Albania’s residence permit for investment: unexpected business opportunities and excellent prospects for life. What does the country offer?
Albania residence permit for real estate investment: which city to choose, how to buy a flat by the sea and why many entrepreneurs from Europe choose this country for relocation and starting a business? We talked about this with a Belarusian family who has been living here for seven years, working in real estate and tourism.
A bit of Albanian history
Albania as a holiday destination was discovered relatively not long ago by Europeans. There is little information about the «country of eagles» or the republic of Shqiperia (from the word «shqiponja» means «eagle» in Albanian) on the Internet, but one can find «horror stories» about the Albanian mafia, drug lords, high crime rates, blood feuds and cruel laws of the highlanders. «Wikipedia calls Albania the poorest and the only one Muslim country in Europe. Old Mercedes and military bunkers are considered the country’s calling card.
For 44 years, this Balkan state was ruled by the communist dictator Enver Hoxha. He closed the borders, made every family build a bunker in case of an attack from unfriendly countries. He has made beach areas «military installations», banned people from swimming in the sea and deprived them of the possibility of private transport. Anyone who dared to live a better life and looked to the «west» was recognised as an «enemy of the people». An information vacuum has developed around Albania.
In 1985 Hoxha died. The communist regime lasted another five years and was replaced in the 1990s by democrat rule. They banned communism and demolished all the monuments to the CPSU leaders. The country went into default, people became impoverished, food disappeared from the shelves and bread was given out on lists.
In 1997, popular riots broke out in major cities, leading to a coup. The government was overthrown, borders were opened and thousands of Albanians began their exodus to Europe. At the beginning of 2000, there were over one million Albanian refugees worldwide.
What kind of investment or holiday could we talk about in those realities?
Stereotypes about Albanians and Albania are now being broken by those who have been here at least once
The seat of prime minister of the republic has been held for the third time since 2005 by Edi Rama, the head of the party. The country has quickly become free of diktat, taking the path of progress and development. An innovator, qualified architect and artist, the Prime Minister began to rebuild the country actively: new high-speed roads, tunnel tracks in the mountains, modern schools and hospitals, markets and shopping centres, the development of the mining and oil industries grew, and foreign trade missions opened. Under the brand name «made in Albania», local farming, textile, leather and medicinal products began to conquer the international market and confidently became leaders among the Balkan countries in attracting foreign investment.
A member of NATO since 2009 and an official candidate for EU membership since 2014. In 2020, the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, became head of the OSCE. In 2022, the state joined the UN membership list. In 2021 Albania welcomed more than 7 million tourists, taking into consideration that its population is 2.5 million people.
The country’s resorts are among the top 25 most popular tourist destinations in Europe and have been named by The New York Times and Lonely Planet as one of the world’s top tourist destinations in 2014 and 2019. Tourists’ reviews in recent years have been full of references to the amazing wild Albanian beauty, the delicious and cheap food with huge portions in restaurants, the boundless hospitality of the Albanians, the safety of travel and accommodation in the country. At the same time, tourists are surprised by the large number of luxury cars, chic mansions with rooftop pools and the minimal number of women in hijabs on the streets.
Belarusian businessmen Olga and Vitaly Bondarik have been living in the Albanian resort town of Vlora since 2016. During this time, the couple managed to set up Bond Investment Group, a corporation combining several companies and lines of business. Vitaly Bondarik runs a real estate agency He runs a sales, rental and property management agency and is involved in investment projects.
Olga is a licensed tour guide in Albania, she opened the first Russian speaking authoring tour and travel agency and runs a popular travel-blog on Instagram on behalf of Lola Bond (nickname) about the beauty of the country and life here. She is an immigration consultant, providing legal advice for foreigners to start a business and apply for a residence permit. She also manages rental accommodation, under the «Rent in Albania» brand, offering over 50 apartments on the Vlares coast. Olga created Albania’s first news channel in Russian and launched a communication platform for those living and travelling in Vlore — a chat group on Telegram
The «Bond companies» (as their partners and clients call them in a friendly way) occupy two spacious offices in the city centre, have provided workplaces for Albanian and Russian-speaking employees, and promote Albania in the international media, at trade fairs and conferences.
Business in Albania the Belarusian way
— We were the first Belarusians to move and open a business in Vlora, — shares Vitaliy, «We live in a beautiful coastal town where two seas — the Ionica and the Adriatic — meet. Albania’s third largest city with 144,000 inhabitants. It is home to the country’s second most important international seaport and the longest (14 km) and most modern coastline, Lungomare.
