8 things to know about buying Croatian property

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losisca island brac
Ložišća village on the island of Brač, Croatia

UPDATED: 19.3.2024.

Croatia is a very safe place to live. If you don’t pay too much attention to the complicated bureaucracy, you can easily settle here. However, buying a property in Croatia can become a complicated process if you are not well informed.

Croatian properties are divided into apartments, family houses, agricultural, forest, and construction lands, and business properties. No matter what you decide to buy, familiarize yourself with some basic rules and best practices. It’s critical to have your eyes wide open when entering the Croatian property market.

In this article, we cover:

The facts are these…

1. Who can buy property in Croatia

Croatian citizens

Croatian citizens have the right to purchase all types of property, including agricultural land.

EU/EEA and Swiss citizens

Citizens of EU/EEA member states and legal entities from EU/EEA member states can acquire the right of ownership under the same rules as Croatian citizens and legal entities with headquarters in Croatia without obtaining consent from the Ministarstvo pravosuđa (Ministry of Justice).

Citizens of the Swiss Confederation can also acquire the right of ownership under the same guidelines as EU/EEA citizens. However, when applying for entry into the land registry, they must enclose proof of temporary stay together with the rest of the required documentation.

[Read: Available visas and residence permits for Croatia]

Non-EU/EEA citizens (including the UK)

If you are a third-country citizen, the right of ownership of a property in Croatia can be acquired on the basis of reciprocity. The principle of reciprocity is called uzajamnost za stjecanje prava vlasništva na nekretninama u Republici Hrvatskoj.

Croatia has mutual agreements with non-EU/EEA member states that define the right of ownership of property. These agreements vary by country. Generally speaking, these agreements mean “Our citizens can buy property in your country, your citizens can buy property in our country.”

Each of these agreements defines conditions for their citizens to own property in each country. Some conditions require having a permanent stay in Croatia, some define the size of the property, and some require that you live in the purchased property.

For the US and Canada, reciprocity agreements are defined at the state and province levels. If you are from the US or Canada, the Croatian Ministry of Justice will determine your rights according to your last residence (prebivalište) in the US or Canada. Provide them with your ID card and a passport.

View the latest list of reciprocity agreements in place directly from the Ministry in Croatian here.

[Read: Croatian government ministries and what they do]

Moratorium on the sale of agricultural lands

Currently, only EU/EEA, Croatian citizens, and Croatian companies can purchase agricultural land. There is no indication that non-EU/EEA citizens will ever be able to purchase land in Croatia.

However, foreigners (non-EU/EEA) can buy agricultural land in Croatia with one exception. They can buy agricultural property if they open a business in Croatia or according to agreements between Croatia and their home countries. By doing business in Croatia, employing, and paying taxes, companies will contribute to the Croatian economy. Also, Croatian companies are considered Croatian “people” for the purposes of purchasing land.

[Read: Types of Businesses in Croatia]

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2. Right of ownership

Real estate is a messy business in Croatia. It is very important to inform yourself and have a skilled property lawyer look after and protect your interests. Just because you’ve signed a contract to buy a property doesn’t mean that you will become the owner of the property.

The right of ownership in Croatia isn’t acquired automatically when you buy a property. To obtain the legal right of ownership, you must register your purchase in the zemljišna knjiga (land register). The request to be listed as the property owner must be submitted to the competent municipal court that manages the land register.

Another way is to submit a request online using e-Građani or for your lawyer or notary public to make the request via a service called Zajednički informacijski sustav zemljišnih knjiga i katastra – ZIS OSS. It is available hereHowever, this service is only available to Croatian citizens and citizens from a few select European countries.

You must submit your request within 60 days after buying the property. Otherwise, you will pay the administration fee of five times the amount.

Sometimes, owners make contracts with more than one buyer. The first buyer to register with the land registry will become the legal owner, even if other buyers paid for the property. While this kind of fraud is illegal, it can still take decades to rectify a situation like this. This is just one example of what can go wrong.

Also, it is imperative that all of your documents filed with the land registry to obtain ownership are 100% accurate.

[Read: How to correct or change property records with the land registry]

3. Status of aktivna plomba

Once you find a property you wish to buy, the first step is to research the property to see if the title is clean. In Croatia, it is very common to find titles full of liabilities. Whenever there is an obligation, open dispute, debt, or liability against a property, it is listed in the land registry.

One type of liability is the status of aktivna plomba. It is a designation that the land registry received a “request” for a property that is not yet resolved, assigned to an official, or that the associated procedure has not yet been opened. Once there is a resolution, an assignment, or opened procedure, the aktivna plomba is removed from the land registry record. In other words, aktivna plomba means that a process for a certain request on a property is ongoing.

Depending on the type of request, it may turn into a liability and move Part C of the land registry record.

If there is an aktivna plomba, it will be listed on the land registry certificate online. It will be a link that connects to the open item for the property. However, the aktivna plomba is not a public record, so you can only view it if you have a legitimate legal interest. Only the owners have the standard right to see the issues related to their property.

That being said, not every aktivna plomba is linked to ownership. It can be, for example, a procedure in the process by the land registry itself.

Many Croatian counties don’t have a proper land registry. Instead, they have a Book of Contracts where they keep all the ownership titles and contracts in a special file. In this case, the land registry opening procedure initiated for that county is noted in the ownership certificate under aktivna plomba.

