Ultimate Guide to Foreigners Buying Property in Croatia

Whether you’re looking to move to Croatia for the long term or simply purchasing a vacation home, this young country offers various adventures for people from all walks of life. If you aren’t already familiar with its history and culture, this concise overview will give you insight into just how unique the country is.

Its stunning architecture and otherworldly natural landmarks will make you feel like you’re residing in your favorite book (especially if that book is Game of Thrones). 

Since you’ve found this article, however, you probably already knew that and are asking yourself: “How can I buy a house in Croatia?” 

This ultimate guide includes summaries of the residence permit and property ownership processes in Croatia. Along the way, you’ll find helpful hints and insights to help you keep your head from spinning. 

Before you jump in, just know that even in gorgeous and foreigner-accepting Croatia, bureaucracy reigns. Almost everything has an exemption or a caveat. On top of your standard research, it is recommended you consult a lawyer and necessary to find a fully certified realtor. 

That being said, your house hunting and the accompanying procedures are sure to go quicker and smoother than George R.R. Martin’s infamously glacial writing process.

Entry Requirements and Permits

An image showing a VISA application form, a passport, and a pen

If you are a hands-on kind of person and want to be involved in the realty search on the ground, you’ll want to know how long you can stay. You’ll probably want to consult the Croatian Embassy’s guide to these and other processes.

Short-Term Stays 

Stays of up to 90 days are a breeze if you are an EU or EEA national, have a Schengen visa or residence permit, or are from countries with visa exemptions (including the US, Australia, and Canada). If you are from a country that requires a visa, you’ll need to apply with a diplomatic mission/consular post of the Republic of Croatia. 

Regardless of your situation, you are required to register with the local police. When staying at a hotel, B&B, or campsite, the staff will often take care of this for you. Make sure to research the required documents and deadlines before traveling. 

Temporary vs. Permanent Residence

This section is mainly geared towards non-EU citizens, as they do not benefit from the freedom of movement that EU citizens do. 

One of the great things for foreigners buying property in Croatia is that the temporary residence permits are more flexible than in some other countries. You can even apply for your residence and work/business permits from within the country. 

Temporary residence is a stay that exceeds the 90-day maximum and fulfills a specific purpose such as work, study, and family reunification. 

Ownership of real estate just so happens to be one of these purposes. If you’re in the process of buying your house and feel more comfortable staying in the country, prepayment of rent for up to a year also qualifies you for a residence permit.

These permits are valid for up to a year and are easily renewed at your local police office.

Permanent residence is achieved through five years of temporary residence or particular circumstances. For example, one becomes a permanent resident by being married to a Croatian citizen for at least three years.

Side Note: Work permits and residence permits are not the same things!

This section has been a lot of fine-tuned information boiled down. Here is a more in-depth guide on residence permits that includes a breakdown by nationality.

Buyers Guide

An image showing the hands of a man holding a set of keys in one hand and a model house in the other

Now that you know all about the legality of residing in Croatia and the rules around visiting, it’s time to think about the house buying process. For all foreigners buying property in Croatia, here’s what you need to know.

Possible Obstacles

For the most part, these obstacles are by no means impossible to overcome but are worth being knowledgeable about before diving into your search.

Ownership Claims

Establishing legal ownership of property is often complicated by a series of issues, including third parties reselling abandoned property. Other situations to be aware of are property inheritance by multiple siblings and paperless transactions. 

Complicated Rental Accommodations

If you are looking to rent while house hunting, keep in mind that if something seems too good to be true, it is. Often, property owners will rent out or sub-let their flat without a contract. This way, they avoid paying taxes on rental income. While prompt and affordable housing may be attractive, this is not legal. 

Researching Your Home

As depicted above, Croatia’s housing market is an intricate combination of bureaucracy and legitimacy. 

Two of the best ways to navigate the market are to deal only with a fully licensed real estate agency and hire a good lawyer.

Though these may seem like common sense suggestions, it is crucial to keep in mind that attempting to cut corners may result not just in disappointment but in legal repercussions. 

Property Records

Looking up basic information about the property you are considering buying is typical in every country. In Croatia, however, understanding every aspect of your potential purchase will help you make deals and complete paperwork. 

It is vital to note the owner’s information and confirm the absence of contention over family inheritances or other problematic situations.

Check Zoning

The reason for this step of confirming how your ideal property is zoned rests squarely on non-Croatian citizens’ inability to own land until 2023.

However, if you are interested in buying farmland through a Croatian-run company, there is a series of hoops to jump through, but it is possible. 

Requests for this information go to the Administratove Department for Construction and Physical Planning. Their website will automatically be in Croatian, but there is an English version found in the gray bar on the top right.

