This FAQ reflects the current thinking about many aspects of the project and the information that we have about the state of the building. This thinking will evolve and answers will change as we learn more about the building and the needs of the community. Estimates will change as they get more detailed and we get quotes for specific works.
Owners have access to our Loomio platform where we make decissions and discuss the progress online.
Not at all! English will be the official language of Coliving Semkovo. Learning some survival Bulgarian will help you get around the country, but it is not necessary for being part of the community.
The will be an annual co-op member meeting for voting on the following subjects:
Votes will be decided by majority, with a quorum requirement. Some aspect might require a super majority.
Each member will get a vote. Aside from annual meetings, special meetings will also be called when necessary.
* Note: Although policies, budgets, contract information, etc will be fixed initially, every aspect of community governance is capable of being changed if a majority agrees to do so. This includes voting out Matthias as chairman. These changes will, however, require the consent of a critical mass of people.
Members will receive monthly reports, as well as an audited annual report. The community will use a digital platform as a means for member discussions and voting.
Matthias Zeitler is the founder of Coworking Bansko and the Bansko Nomad Festival. He is an entrepreneur with a unique background who has a vision of bringing people together in ideal settings. You can watch a short video by euronews about him and some of his achievements here.
Coworking Bansko was built into a destination for digital nomads by him, located not far from Semkovo. It contains many of the same community values, activities work spaces that are envisioned for Coliving Semkovo, but does not offer living accommodations and it is also not community owned. So Coliving Semkovo will improve upon the Coworking Bansko experience.
The Bansko Nomad Festival is an annual event that brings together more than 500 digital nomads and remote workers for a week of networking and summer events in June/July. Matthias wants to build upon the success of the festival and also develop similiar event formats in Semkovo.
As mentioned before, Coworking Bansko is also a project founded by Matthias. He considered building a full-scale coliving space there, but it proved to be unrealistic. Having carefully considered all of the factors involved, Matthias learned valuable lessons through the Bansko experience:
While Coliving Semkovo will not replace Coworking Bansko, it will serve as a different type of venue, separate but connected. There will be some overlap between the members/alumni of the two locations, but the goal for Coliving Semkovo is to have it be a shorter-term experience for people who come and go, as opposed to Bansko, where people live full-time.
Matthias has sold Coworking Bansko so that he can fully focus on Coliving Semkovo
We will get some interior design suggestion for units as well as communal areas and also get inspired by great coliving and coworking design concepts from around the world.
We will aim for a similar modern design that people expect from a leading coliving space.
Coliving Semkovo is using a community ownership model because Matthias believes it will create a unique experience where every owner is motivated to contribute to the success of the project. With 200 owners promoting the project and wanting to rent out their apartments and grow the coliving business, it will be a strong form of word-of-mouth marketing. Owners will also be more motivated to run activities that they enjoy for the community, such as quiz nights, karaoke, group hiking, book clubs, cocktail nights, skill shares, and day trips, compared to just being customers of a coliving space. Additionally, being able to influence the high-level strategy and budget of the community business will engage owners more than being part of a community that is owned by a business that sees everyone as just customers.
We assume that the total budget for this is going to be about €6,000,000 excluding the renovation/furnishing of the insides of the apartments. The total project cost is going to be the price of the building, the cost of the project development including the legal process of splitting the units in the cadaster, installing individual water/electricity meters, the cost of the renovation of the coliving areas and the furnishing of the coliving areas.
So divided by 230 units this gets us to a price of about €30,000 per unit on average.
The units have different sizes and some are more attractive then others. Some have a small balcony, some have big windows, some have small windows under the roof. Some are in a better shape then others (like the bathrooms, the windows, the hallways etc.) which impact renovation effort and cost.
Block A will be available for occupancy before we start with Block B renovations. We expect most of Block B to be ready by December 2024.
We estimate that the renovation and furnishing of the units will cost between €10,000 (smallest, simple) to €25,000 (biggest, more luxurious)
Pricing afterwards will increase with market rates as the whole project becomes more attractive.
If you are interested in the project then don't wait too long.
What we already did in the past:
What we are working on right now:
We aim for a soft opening in June 2024 and our grand opening in July 2024, however the actual timeline depends on many factors, so it will be accessible first for owners before we welcome the first guests.
May, but not at this early stage. The current budget assumes that we find enough buyers through Matthias’s contacts and our own marketing efforts. If this sufficient then we will need to pay commissions to agents or other sources of buyers. This will increase the cost of the units, so we will build commissions into later stage pricing.
