How to buy residential real estate in Croatia (in 2020)

Buy Croatia real estate
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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, which allows non-EU citizens to live in Croatia for up to 9 months out of each year. However, there are limitations as well as additional requirements depending on where you are from.

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 market 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 a purchase to avoid problems. If you’d like a referral, 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 a 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 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 a referral.

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 pre-contract

In Croatia, it is common to have 2 contracts when purchasing property. The first is a pre-contract that outlines the intent to buy.

You technically can skip the pre-contract and only make 1 contract, but it is not recommended. The pre-contract comes with certain conditions that protect both the purchaser and the seller that having only 1 full contract will not allow for.

The pre-contract will also define the deposit. The deposit is usually 10% of the purchase price, which is paid at the time of signing the pre-contract. 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 3 notarized copies of the pre-contract: one for the seller, one for the buyer and one for the government. Contracts are notarized by a javni biljeznik (notary public).

#4 Request permission to buy from Ministarstvo pravosuđa (Ministry of Justice)

Before foreigners can purchase real estate in Croatia, they must get permission from the Ministry of Justice to buy the property. 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 pre-contract or full 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)
  • 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

The ministry has 60 days to review your request, and then will either approve or deny it. Even though they have 60 days, most applications are reviewed within 30 days.

The cost for this procedure is 35 kuna.

If your request is denied, then you cannot purchase the property. If you made a full contract from the start instead of using a pre-contract, then you must still pay the seller the full price of the property without actually buying the property. You can get your money back, but only through a court procedure, which will likely be lengthy. This is why using a pre-contract is the smartest move and limits your liability in case things don’t work out.

#5 Make a full contract

If the ministry approved your request to purchase the property, then your next step is to prepare the full contract with the seller.

This contract should be notarized. While the contract doesn’t need to be notarized to be binding, the contract you eventually file with the land registry to be named the new owner must be notarized.

After making the full contract, you can finalize payment of the balance. 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.

#6 Register purchase with Uređena Zemlja (land registry)

Within 60 days of the last step (usually making the full contract), 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)
  • 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. If the land registry denies you, then you will be forbidden from registering yourself as owner of that property for a period of 5 years. That is the penalty for non-Croatians.

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.

#7 Celebrate!

Once you have the certificate of ownership, you are officially the owner of a home in Croatia. Čestitam!

Need help buying real estate in Croatia?

If you need help purchasing a property, we can help! We have expat-vetted real estate/immigration lawyers and real estate agents across Croatia that can:

  • Answer all of your property and immigration 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
  • Handle your application for residency, from beginning to end
  • Selling a property
  • Engage local contractors and interior designers

To get help from a vetted expert, complete below form and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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2 thoughts on “How to buy residential real estate in Croatia (in 2020)

  1. Austin Bailey
    July 22, 2020 @ 5:41 am

    Hey Sara. Love your site and newsletters. Always a great resource.

    Any advice on how to choose home insurance in Croatia? There seem to be many companies to choose from. I’m not sure where to start.

    {reply}

    • Expat in Croatia
      July 31, 2020 @ 12:19 pm

      Hi Austin,

      Good to hear from you! Thanks for following the site and newsletter. 🙂

      Hmmm, I’m not familiar with this topic. But based on living here, I’ve always heard good things about Croatia Osiguranje and Wiener Osiguranje. I would start there.

      Cheers,

      Sara

      {reply}

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