighbouring Serbia last summer. The 200-mile coastline, running between its borders with Croatia and Albania, is among the most beautiful in Europe and already attracts considerable interest from developers. Meanwhile, inland, there is the world's second largest canyon, 40 big lakes and a ski resort, which is now being given a makeover.
With 240 days of sun a year, it is little wonder that celebrities, including Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders, are buying property there.
'Foreigners feel secure about what they are investing in. They look at what's happened in Dubrovnik [over the border in Croatia] and see Montenegro has the same potential,' says Dragan Prelevic, a prominent Montenegrin lawyer who made his name with test cases fighting Serbian oppression but who now concentrates on property transactions. 'Millions of euros are flooding in to buy land, sometimes from peasants who don't even have bank accounts,' he says.
But this is not Montenegro's first summer basking in international glory. Back in the 1950s, Josip Tito, who was president of Yugoslavia from 1953 to 1980, was happy to see his country's Montenegrin coastline attract high rollers. Resorts like Sveti Stefan became favourites with Princess Margaret, Richard Burton, Kirk Douglas and Sophia Loren, who have each owned a home there. But hardline measures instigated in the dying decades of Communist control led to reduced affluence and fewer foreign visitors to Montenegro. Ultimately, war in the Balkans - although never in Montenegro itself - saw the country's tourist industry collapse in the early 1990s.
Now international interest is back with a vengeance, and this time led by British property buyers: some for holiday homes, most for investments.
Jonty Crossick of Ready2invest, a British property consultancy, says: 'There are a few new apartments at â¬3,000 to â¬5,000 [Â£2,000 to Â£3,400] per square metre, which puts them up there with the exclusive areas of the Costa del Sol or the Algarve and other established parts of western Europe. Then there are the houses that need renovation that you can buy for â¬20,000 [Â£13,600] - although there are very few left.'
Crossick says some areas have risen in value by 30 to 50 per cent a year since 2004, with the scale of new building limited by the proximity of high mountains to the sea.
There are limited numbers of modern homes built to the expectations of foreign buyers and tourists - many residences have smaller rooms and fewer luxury fittings than western Europeans expect, according to Justin Faiz of Pluto Developments, a London firm selling properties in Montenegro. 'Consider rentability when you are buying,' he says. 'The shortage of Western-quality apartments means these can attract a substantial premium on the rental market.'
Montenegro, however, is not without its problems. The infrastructure is still poor. There are few direct flights from Britain and the nearest international centre, Dubrovnik, is a two-hour drive from the border. There are reports of some water and electricity shortages too, although extensive regeneration projects are improving services.
No mortgages are available for foreign buyers, although some developers and estate agents offer in-house finance packages. 'All former East European countries now have Western-style foreign exchange protocols - except Montenegro. It's still much more bureaucratic,' says James Hickman of exchange firm Caxton FX. Clear title for foreign buyers is also difficult to guarantee. It is not unusual for rural land to have 10 parties claiming ownership.
But the worst problem may be that Montenegro has more than its fair share of maverick estate agents claiming fast-track access to new homes and planning permission. It may be wise to stick to companies with established track records.
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