You will get a notary deed that confirms your apartment ownership. You can freely sell your apartment and do not need any approval from the other owners as long as all your fees are fully paid.
When you sell your apartment, you can either sell your co-op share to the new owner or the co-op will redeem it at nominal value. It will be up to the co-op to decide if owners from resales will get new shares at nominal value or if the only way to acquire shares will be from the previous owner. But that is a discussion for a much later time.
You cannot keep your co-op share after selling the apartment. As the destination develops and the coliving pricing increases we would expect that the apartment prices increase.
Bulgarian banks will normally not finance real estate purchases for foreigners. This includes foreign nationals that have a permanent Bulgarian residence. Foreign banks will normally not finance real estate in Bulgaria. Banks also generally avoid loans to entrepreneurs or freelancers, even if they can show a lot of income.
So most likely you will not be able to get financing unless you are a Bulgarian national with a stable salary from a reputable Bulgarian company that has been paid into your Bulgarian bank account for the last few year.
Yes, foreigners can buy apartments in Bulgaria.
Unfortunately getting residency in Bulgaria is getting difficult for non-EU citizens. It is not tied to ownership.
There is a trade representative visa option for people that have a company outside Bulgaria and then basically send themselves to represent the company in Bulgaria. It is not easy, nor fast, and requires a lawyer for the process.
There is some talk about a digital nomad visa for Bulgaria in the future, but the party that was advancing this is no longer in power. So it is unclear when/if this would be available. Bulgaria offers a 90 days visa free stay within a 180 day period for most foreigners. See https://visaguide.world/europe/bulgaria-visa/ for more info.
Taxation is a personal topic and depends on many factors, including where your tax residency is and if you own the unit as person or via a company, domestically or abroad. If there are double taxation treaties etc.
In Bulgaria you will have to pay 10% income tax on rentals at the source. The co-op will not distribute taxable dividends, but provide benefits (i.e. reduce the owners fee). We will aim to find the most tax efficient setup and simplify tax payment from rental income if you otherwise have no Bulgarian sourced income.Please talk to your accountant for your specific situation.
We will see what’s possible for grants, but expectations are rather low. There are some government backed loans available to improve the energy efficiency of the building, including installation of a heating system and solar panels.
Here is an example calculation for the cashflow of a studio unit. Not considering periods where owners use the units themselves.Initially the occupancy rate will be low and we start with a low price point, see marked values in table below. So owners should expect to have a slightly negative cashflow (owners maintenance fee) or breakeven in the first year until we get higher utilization rates. But then it could become really interesting once we get to higher occupancy rates and are able to also raise coliving package prices due to becoming a more attractive destination with more people. Of course this depends heavily on our ability to make Coliving Semkovo an attractive destination for our target groups and promote it accordingly.(not financial advice, please make your own assumptions and do your own calculations.)
Owners will receive €200 per month for a studio, €400 per month for a large studio/1BR and €600 per month for a 2BR unit. Utility costs are reimbursed on top of the rent based on consumption. To make utility bills more predictable for guests we will charge the coliving guests a flat fee. We will have a booking system that will try to equalize utilization across units so that all owners will participate equally in the rental scheme. Owners that do their own promotion for their apartments will receive direct bookings of their apartment on top of the equalization scheme.
When you buy a unit we will charge a €500 non-refundable reservation fee per apartment to get the process started.
There is also an annual maintenance and service fee per unit. We will start charging this on July 1st. Expect about €500 plus €15 per m2 per year.
The coop will start with renovation of Block B units in July and then charge in milestones.
If you buy the apartment through a company, with a second owner, or if you buy multiple apartments then the legal fee will be higher as it is more complex.
Below is the typical net area of the different floorplans. Coliving Semkovo will probably keep most of the staff rooms for staff & volunteers or convert to budget accommodation. Or sell some as apartments even though they lack a view/balconies to increase the budget for common area upgrades.
Most units have their own small balcony or outdoor area.It might be possible to combine units if you want something bigger.
Some of the units have solid walls to separate rooms, others use wooden dividers. We will see where it makes sense to add dry-walls and where it makes more sense to keep the semi-open floorplans. Unit cost will be determined based on size, not on amount of walls.
