8 things to know about buying Croatian property

Village of Ložišća on island Brač

UPDATED: 20/08/2021

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

Properties in Croatia are divided to:

  • Apartments
  • Family houses
  • Agricultural lands
  • Forest lands
  • Construction lands
  • Business properties

No matter what you decide to buy, you should familiarize yourself with some basic rules and best practices. It’s critical to have your eyes wide open when walking into the Croatian property market.

In this article, we cover:

  1. Who can buy property in Croatia
  2. Rights of ownership
  3. Status of “aktivna plomba”
  4. Why a pre-contract is useful
  5. Why a contract must be bullet-proof
  6. What if the owner doesn’t match
  7. Why property disputes are complicated
  8. 70 meters rule
  9. How to get help with buying property

Let’s get started…

#1 Who can buy property in Croatia

Croatian citizens

Croatian citizens have the right to purchase all types of property, including agricultural land. In addition, citizens have access to housing loans with Croatian banks and also state subsidies. For example, there is a subsidy for young people who want to buy their first home.

EU/EEA and Swiss citizens

Nationals of EU member states and legal entities from EU member states can acquire the right of ownership under the same rules as Croatian nationals and legal entities with headquarters in Croatia, with regards to residential property. EU/EEA citizens are not allowed to purchase agricultural land as individuals, as there is currently a ban in place until 2023. They can only purchase agricultural land using a Croatian company.

An EU/EEA citizen can purchase residential property without obtaining consent from the Ministry of Justice.

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

Non-EU/EEA citizens (including the UK)

If you are a third-country national, 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-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 level. If you are from the US or Canada, Croatian Ministry of Justice will determine your rights according to your last residence (prebivalište) in US or Canada. Provide them your ID card and a passport.

Below is the 2021 list of reciprocity agreements in place, which also notes those that are in discussion. You may download the latest list from the ministry in Croatian here.