There are many luxurious hotels on the coast and there are gated complexes with villas, swimming pools and helipads. Vlore was the location for filming «Oryol i Reshka» TV show in 2021. The host of the project, Nastya Ivleva, described Vlora as an elite resort for wealthy people.
We have managed several successful businesses in Belarus. We have done projects with well-known public figures and entrepreneurs. Olga ran high-level charity programmes, set up a family education club, and she ran a chain of shoe and accessory shops of well-known brands.
We went to the Albanian seas for a honeymoon in 2016 on the advice of business friends. They were looking for income-generating property in Albania. We were also talking about buying a flat in Spain or Cyprus at the time, but Albania..! The guys touted the country as a promising holiday and investment destination.
We decided to make the trip, and — we fell in love with this Balkan region at first sight! Not once over the years have we regretted choosing Vlera to live in. We jokingly call it «our little Nice». For many tourists, Albania reminds them of Greece, Italy or Croatia — but the prices are much cheaper.
If you’re thinking about immigration, relocating your company or planning to buy property by the sea, we invite you to take a closer look at Albania. Our agency EstateAll is an investment expert and one of the leaders in the sale of Albanian real estate since 2016. The company’s agents and brokers are certified professionals with an economic, legal background and speak seven languages, including Russian.
In January 2022, laws regarding real estate agencies changed — without a state licence, one cannot engage in this type of activity in the country. We do business within the framework of Albanian laws, we value our reputation, we pay taxes, we try to help clients by fulfilling their requests — everything is the same as in Belarus.
Because of the slowness of the Albanians in their work, their peculiar way of life and approach to business, organising business processes here as we are used to seeing in Minsk is a difficult task. We had to learn to build our relations with local partners and contractors according to their rules. We have to be flexible in business. We have quickly built ourselves up from the competition with our depth of case work and our individual approach to clients. We put humanity and mutual support at the heart of our business, not just finances.
Our family business motto is «We love what we sell and we respect those who we sell to».
We organise charity events to support orphans with the Vlora Town Hall and members of parliament. Social projects are the domain of my wife Olga. She has had nine foster children in Belarus. Having moved to Albania, she continues her heart’s work, helping disadvantaged women and children.
Our family is respected in business circles, and is constantly cited as an example at town meetings and conferences. Local media and TV channels often make reports about us. The Albanians like the fact that immigrants from Belarus have managed to create a successful business in their country.
— Sometimes we are in shock, how in such a short period, without the support of friends and family, and without a large financial investment, we were able to achieve a high result in our work! The feedback from satisfied buyers of flats, more than 50 of which are under our management, and the huge number of Russian-speaking expats whom we have helped with the move, speak better than words, — adds Olga.
Why are more and more business people choosing Albania to move to?
— Two seas, the Ionica and the Adriatic, meet here. 300 sunny days a year. A comfortable Mediterranean climate. Amazing nature with parks and nature reserves, home to flamingos and pelicans.
There are many things in Albania with the word ’the most’ in them: the oldest Lake Ohrid in Europe with unique flora and fauna, the wild Vjosa River (Leonardo DiCaprio himself stood up for its eco-preservation), the highest Niwica waterfall and the impassable northern Prokletije mountains. The most dangerous pass, the Llohora Pass, with its narrow and winding serpentine route, impresses even seasoned tourists with its views of the Albanian Riviera and the tiffany-coloured Ionian Sea.
The country produces natural products without GMOs or the use of chemicals, a rich history, unique traditions, language and culture, UNESCO-run attractions, religious tolerance and tolerance of all nationalities, hospitable people — Olga lists the main advantages of the country.
— There can be a lot of talk about the advantages. As a businessman, I can see that most investors like Albanian property prices by the sea. Many are buying a home in order to get a residence permit on that basis, — continues Vitaliy. — Since 2018, there has been active interest from clients from Europe.
It is Albanians themselves who invest primarily in residential and commercial property. They buy penthouses, luxurious villas, facilities for restaurants and hotels. A large percentage of investors are Italians, Poles, Norwegians, Finns, Germans and Swedes. The Russian-speaking population was in the minority.
But in the last two years, buyer demand from the countries of Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine has increased by 60%. During the pandemic period from 2020, Albania was one of the few countries to receive tourists without tests and vaccinations. That is why many people went for holidays and for real estate to us.