For comparing pricing with other apartments elsewhere please consider that you are not only paying for the net m² of your unit but also that you also get a fraction of the ~8000m² common/communal areas that are about half of the total building size and a share of the coliving business. You will be able to rent our your apartments through the coliving and won’t need to worry about check-ins or how to organize maintenance when something breaks.
You can decide how you want to use / furnish your unit.To rent them out however it is best of most of the units have the same style, furniture and amenities as this will make it easier for guests to get a consistent experience.
For rental units the suggestion is:
We will split the renovation works into multiple stages and do one floor at a time. Owners that do not want to get their apartment renovated before opening will have the choice to select apartments on specific floors/blocks that are scheduled for later works. Overall the works should be renovation, not construction, which should cause less noise anyways.
Similar for common area renovation works we will do one area after each other, also considering that initially we will have probably only 50% occupancy and won’t need all areas yet.
The profit from apartment sales is reserved for building renovations and for the initial setup of the coliving areas.
The coop has authorized spending 80% of all income to make that happen, while keeping 20% as reserve for 2025.
The building has a lot of space, some of them being service areas, basements etc. So we will do the renovation in stages with the initial focus on areas that we will actually use from the beginning. And then as the operations grow bring more areas online.
The renovation budget includes:
We will hire some permanent facility staff to already be part of the renovation and help with some aspects with the idea of giving them a permanent position to maintain the building after the initial renovation is done. There are some older guys in the area that have been involved with the building in the past and know it very well. And also use outside contractors for defined work packages to get the renovation done in a reasonable time frame.
The budget also includes the basis to run the building as a coliving space like:
The list of works and purchases will be prioritized in a way to ensure that we can start operating the building. The owners will be able to express their interests to help with prioritization.At the moment it is not envisioned that the co-op needs to take any bank financing, however if the actual costs are higher, then it would be possible to e.g. finance the solar panels or heating system instead of paying them outright.
We will commission a more detailed technical inspection but so far the building looks in good shape considering its age and that it hasn’t been used for the last 4 years. There are no visible damages like water or mold and all the windows have been upgraded to aluminum frames already. The roof is solid concrete. Generally high quality building materials have been used in construction and all walls are solid.
There are two blocks A & B that are in different conditions: Block A is in reasonably good shape and will be easier to renovate. It has newer style aluminum windows and has been operated as hotel until they closed 4 years ago. We would initially start operating with those units. Estimates are based on Block A apartments
Block B needs more work in the apartments and common areas. Replacement of windows, all door frames, removing old wall paper, plastering, replacing fixtures in bathroom etc. We would renovate this block AFTER opening. Pricing for the units would be lower, with low/no owners fees until completed and we would split renovation costs across all units as some of the units might need more work then others to get them to the same level.
The apartments all need new carpets and fresh paint, some will need plastering and/or refinishing wood surfaces. The bathrooms are dated, but luckily have neutral tile colors.The existing furniture is solid, but old. While some could be upcycled and maintain some retro chic, most should be replaced, especially to create a modern feeling in the apartments.
We would hire an interior designer to help with making the apartments and common areas great. To renovate a studio apartment (Block A) and getting it ready to rent out would probably cost about €10,000 (estimate). The renovation of apartments will already be managed by Coliving Semkovo, so the costs will be transparent and any economies of scale will benefit the co-op.Block B studio units will probably require €12,000 (estimate) as windows need to be replaced in most units.
Owners can also decide to buy unfurnished units and renovate them themself (within time limits to minimize impact on operations), furnish it differently or maybe even keep it in its unrenovated state until they plan to use or resell it.
To rent out a unit via the coliving scheme, the minimum requirement is to have an Inverter AC and the compatible smartlock, however it is desirable if all rentable apartments have the same furniture, design, and amenities.
Here is a list of 20 “must-visit” coliving spaces and the cheapest private room option in each for a one month stay for one person. (pricing as of Oct 10th). Not all these prices are comparable as they are in very different locations, but the trend is clear: people pay for coliving and Coliving Semkovo would be a clear low-cost price leader initially and then we have enough room to grow to a more premium pricing while the destination develops.
We will make Coliving Semkovo an attractive destination year-round. In periods where outdoor activities are less exciting we will focus on doing events and attract organizations that want to do events. This can be workations, team building, bootcamps, language camps, coding schools or similar type of activities that need accommodation and event space. We will aim for events that are in line with our core community, so a medical conference for dentists might not be the right fit - unless they bring lots of money :-)
We are building an distraction-free adult-only coliving space, so children under 18 years are not allowed on the premises - and we might put a restrictive covenants into the deed to also make this binding for individual apartments not only the coliving areas.