Countries with property reciprocity agreements with Croatia

CountryReciprocity Status
Republic of AlbaniaReciprocity Exists Provided That The Value Of The Investment Should Be 3X The Value Of The Land. Cultural Goods, National Parks, Nature Reserves, Museums, Lands With Special Ecological Values, Military Facilities As Well As Forests And Agricultural Land Cannot Be Purchased.
Algerian People 's Democratic RepublicDetermination In Progress (Waiting For Notification Of The Competent Authority)
Arab Republic of EgyptReciprocity Exists Provided: 1. The Number Of Real Estates May Not Exceed Two In The Entire Republic; 2. The Area Of ​​Undeveloped Land Must Not Exceed 4000 M2; 3. The Purpose Of Ownership Should Be The Residence Of The Alien And His Family Or The Activity For Which He Has Obtained The Approval Of The Competent Authorities
ArgentinaReciprocity Exists
AustraliaReciprocity Exists Under The Condition Of Permanent Residence In The Republic Of Croatia. If It Is An Investment, Then A Special Approval For Foreign Investment Is Required.
BelarusReciprocity Exists For The Acquisition Of Residential Buildings, Dwellings And Other Dwellings, While Land Can Only Be Acquired By Inheritance
Bosnia and Herzegovina - Brcko DistrictReciprocity For Natural Persons Exists On The Condition That They Permanently Reside In The Republic Of Croatia Or Perform A Permitted Activity
- For Legal Entities, Provided That They Perform Their Activity In The Republic Of Croatia
Bosnia and Herzegovina (Republic of Serbia) Reciprocity exists (no limit)
Bosnia and Herzegovina/ Federation of Bosnia and HerzegovinaReciprocity Exists (No Limit)
British Virgin IslandsDetermination In Progress (Pending Response From The Competent Authority)
Brunei DarussalamReciprocity Exists
CanadaReciprocity Exists, Depending On The Province; So Far It Has Been Established That Reciprocity Exists For: Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, Manitoba, Yukon, Prince Edward Island.
Community of DominicaReciprocity Does Not Exist
CyprusDetermination In Progress (Pending Response From The Competent Authority)
Federal Republic of BrazilReciprocity Exists
Federal Republic of NigeriaDetermination In Progress (Pending Response From The Competent Authority)
Hashemite Kingdom of JordanReciprocity Exists (Residential Real Estate Or For Premises In Which One Conducts One'S Own Activity), Except For Land And Other Real Estate In Non-Urbanized Zones.
Islamic Republic of AfghanistanReciprocity Does Not Exist
Islamic Republic of IranReciprocity Does Not Exist
IsraelReciprocity Exists: No Private Property Limitations; State Property, Is Limited By Prior Obtaining The Appropriate Permission Of The Competent Israeli Authority
JapanReciprocity Exists
Kingdom of BahrainDetermination In Progress (Waiting For Notification Of The Competent Authority)
Kingdom of MoroccoReciprocity Exists
Kingdom of NorwayReciprocity Exists, If The Unit Of Local Government And Self-Government Does Not Oppose The Acquisition And If The Area Of ​​The Real Estate Does Not Exceed 2000 M2; Reciprocity Exists If A Legal Transaction Is Concluded Between A Spouse Or Relative
Kingdom of Saudi ArabiaDetermination In Progress (Waiting For Notification Of The Competent Authority)
KuwaitDetermination In Progress (Waiting For Notification Of The Competent Authority)
MalaysiaReciprocity Exists, Provided That The Value Of The Property Must Be At Least $ 55,000. A Legal Person Must Acquire Real Estate For Business Purposes, Ie The Real Estate Must Be Used To Perform Economic Activity
MontenegroReciprocity Exists
New ZealandReciprocity Exists If No Higher Value Of The Property Is Acquired (More Than 10 Million New Zealand Dollars Or Land Larger Than 5 Hectares) (If Such Real Estate Is Acquired, Then The Acquisition Will Be Possible If The Conditions Specified In The Law Are Met)
People's Republic of ChinaBranches And Outlets Established By Legal Entities Of The People'S Republic Of China As Well As Their Citizens Who Have Worked Or Studied In The Republic Of Croatia For More Than A Year May Purchase Commercial Accommodation That They Will Use Themselves Or Live In Accordance With Real Needs
Hong KongReciprocity Exists
Principality of LiechtensteinReciprocity For Natural Persons Exists Provided That They Reside Permanently In The Republic Of Croatia, And That The Real Estate Is Used For The Residence Of The Acquirer Or His Family; Reciprocity Exists If The Legal Transaction Is Concluded Between The Spouses Or Relatives In A Straight Line Or In A Collateral Line Up To The Third Degree; Reciprocity For Legal Entities Exists Provided That The Real Estate Is Used For Economic Activity
Republic of AzerbaijanReciprocity Does Not Exist, Foreign Natural And Legal Persons May Use Real Estate In The Republic Of Azerbaijan Exclusively On The Basis Of Rent.
Republic of CameroonReciprocity Exists Provided That The Real Estate Is Not In The Border Area And That The Area Does Not Exceed 10000 M2 (1H)
Republic of ChileReciprocity Exists (There Is A Restriction On Real Estate That Is Considered A Common Good And Is Owned By The State)
Republic of ColombiaReciprocity Exists
Republic of EcuadorReciprocity Exists
Republic of GhanaDetermination In Progress (Waiting For Notification Of The Competent Authority)
Republic of IcelandDetermination In Progress (Pending Response From The Competent Authority)
Republic of IndiaReciprocity Does Not Exist
Republic of IndonesiaIn The Process Of Determination (Further Clarification Of The Competent Authority Is Awaited)
Republic of IraqReciprocity Does Not Exist
Republic of KazakhstanReciprocity Exists
Republic of KoreaReciprocity Exists For The Acquisition Of Residential Buildings, Apartments And Other Residential Premises With The Additional Condition That The Unit Of Local Government And Self-Government Does Not Oppose The Acquisition
Republic of KosovoReciprocity Exists
Republic of LebanonReciprocity Exists
Republic of MoldovaReciprocity Exists, Except For Forests And Agricultural Land.
Republic of Northern MacedoniaReciprocity Exists
Republic of PanamaReciprocity Exists With The Restriction Of The Impossibility Of Acquiring Real Estate Located At A Distance Of Less Than 10 Km From The State Border
Republic of ParaguayReciprocity Exists
Republic of PeruDetermination In Progress (Waiting For Notification Of The Competent Authority)
Republic of SerbiaReciprocity Exists
Republic of SingaporeDetermination In Progress (Further Clarification Of The Competent Authority Is Awaited)
Republic of the CongoDetermination In Progress
(Pending Clarification By The Competent Authority)
Republic of the PhilippinesDetermination In Progress (Pending Clarification By The Competent Authority)
Republic of TurkeyReciprocity Exists
Republic of VenezuelaDetermination In Progress (Waiting For Notification Of The Competent Authority)
Russian FederationReciprocity Exists
Saint Kitt and NevisReciprocity exists
South African RepublicReciprocity Exists
State of QatarReciprocity Exists For Natural Persons For Residential Real Estate, And For Legal Entities It Is A Condition That They Must Have A Partner From The Republic Of Croatia With An Ownership Share Of 51% In Each Business.
Syrian Arab RepublicDetermination In Progress (Waiting For Notification Of The Competent Authority)
Taiwan (Republic of China) Determination in progress (waiting for notification of the competent authority)
UkraineReciprocity Exists
United Arab EmiratesDetermination In Progress (Waiting For Notification Of The Competent Authority)
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Reciprocity exist
United States (USA)Reciprocity Exists For The Following States: Alabama, Arizona, Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District Of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin , Wyoming; While For The Following States The Condition Of Permanent Residence Is: Arkansas, Hawaii, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oklahoma And Vermont
VenezuelaDetermination in progress (waiting for notification of the competent authority)