— Since March 2022, we have been receiving daily requests for residence permits for real estate and requests for company relocation, and as a lawyer I handle dozens of requests a day, — says Olga about the current situation in the immigration field.
— The Aliens Act, which was amended in June 2021, opened up more than 20 grounds for granting residence permits, including for property buyers, businessmen, «digital nomads», freelancers, retirees and students. Italian grandparents, English and German retirees have rushed to buy flats in Albania. Their pensions allow them to obtain a residence permit and live comfortably in Albania, enjoying the climate and natural food. Businessmen are attracted by the loyalty in taxation, the ease of starting a company, and the incentives for investors in the tourism, hospitality, energy and education sectors.
Good logistical location — the country borders Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, Kosovo and Greece by land, as well as Italy and Greece by sea, which opens up prospects for trade. From Vlerea to Brindisi in Italy it takes only 5 hours by ferry. From Durres (the country’s main port) it takes 8 hours to Bari.
Two active international airports, one in the capital Tirana and one in the north of the country, in the town of Kukes. Since November 2021, construction has started on an intercontinental airport in the village of Novoselje, 20 kilometres from Vlora. A booming real estate market, a growing economy, minimal inflation, swanky new roads, restored cities, innovative government projects, digitalisation in service systems. The investment projects have changed the country in the six years since we moved here. The Albania we moved to in 2016 and Albania today are so different!
What is special about the property market in Albania?
— Property can be divided into resort and metropolitan types, land with villas and houses, land for commercial development and farmland. There are residential complexes under construction and secondary housing for sale, — Vitaliy explained.
— Many buyers believe that they can buy a flat many times cheaper at the «excavation stage». This was possible five years ago. The cost of construction has risen by 14-20% in the last six months. This happened against the backdrop of the global economic crisis: oil and building materials became more expensive, and prices for services went up. Finding a frontline flat with sea views for 30,000 euros is no longer realistic, and for 40-50,000 euros there is less and less marketable property in the resort cities.
We work throughout Albania and have a large and constantly updated database of properties throughout Vlora and the region. EstateAll agents are aware of the current situation on the housing market and keep abreast of changes in Albanian legislation. In the realities of our time, businesses need to be flexible and keep abreast of any changes related to the field.
The demand for flats by the sea has increased, as well as the prices, and offers for cheap and good-quality housing are getting smaller every year. We do not lure buyers with low prices, but tell them the reality of the Albanian real estate market. If you are currently considering whether to invest in a flat or wait until next year, in case prices go down, get ready for an additional 20-30% price increase.
Which city is best for investment?
It depends on what the purpose of the purchase is: the flat is needed for personal relocation, for obtaining a residence permit, for making an income. Maybe you want to rent it out, or plan to go on holiday for the summer, or invest in real estate so that you can sell the property later with capitalisation, then these are the criteria you need to consider. For some reason for many buyers there have been only three main resort towns — Durres, Vlora and Saranda.
We can offer many more options of awesome new buildings along Albania’s coastline. If considering Tirana, Albania’s capital, for a move, get ready for an accelerated pace of life and traffic jams. It has almost a million inhabitants and some of the most expensive real estate. There are many luxurious hotels, fancy cars, restaurants and hangout spots. Universities, medical facilities, beautiful natural parks, one of the longest cable cars in the Balkans, majestic mountains and delicious traditional cuisine make the city attractive to foreign investors. A square metre of a flat in a residential community (houses from the 60-80s) starts at 900 EUR. In new buildings, prices range from 1,400 to 3,000 euros.
Houses with small plots of land start from €190,000, and villas in complexes from €600,000. Commercial real estate is in high demand. Western investors have entered the market in the hotel and retail segment. The Adriatic Sea is 40 minutes from Tirana. There is an opportunity to find a job and carve out a niche in the business, of course the competition will be higher.
— Durres, — Olga picks up on the theme, «is the second largest city, with wide sandy beaches and a major seaport of international importance. The Adriatic is a beautiful emerald colour, the entrance to the sea is shallow. It is not ideal for snorkelling, but it’s ideal for holidays with children. You can still find inexpensive accommodation in the city’s resort area.
The Balkan Peninsula region is seismically active, with many properties falling into disrepair during the 2019 Durres earthquake. We don’t want just to sell you a flat and earn a commission. We want the purchase to make our clients happy. A home is a symbol of cosiness, love and harmony. All of the properties we offer in Durres undergo the most thorough pre-sale check for technical specifications. On the downside, I would say the city is chaotic, with a lot of unfinished construction and partly unattractive neighbourhoods.
