Buying residential real estate is a great way for foreigners to be allowed an extended stay in Croatia. Foreigners are allowed to purchase some types of real estate property, depending on their nationality as ability to purchase is based on reciprocity agreements between Croatia and other countries.
In this post, we review step-by-step how any foreigner (including EU citizens) can purchase a house or apartment in Croatia including some tips on avoiding obstacles.
Before we get started, it’s important to stress that you should always engage a lawyer when buying property in Croatia regardless of whether you are a foreigner or not. It’s a very messy industry rampant with fraud and misrepresentation. While we explain exactly how you can do it below, it is highly recommended to have an experienced real estate lawyer representing you in purchase to avoid problems. If you’d like an introduction to an expat-vetted professional, just contact us.
With that disclaimer out of the way, ajmo!
How to buy residential real estate in Croatia
If you haven’t yet found a property to purchase, there are many resources online for finding a home in Croatia. The one locals use is called Njuškalo. We can also connect you to an expat-vetted real estate agent if you’d like a professional to help in your search.
If you’ve already found a property that you’re interested in, what do you do next?
#1 Look up the property records
Checking the records on a piece of real estate is a vital step in the purchase of property. Doing so can help you avoid a messy negotiation or inheriting burdens that have nothing to do with you.
The following information can all be found in public records:
- Size in square meters
- Purpose of the property
- Owner name(s)
- Owner OIB(s), in some cases
- Owner registered address(s)
- Any burdens or rights to the real estate
You can find detailed instructions on how to find this information on a property in this post.
#2 Check how the real estate is zoned
Next, you must check if the property is zoned as residential or agricultural. Unfortunately the zoning information is not included in the public information you’ll find in Step #1.
The zone type is important because not everyone can purchase agricultural property. Anyone who is not a Croatian citizen is forbidden from purchasing agricultural land through 2023.
However, it is possible for non-Croatian citizens to purchase land for agriculture if purchased through a Croatian company that they own. It is still not as simple as it sounds. There are many hoops to jump through. If you are interested in purchasing farm land through a company, we can put you in touch with a vetted real estate lawyer who can guide you on the process. Email us for an introduction.
To find out how a property is zoned, you must file a request with the Upravni odjel za graditeljstvo I prostorno uređenje (Administrative Department for Construction and Physical Planning). Here is a list of their offices.
If the property is residential (and you are not Croatian), you must request a certificate stating this. The cost is 40 kuna.
#3 Prepare the contract
The sales contract is typically prepared by the purchaser – specifically, the purchaser’s lawyer. This is how you can guarantee that your interests, assets and money are safeguarded.
The contract will outline the deposit (if needed) and terms of the purchase. It is common to pay a 10% deposit, called “kapara”. If the buyer doesn’t fulfill their end, then they lose the deposit and the property. If the seller doesn’t meet the requirements on their side, they must refund the buyer double the deposit.
You need to get notarized copies of the contract: one for the seller and one for the buyer. Contracts are notarized by a javni biljeznik (notary public). [Read: How to get something notarized]
#4 Request permission to buy from Ministarstvo pravosuđa (Ministry of Justice)
Before foreigners can finalize the purchase real estate in Croatia, they must get permission from the Ministry of Justice to buy the property. EU/EEA citizens can skip this step as they do not require consent from the Ministry of Justice.
As part of this process, the Ministry of Justice checks existing reciprocity agreements with your country of nationality. Your country of nationality (or state/province in the cases of the USA and Canada) must have a reciprocity agreement in place with Croatia for you to be given permission to purchase a property. If you’re unsure if your country has an agreement, then check the form at the bottom of this page. We’ve only included those nationalities with permission.
To request permission, you must file a request with Ministarstvo pravosuđa.
This request should include:
- Original certification from Upravni odjel za graditeljstvo i prostorno uređenje (what you did in step #2)
- Notarized copy of the purchase contract
- Certificate from land registry confirming that the seller is also the owner (provided by the owner)
- Proof of citizenship of buyer (such as a passport, notarized)
- Notarized copy of driver’s license for US and Canadian citizens to show proof of your last address (since reciprocity is with the state and province, respectively)
- Copy of your residence ID in Croatia (if applicable)
- Original power of attorney for a representative within Croatia who can receive mail on your behalf, if you do not have a registered address within Croatia
The ministry has 60 days to review your request and then will either approve or deny it, although it can take longer. If your request is denied, then you cannot purchase the property.
The cost for this procedure is 35 kuna.
#5 Pay the remaining balance
Once you receive approval from the ministry, you can pay the remaining 90% of the sales price.
If you are an EU national or have permanent residency, you may qualify to get a mortgage. We have two posts about mortgages, here and here. Usually banks require approval from the ministry, if applicable, before they will process your application for financing.
#6 Register purchase with Uređena Zemlja (land registry)
Within 60 days of the last step, you must register the property purchase with the land registry.
The cost of this procedure is 250 kuna. If you don’t file with the land registry until after 60 days have passed, then the fee increases to 1.050 kuna.
When registering the purchase with Uređena Zemlja, you must provide:
- Full notarized contract
- Certification from Upravni odjel za graditeljstvo i prostorno uređenje
- Decision on approval to buy from Ministarstvo pravosuđa
- Proof of citizenship of buyer (such as a passport, notarized)
- Original power of attorney for a representative within Croatia whom can receive mail on your behalf, if you do not have a registered address within Croatia
During this process, the land registry reviews all of your purchase documents and will either approve or deny the change in the land registry. It is imperative that all of your documents are 100% accurate. Even the tiniest mistake like one wrong digit in an OIB can result in denial.
Once you receive approval from the land registry that you have been listed as the new owner, you can request a copy of the certificate of ownership. The cost to get a copy is 20 kuna.
Once you have the certificate of ownership, you are officially the owner of a home in Croatia. Čestitam!
The next step is to change all of the utilities into your name. Here is a guide that explains how to do this.
If you need help finding and purchasing a property, we can help! We have carefully vetted a network of real estate agents and lawyers who can help you buy real estate in Croatia with confidence.
- Answer all of your property questions
- Find property records
- Clean property titles
- Help you find the right property
- Help you purchase a property and represent you during the process
- Ensure you are not taken advantage of by property sellers
- Prepare and review contracts
- Help you sell a property
- Engage local contractors and interior designers
To get help from a vetted real estate agent, please share your needs with us using the below form. Based on those needs, we’ll match you with the right person best suited to help. Please note that to be connected with a real estate agent, you must already have financing secured.
Please note: All information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. For legal advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant. We can recommend one if you contact us.