Related: Best Areas to Live in Croatia

Paperwork and Legalese

An image showing the hands of a man and woman touching a paper contract, The woman is holding a pen while the man points to an item on the page

Paperwork is an unavoidable step of the process, but we’ve broken it down for you to make it less daunting.

Pre-Contract and Deposit

If having two contracts sounds confusing, think of this “pre-contract” as your “intent to buy.”  The most concrete outcome of this paperwork is defining the deposit, usually 10% of the purchase price. You gain nothing by skipping this step, as it protects you and the seller.

To move forward, you’ll need three notarized copies (one for the seller, buyer, and government).

Permission to Buy Property

Remember reading about reciprocity above? Well, this where it comes into play. During this step, the Ministry of Justice is confirming that your country of nationality allows Croatian nationals to own property there. 

Below is a summary of the required documents, but the US Embassy in Croatia has a more in-depth explanation that’s also great for other nationalities.

The procedure costs 35 kuna, and your application will include:

  • The original certification you receive from the Administrative Department for Construction and Physical Planning with the zoning info
  • Notarized copy of the pre-contract (or “full contract” if you’ve skipped a step)
  • Certificate from land registry confirming that the seller is also the owner (provided by owner)
  • Proof of the citizenship of buyer (such as a passport)
  • If you do not have a registered address within Croatia: Original power of attorney for a representative within Croatia who can receive mail on your behalf

Typically applications are reviewed within 30 days, but the government has up to 60 days to do so.

Beware: If you made a “full contract” from the start, AND your request is denied, you must still pay the seller the property’s total price without actually buying the property. 

Finalizing Your Purchase

Once you’ve completed all of the above steps, you’ll be in the home stretch of your Croatian property journey.  

Full Contract and Payment

The “full contract” is when the payment’s balance is paid in full, hence, why the seller may pressure you to complete a “full contract” before requesting permission to purchase. 

The contract is binding without being notarized, but it must be notarized to complete the paperwork necessary to register as the new owner. 

Note: You may qualify to get a mortgage if you are an EU national or have permanent residence status.

Register Your Purchase

Finally, the property you’ve purchased must be registered with the land registry within 60 days of your last step (usually making the “full contract”). You’ll want to be timely as if you file after the 60-day deadline, the standard 250 kuna fee increases to 1,050 kuna.

All of the significant paperwork (notarized contracts, approval to buy, and so forth) that you’ve collected in this process needs to be provided along with proof of the buyer’s citizenship. 

As this is the last bureaucratic step, your documents must be 100% correct. If a single digit is out of place, you face the possibility of a 5-year ban on registering yourself as the owner of that property upon denial. So there’s no margin for error.

Assuming you do everything right, all the fretting will be worth it when you are approved. You can then request a copy of the certificate of ownership for the low, low price of 20 kuna. 

Related: Cost of Living in Croatia

Relocation Packages

An picture of a apartment with white walls, timber floors and an assortment of moving boxes

If this is overwhelming for you, there’s also the possibility of investing in a relocation package. These packages take much of the hassle out of the process of relocating abroad, especially if you lack prior experience or local knowledge. Packages include:

  • Permit advisory
  • Home-finding services
  • Moving and storage
  • Settling in and transition

Average costs tend to be around 1,500 USD, but premium options (such as the shipment of belongings) can run up to 4,000 USD. The number of family members moving will also change the pricing for these programs. 

Enjoying Your New Homestead

No matter if you’re looking to get situated in an up-and-coming city like Zagreb or a more nature-based retreat, Croatia will captivate your heart. Checking out this list of hidden gems will have you feeling like a local in no time. 

Deciphering government sites on your own can be a real headache, so you might want to check out other foreign nationals’ stories that have bought houses in Croatia.

Expat communities are wonderful sources of information and support so make sure to find one in your area. For more resources, check out this Expat in Croatia website that explains everything you need to know, from real estate to healthcare.

Related: Fun Croatia Facts

Major Takeaways 

If you ever found yourself contemplating, “can foreigners buy property in Croatia?” – we have decisively concluded that yes, they can. 

Hopefully, this guide has motivated you to find your one-of-a-kind house in a truly one-of-a-kind country. 

If there’s a single takeaway from all of this information, it is that meticulous research may seem time-consuming, but it will save you funds and prevent heartache in the long run. 

Other key points to remember:

  • Professional help is a must
  • Be aware of your residence permit needs
  • Quadruple check everything

At the end of the day, when you are soaking in the ambiance of your house and the surrounding area, you’ll find that all the nuance and extra fact-checking is well worth it. 

Related: Risks of Buying Property in Croatia