Life in the popular beach areas of Cerret, Golem and Kawaja fades with the arrival of winter. If you’re moving with children, it’s quicker to move out of the resort area into the city. Pros: 30 minutes to the airport, 40 kilometres to the capital, life is times cheaper than in Tirana, Vlera and Saranda. It is possible to buy a flat for rent. The region is in high demand during the season for families with children, especially those from near abroad — Kosovo and Macedonia.
— Shengjin and Velipoia are the northern resorts with the widest beaches on the Adriatic Sea. They are about an hour’s drive from the capital’s airport. I think that property investors are undeservedly ignoring many beautiful places in Albania, — Vitaliy expresses his opinion. — I recommend considering the beaches of the northern region of the country if you have a small budget from 30,000 euros. The proximity to Montenegro makes the region convenient in terms of tourist opportunities. Over the last two years many complexes with swimming pools have been built, a modern promenade and many interesting places to travel have opened up.
— Vlore attracts investors by the confluence of two seas: today you have breakfast on the Adriatic, and in the evening you swim in the Ionian sea. Beautiful wildlife! Snow-white beaches of uninhabited Sazan Island and Karaburun Peninsula are priceless! — Olga makes no secret of her admiration for the city she lives in. — Only the way of life here is unusual for our mentality. Not all businessmen are suited to the «avash-avash» style, which is Albanian for «slow». It took us three years to get used to the quiet, measured rhythm of the city.
Prices for high-quality flats (often unfurnished) with one bedroom (80 sqm), small side sea views, start from 80,000 euros or 1,000 — 1,200 euros per square metre.
We have a small selection of cheap flats in our database. We try to find flats for sale that will bring income for our buyers in the future. Liquid properties in Vlore sell out quickly. We are not looking for quantity — the aim of our agency is to sell high-quality properties at good prices.
Saranda is the southernmost resort town and the centre of Albania. It has a beautiful azure Ionian Sea. About 15km from the town there are the famous beaches of the village of Xamil. The international media called them the ’Albanian Maldives’. Corfu in Greece is just 50 minutes away by ferry. Greek style restaurants and hotels, plenty of luxurious accommodation, property prices and standards of living are the highest on the coast! The disadvantages are the mountainous terrain and the close proximity of the buildings to each other. For the same flat as in Vlore (80 square metres) you will have to pay from 90-120,000 euros, and if it also has picturesque views, be ready to pay 140-150,000 euros.
Why a property in Albania is worth buying if you can find it cheaper elsewhere?
In today’s realities, the country’s advantages are supportive legislation, no compulsory vaccinations and freedom of movement. Many maritime states such as Turkey, Italy and Spain have punished their citizens with huge fines for violating the covid regime. Albania is one of the few countries in the world that has opened its borders to entry and welcomed visitors without any restrictions.
The main advantage, which has been available since the beginning of 2022, is the possibility of obtaining a residence permit after acquiring real estate. What pleases our clients the most is that there is no limit to the amount invested.
Inexpensive housing maintenance. No big property tax which usually is included in the water bill (€3-5 per month). Low utility bills: you will pay €20 for a studio flat in winter. A one-bedroom Euro duplex will cost you €40 to €50 for electricity and water.
Like the rest of the Mediterranean, Albania has no central gas heating. We warm ourselves in winter with air conditioning and heaters, and in private homes there are fireplaces or boilers using wood or electricity.
Comfortable winter by the sea — temperature during the winter months usually don’t drop below +10 degrees Celsius and reach +18 degrees Celsius in the sun.
Ecology. Many people have lost allergies, chronic stomach and intestinal diseases, depression and headaches. Doctors say that the sea, sunshine and healthy food are our greatest healers.
Water. Albania has been called the spring heart of Europe. There are dozens of drinking water factories, even beer is brewed with water from artesian springs.
Natural food. Cheap farm products, a huge choice of seasonal fruit and vegetables, affordable seafood and fish. For example, a soup, fish menu as a second dish, and a glass of wine for lunch would cost you about €12. The seafood and meat are always fresh because the Albanians do not like frozen food.
The season starts in May, although you can swim in April (depending on the weather), and it lasts until the end of November.
Security. This is an important point for investors and expats. You can go for a swim in the sea, leaving your belongings on a beach chair — no one will touch them, and helpful Albanian grandparents will keep them safe. The senior generation remember Russian — they studied it in schools in the years of Albania’s friendship with the USSR. Compared to other Balkan countries, crime is low here, and Albanians have the most respectful attitude to foreigners.