Moratorium on sale of agricultural lands

At this time, only Croatian citizens and Croatian companies can purchase agricultural land.

EU/EEA citizens cannot own agricultural land in Croatia due to a decision by the European Commission, which is valid until June 30, 2023. This ban is due to differences in economic, social and other important factors between Croatia and other EU/EEA countries.

Citizens of other EU/EEA member states often have greater purchasing power than Croatian citizens. If EU/EEA citizens were to purchase land, it would make it more difficult for Croatian farmers to buy land. In addition, the restructuring of the Croatian agricultural sector would also be slowed down.

Aside from the ban within the EU, there has been no indication that non-EU/EEA citizens will ever be able to purchase land in Croatia.

However, foreigners (EU and non-EU) can buy agricultural land in Croatia under one exception. They can buy an 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 Croatian economy. Also, Croatian companies are considered Croatian “people” for the purposes of purchasing land.

#2 Right of ownership

Real estate is a messy and dirty business in Croatia. It is very important to inform yourself and have a skilled property lawyer that is looking after and protecting 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 owner of the property must be submitted to the competent municipal court that leads the land register.

Another way is to submit a request online using e-Građani or for your lawyer or a notary public to make the request via a service called “Zajednički informacijski sustav zemljišnih knjiga i katastra – ZIS OSS”. It is available here.

The service is available to Croatian citizens and citizens from:

  • Belgium
  • Estonia
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Luxembourg
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia

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

Sometimes there are owners who will make contracts with more than one buyer. The first seller to register with the land registry will become the legal owner, even if other buys 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. 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.

#3 Status of “aktivna plomba”

Once you find a property that 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”. Aktivna plomba 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 the ownership. It can be, for example, a procedure in process by the land registry itself.

There are a lot of counties in Croatia that don’t have a proper land registry. Instead, they have what is called 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 a lot of 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.

Anything that is happening and is still active is considered “aktivna plomba”, even if it is just a 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 they 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 make sure the property is clean, and also clean the title if there are still open processes.

We have a network of vetted property lawyers across Croatia. If you would like an introduction, please contact us.

You can check if a certain property has a status of aktivna plomba here.

#4 A pre-contract is useful (and should be required)

In Croatia, it is common to make a pre-contract before buying a property. This is a smart decision because it adds security to the whole process and protects you as a buyer (or as a seller). A pre-contract serves to define the terms of the property sale and the intention to purchase (or sell). It includes information on the property and description of the property, as well as the obligations for the buyer and seller.

It is recommended that you have a lawyer to help with drafting 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 at the notary public called “javni bilježnik”.