If the property is a building with many co-owners and one of them dies, the aktivna plomba related to the inheritance procedure conducted by the land registry will be listed for the entire building. In this case, it requires close examination to determine that the aktivna plomba is related to one flat, and not the entire building.

[Read: How to find property ownership records in Croatia]

Anything that is happening and is still active is considered aktivna plomba, even if it is just permission for the right of passage related to the building next door.

These ongoing, still unsolved processes can sometimes create doubts when buying a property. However, just because a property has aktivna plomba, it doesn’t mean that it cannot be resolved easily, so you can still buy the property. This is one of the reasons why it is critical to use a lawyer when buying a property. They can research the property to ensure it is clean and clean the title if there are still open processes.

4. Pre-contract is useful (and should be required)

In Croatia, it is common to make a pre-contract before buying a property, but it is not mandatory. This is a smart decision because it adds security to the whole process and protects you as a buyer (or seller). A pre-contract defines the terms of the property sale and the intention to purchase (or sell). It includes information on the property and a description of the property, as well as the obligations of the buyer and seller.

It is recommended that you have a lawyer to help draft the contract. They are professionals who will make sure everything is included and that it protects you and your interests. Every single detail is important. To confirm the validity of the pre-contract, it must be verified by a javni bilježnik (notary public).

[Read: How to get something notarized]

The deposit called kapara is the amount that the buyer pays at the time of the pre-contract. This deposit is tied to the contract’s terms. If someone pulls out of the contract or violates the terms, the deposit comes into play. Kapara is usually 10% of the selling price of the property.

If a buyer withdraws the purchase, the seller keeps the deposit. If a seller pulls out, the seller must pay double the amount of the deposit to the buyer.

Note: You cannot register yourself as the new owner with the land registry on the basis of a pre-contract. This is done on the basis of the full contract only, which follows the pre-contract. This full contract will include all information from the pre-contract plus other terms of the purchase.

5. Contract must be bulletproof

Making a contract is the most important aspect of buying a property. Be sure to define everything that is possible in the contract. This is a situation where you don’t want to take any risks or rely on trust. The seller may be your best friend, but defining all crucial factors is a must to avoid disputes, misunderstandings, or losses.

The safest thing to do is to leave this to a lawyer with extensive experience in writing property contracts. This is the only way to ensure your rights and interests are protected.

6. Sometimes, the owner doesn’t match

For you to register as the new owner of a property in the land registry, the old owner of the property listed in the contract (who you are buying from) must be listed as the owner in the register. Sometimes, these records do not match. If they do not match, you cannot register as the new owner. Your request for entry will be denied.

On the other hand, some properties have more than one owner listed in the land registry, which means that there is no one person who has full ownership of the property. This situation can be solved by an agreement between all co-owners or through the court.

If co-owners decide to make an agreement, they can determine ways of dissolution. They will have more freedom to cooperate and decide on the terms of dissolution, so issues can be solved faster.

7. Property disputes are complicated

Be sure to thoroughly check out a property before you start the process of purchasing. Property disputes can be very complicated, stressful, and time-consuming. Here is a guide to researching property records.

Any issues or disputes can drag out the entire process, especially if they are handled by the court. The court must follow all regulations defined by the law and it can take years or decades to resolve.

Courts usually handle cases when certain disputes between parties cannot be resolved on their own. In some cases, owners registered in the land registry are unknown or unavailable to claimants. Sometimes, the resolution will not be rightful ownership but instead will be a cash payment.

After the whole process is done and the new owner of the property is defined in the land registry, you can relax. Remember, you can ask for the right of ownership after signing the purchase contract, so do it as soon as possible with as much care as possible.

8. You don’t need a Croatian bank account

If you want to buy a property in Croatia, you don’t have to open a Croatian bank account. It is not mandatory. However, you must have Croatian OIB.

[Read: How to get an OIB]

When paying buying costs from outside Croatia, you will need additional payment information, such as a SWIFT code. Before buying, contact the Porezna uprava (Tax administration) according to the property’s location, and they will provide you with the necessary information. A list of Tax administration offices is available here.

Initial approximate values of properties, including construction land, agricultural land, forest land, and naturally barren land are available here.

Need help buying real estate in Croatia?

If you need help purchasing a property, we can help! We have carefully vetted a network of real estate lawyers who can help you buy real estate in Croatia safely with confidence. Buying property in Croatia can get sticky, so it is vital that you have a skilled advocate who is looking after your interests.

Real estate agents usually have an existing network of lawyers that they work with, however, those lawyers are focused on the interests of the real estate agency first,  and the seller second. As the buyer, it’s imperative to have your own lawyer to protect your interests.

Our vetted property lawyers can:

  • Answer all of your property questions
  • Find property records
  • Clean property titles
  • 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 lawyer, 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.

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View our other posts on property in Croatia

Sources:
Upis prava vlasništva
Glasovanje Hrvata u Bosni i Hercegovini
Kupnja nekretnine
Frequent questions by Uređena zemlja
Vodič za rješavanje imovinsko-pravnih odnosa na nekretninama(1.dio) by Petrić&Kajić
Vodič za rješavanje imovinsko-pravnih odnosa na nekretninama (2. dio) by Petrić&Kajić
Moratorij na prodaju poljoprivrednog zemljišta strancima je važna odluka
Informacije o uzajamnosti u stjecanju prava vlasništva nekretnina

Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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