Real estate is growing in value. A three-bedroom flat of 107 sq m with a sea view, on the first line, cost about 70,000 euros in 2016. Now the price for such a flat is as high as €120,000-130,000. Consider that the price has risen by 50% in six years. You can read about all the advantages of living in Albania at Olga’s Instagram page.
Disadvantages? Are there any?
— For us, by and large, there are no disadvantages. When we first moved in, the rubbish was annoying. After the cleanest streets of Belarus, it was unusual to see so much of it.
Since 1 June 2022, the country has phased out plastic bags and joined the global eco-trend. There are ’car-free days’ in the cities — all conscious Albanians are changing over to bicycles.
In general, if you are moving to a new place — define for yourself why you are doing it, your motive and reasons. You can’t run away from yourself and your problems. Just change the picture outside the window. It is important to put everything into place in your head before you move. Write down what you will be doing, what talents and competencies you have — believe me, anything can come in handy in a foreign country. Of course a financial safety bag is important. Put away all fears and doubts, believe in your future and yourself, make acquaintances among locals — so you can find your niche and feel comfortable in immigration.
How can I buy a flat in Albania?
— We were one of the first Albanian agencies to sell real estate online. We developed a scheme to buy a property without the client’s presence, with a general power of attorney issued to our company. We do selection and inspection by video call.
We check the documents with a notary. It is he who, according to Albanian law, is responsible and serves as a guarantor of the security of the transaction. If everything is good, we make a deposit on your behalf, reserving the flat for you. Then we conclude a contract of sale. You transfer the money by bank transfer to a special account at the notary. Once all payments are closed — the flat is yours!
If you wish, we will carry out construction and renovation work, furnish and fill the apartment with the necessary appliances and accessories and take over the management of it. If you decide to earn extra income from the property, we will rent it out.
Buying online is a good way to save you money and an insurance policy against frequent flight cancellations, closed borders, covid and visa restrictions. Dozens of clients have bought flats with our agency in this way. You can buy a flat remotely, and then as the world situation changes — come to a ready-made, equipped holiday home by the sea — no worries and no running around the authorities.
You can also come across EstateAll office in Vlares and choose a property here.
The futuristic grey-orange building, with outdoor TV advertising, is located at the beginning of the city’s promenade Lungomare — you can’t miss it. Go up to the first floor and you will find the offices of two of our agencies, EstateAll and AlbaniAll. The agents will give you a warm welcome and treat you with Albanian coffee or Mali mountain tea.
Our company has helped more than a hundred expats from different countries move to Albania, including Russian speakers. Now, there are more requests for residence permits for investment in real estate. On the part of Russian-speaking businessmen the leading requests are companies relocation, accounts opening and security of residence in the country for Russians and Belarusians.
Olga says: "As an immigration consultant, I would like to remind you that it is important to collect the documents competently and not to violate the visa regime for staying in the country. You can take legal advice from our agency Albania Consulting — we will send you step-by-step instructions. No one prevents you from applying for a residence permit on your own, but with the support of a competent specialist who can eliminate most of the issues there will be no problems in communication with the local authorities.
Our economist can help you calculate how much money you will need for a residence permit of one type or another. By law, you will need an Albanian representative to act as an interpreter between you and the Immigration Service at the interview. This is exactly the kind of escort that our lawyers and consultants provide.
We have fulfilled the dreams of three hundred customers for their own flat by the sea. You are always welcome and we are open to making new acquaintances. You don’t have to be a customer. For us, quantity is not the main thing. What matters is quality and humanity. Our offices are open to all — regardless of wealth, faith, belief or nationality.
In November 2021 we launched the EstateAll franchise partnership. If you are moving to Albania planning to open a business here — we offer to become part of our brand by opening an agency office in Durres, Tirana, Saranda or another city in Albania.
Also anyone can become a sales representative or an online agent, no matter what country they live in. To do so, you will have to complete training at the company and then prove yourself in sales during a trial period (2 months).
Our family has combined the main lines of business to provide quality services for foreign investors and expats. Once we were immigrants ourselves, but at that time there were no companies like ours who could have handled issues in the new place so comprehensively for us. Our relationship with most clients does not end with the sale of a flat, the granting of a residence permit or the provision of travel services, but develops into a trusting partnership or friendship.