This information that must be included in the pre-contract:

  • Cadastral municipality
  • Number of the plot
  • Number of the land register entry in which the property is registered
  • Description of the property (for apartments: address, floor, apartment number, description of rooms, total surface)
  • Price
  • Date of concluding the final contract
  • Deposit

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

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

It is important to know that 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 A 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 who has a lot of experience in writing property contracts. This is the only way to ensure your rights and interests are protected.

Every purchase contract should include:

  • Information defined in the pre-contract
  • Date of delivery of the property to the buyer
  • Seller’s guarantee that there are no third-party rights on the property
  • Other information that you found crucial to the agreement

Multiple copies must be made, which all should be verified by notary public.

A copy of the contract goes to:

  • Seller
  • Buyer
  • Notary public
  • Land register department of the competent municipality court
  • Tax administration
  • Bank (if you are applying for a mortgage to buy the property)

#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 the 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 a full ownership of the property. This situation can be solved by an agreement between all co-owners or via 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 on 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 there are certain disputes between parties that cannot resolve it 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 you can with as much care as possible.

#8 Rule on construction 70 meters from the sea

There is a specific set of rules that regulate new construction on the coast. These rules include a ban on building less than 70 meters away from the sea.

In the undeveloped areas of settlements that are less than 70 meters away from the sea, only certain constructions can be built including:

  • Hotels
  • Public buildings
  • Arranged public areas
  • Infrastructure buildings
  • Other buildings such as shipyards and ports

However, this doesn’t apply to settlements that are part of a government-determined urban plan and settlements where more than 50% of buildings are used for permanent residence.

In a separate construction area outside of settlement, constructions cannot be built for:

  • Production and trade less than 70 meters from sea
  • Catering accommodation services less than 70 meters from sea
  • Permanent or occasional housing (apartment buildings)
  • Recreation and rest (holiday houses)

In the undeveloped areas of construction areas outside of settlements that are less than 70 meters away from the sea, only infrastructure buildings and other buildings such as shipyards and ports can be built.

These rules are defined by the Decree on the regulation and protection of the protected coastal area of the sea (Uredba o uređenju i zaštiti zaštićenog obalnog područja mora). It is available here.

Here you can find the latest publication that sums up information on Croatian real estate market It includes general information about real estate in Croatia according to types of property. The basic indicators shown for each type of real estate are the average (medial) purchase price and the average (medial) size of the real estate. Information is available at the level of the entire country, counties, local units, Zagreb, and level of the cadastral municipality.

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

See our other posts on property in Croatia

Need help buying real estate in Croatia?

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. Please note that to be connected with a real estate agent, you must already have financing secured.

They can:

  • 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.


Sources:
https://gov.hr/moja-uprava/stanovanje-i-okolis/vlasnicka-prava/upis-prava-vlasnistva/1855
https://gov.hr/moja-uprava/stanovanje-i-okolis/kupnja-prodaja-i-najam-nekretnine/kupnja-nekretnina-za-strane-drzavljane/1618
https://gov.hr/moja-uprava/stanovanje-i-okolis/kupnja-prodaja-i-najam-nekretnine/kupnja-nekretnine/155
http://www.uredjenazemlja.hr/default.aspx?id=36
https://gorila.jutarnji.hr/vijestigorila/gorilopedija/lifestyle/ekonomija_i_pravo/aktivna_plomba/
https://www.petric-kajic.hr/vodic-za-rjesavanje-imovinsko-pravnih-odnosa-na-nekretninama-za-poduzetnike-1-dio/
https://www.petric-kajic.hr/vodic-za-rjesavanje-imovinsko-pravnih-odnosa-na-nekretninama-za-poduzetnike-2-dio/
https://vlada.gov.hr/vijesti/vuckovic-moratorij-na-prodaju-poljoprivrednog-zemljista-strancima-je-vazna-odluka/29755
https://mpu.gov.hr/informacije-o-uzajamnosti-u-stjecanju-prava-vlasnistva-nekretnina-izmedju-republike-hrvatske-i-drzava-izvan-europske-unije-te-svicarske-konfederacije/6186

Please note: All information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal advice in any form. For legal advice, you must consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. We can recommend one if you contact us.

Sharing is Caring:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to the Expat in Croatia Newsletter and get a FREE GUIDE to the 9 Tips for Battling Croatia's Bureaucracy.