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THE INDEPENDENT: Buying overseas: The full Montenegro

Published date: 15.05.2008 19:59 | Author: Kliping inostranih medija

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Billionaires arrive by yacht, but direct flights will soon allow the rest of us to pop over too. Laura Latham sizes up Montenegro
Sandwiched between Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia and Albania, the small country of Montenegro is becoming a big-hitter on the European property scene. Its stunning Adriatic coastline, clear waters and dramatic countryside is attracting an increasing number of tourists and overseas investors.
The nation's James Bond moment, when Daniel Craig took glamour to Montenegro in Casino Royale, gave the tourist board bragging rights. The World Travel and Tourism Council recently documented a rise of 39 per cent in the number of overseas visitors in 2007, and predicts that the upward trend will continue as infrastructure and accommodation improves.
Along with better roads, new marinas and spruced-up hotels, one of the main signs that Montenegro is preparing for the big time is the launch of the new direct flights from the UK. Next month, the national carrier, Montenegro Airlines, will start flying twice a week from Stansted to Tivat. Currently, getting to Montenegro entails a flight to Dubrovnik, in neighbouring Croatia. Though it's just over an hour from there to the popular resort area of Kotor, queues of up to two hours can often form at the border in either direction. The journey time between Tivat and Kotor is just 20 minutes.
"It's going to be bliss," says Andrea Marston of property agency Montenegro Prospects. "Buyers have been hoping for this for a long time."
Three years ago property in Montenegro was dirt cheap but the infrastructure was diabolical, however, times have changed. The beauty of the country, plus improved services and interest from several glamorous hotel chains, has created an environment that appeals to sophisticated travellers and investors.
Bernie Ecclestone, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Roman Abramovich are frequent visitors, and the glamour set is in such regular attendance that plans for a new marina specifically for super yachts is on the drawing board. Montenegro is no rival to Monaco yet, but on the right day, you'd be forgiven for thinking otherwise.
As a result, property prices have climbed by 40 per cent over the past two years with key locations such as Kotor seeing the biggest hikes. "For a nice, new two-bedroom apartment with sea views, you should expect to pay from £150,000," says Marston, "with villas costing from around £350,000 upwards." There are also lots of apartments in converted stone properties from around £230,000.
The priciest properties are right on the waterfront, along the pretty coastline and the large fjord known as Boka Bay. Imposing stone villas with land and lake access start at around £400,000 for something in need of work, rising to over £1m for anything in good repair.
Move inland and prices drop significantly but you'll lose the sea views and could end up in an isolated area. Still, with prices dipping below £80,000 for ruins and small, very dated country homes, you may make allowances.
For good value for money, try the unspoilt Lustica Peninsula, 30 minutes from Kotor, where renovation projects start from as little as £50,000 to £80,000 and new villas from around £240,000. It's also possible to find cheaper country properties around the town of Herceg Novi. For those thinking ahead, Alex Elphicke of agency Someplace Else says the next hot spots will be the towns of Ulcin and Bar, where there are miles of beaches but little development.
If the coast isn't for you, the mountains of the Durmitor National Park are beautiful and play host to skiers in the winter. Zabljak is one of the main resorts and here it's possible to find chalets with two or three bedrooms from around £40,000 to £100,000.
Due to a lack of quality accommodation, property owners are enjoying strong rental returns. The season lasts for five months and owners can ask around £500 a week for a two-bedroom apartment and £1,200 for a villa.
With its café culture, ancient towns and mountain vistas, Montenegro offers a tempting combination: the lifestyle we've come to expect from Italy, combined with an atmosphere almost as chic as that of southern France. Now that its popularity seems set to explode, the question is whether the country can preserve its beauty and maintain that special character.