The owners might change this policy later with a vote in the co-op, but generally this is not a place with the needs of kids in mind. While we develop Semkovo as a destination it might be possible that in the more distant future there are other owners or guests that create another coliving space for families close by, but do not count on it please. There might be much better places for kids than Semkovo.
Owners can keep small pets (cats, dogs, goldfish…) in their apartments. Pets will not be allowed in the coliving areas, but each block has a direct entrance that can be used to get pets in/out of the building.
Pets that cause issues with other guests or owners, like frequent noise or smell issues, will be asked to leave the property. Also aggressive pets will be banned on the first offense. Owners will be responsible for damages that their pets cause to the building or landscaping. The specific way how these conflicts will be mediated will be describe in the co-op rules, but expect that we will make these rules binding via restrictive covenants.
Owners will be able to decide if their units should be rented out as pet-friendly - and if there is an additional charge for pets to cover possible damages to their apartment.
As we are in a rural area and have a lot of space there, it is feasible to build an animal shelter / small stable nearby where pets can live outdoors together.
The plan is that owners put Inverter ACs into all apartments.
The building is built with solid walls and we should be able to keep utilities for apartments at about €50 per unit per month on average. This cost will be collected as part of the coliving bookings from external guests. Owners will pay their own consumption while the unit is not rented out.
Another great source for heating the coliving areas is a large wood chip burner / biomass system. It requires wood chips to operate, but those are 50-70% cheaper than wood pellets and easily available in areas with an active forestry management - like Semkovo :-)
We also aim to put a large solar installation on the roof to cover at least a part of the electricity usage for the coliving areas. Current ROI on solar with commercial electricity rates is about 3-5 years, so this is a sensible investment and will also provide more value to the owners.
It might also be possible to install a hydro power plant in a nearby stream which would provide a more consistent power source than solar.
We will also upgrade the building infrastructure to include more “smart” automation as well as install energy consuming lighting and other systems to optimize costs.
So while heating a huge property like this without breaking the bank is a challenge, the scale of the building will help us to find an economical solution and use technology that is way more advanced than when the building was originally built.
All owners will get a specific booking URL to share for their specific apartment, so when you promote it people will book your place when it is available. If it is not available then of course other units will be proposed.
If you want to provide your apartment to a friend or family member for free, then they can pay the coliving fee of €150 per month directly and can choose if they want to use the cleaning service or not. You can decide to cover or charge utilities. We will support these free bookings in the booking system. And you will also be able to set a higher rental rate in the booking system, e.g. if you furnish your apartment to a much higher level. The other fees will increase prorated for apartments with higher base rents.
It will not be possible for non-guests to get access to areas in the central block of the property. So basically everyone will need to be either an owner or pay the coliving fee.
For a studio the standard monthly fee is expected to be €499(*) initially, this includes roughly:
(*) if unit/renovation costs are higher then also the initial package cost will increase to maintain the same return for owners.
Shorter term rentals (weekend, event, week) will be priced proportionally higher. When the business grows and the destination becomes more attractive we might be able to raise prices accordingly. Aiming for a coliving package of €600 - €750 for a studio within 3 years is not out of the question looking at coliving properties around the world. The owners rent will increase proportional when we realize higher prices. If we decide to run promotions, then the owners rent will decrease proportionally for participating owners. Initially we expect about 40-50% occupancy, but aim to raise this as we gain more momentum.
The initial budget will be set at a level to maintain the building, build a future repair fund, and operate the coliving regardless of any external coliving guests. And with a risk buffer as initially there are probably more repairs and we don’t know yet how much everything is going to cost.The estimate for the first year is €800 for a studio (1 pax), €1650 for a one-bedroom (2 pax), €2400 for a two-bedroom (3 pax) which includes the coliving access for 1 owner.
Guests will pay for the coliving membership which brings in additional revenue to the business and allows to offer more services and amenities.
The owner’s fee will decrease based on the commercial development of the business as well as how the owners decide to distribute or reinvest profits from the coliving operations.
The prediction is that the owner’s fee will decrease to €0 with a 40-50% utilization and the current coliving pricing for owners that rent out their units. However once utilization grows it should be possible to increase pricing which will generate a higher cashflow for the business and reduced owner fees for everyone.