Cushman & Wakefield Healey & Baker (C&W/H&B), which operates the European division of global real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, has appointed Forton International, the leading national commercial real estate consultancy in Bulgaria as an Associate Office.
Forton is part of Bulgaria's Address Group, one of the country's largest private property advisors. As well as in Sofia, Forton has offices in Plovdiv, the two main Black Sea port towns of Varna and Bourgas, Pleven and Blagoevgrad. Forton has 100 people in six offices across the country. It provides a full range of services, in agency, advisory, investment, valuation and property management.
Ralph Holland, Head of C&W/H&B's Associate Offices, says: "Cross-border property players are arriving in Bulgaria, attracted by the country's imminent membership of the European Union and a property sector that shows significant potential for development. Our association with Forton builds on our already dominant position in Central and Eastern Europe and ensures that we can service the growing number of our cross-border clients looking to enter or expand in Bulgaria."
C&W/H&B was one of the first property consultants to open offices in Central and Eastern Europe, in the Czech Republic and Hungary in 1993, and Poland in 1995, while in January 2005 it acquired leading Russian real estate firm Stiles & Riabokobylko, with which it had an Association agreement since 1998. In addition, the Firm has Associate Offices in Croatia, Romania and Slovakia.
The announcement of the association with Forton follows the ratification by the European Parliament on 25 April 2005 of Bulgaria's entry to the European Union in 2007, together with neighbouring Romania.
Forton was formed from the Address Group, Bulgaria's leading real estate group, simultaneously with the announcement of the association with C&W/H&B. Valeri Valtchev, Chief Executive Officer of Forton, comments about the Bulgarian property market: "To date, the focus has primarily been on the residential and tourism sectors. Now commercial property is increasingly in the spotlight as the demand from office and retail occupiers is growing, more new developments are coming on stream and the investment market is starting to take shape."
Ralph Holland comments: "The property market is still relatively immature compared with those of the Central European countries that were part of the first wave of the eastward expansion of the European Union, such as Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. This in turn opens the door for much greater possibilities, in particular given Bulgaria's geographical location as the gateway between East and West."
Office rents increased in 2004 for the first time since 1998 because of the increase in demand from international tenants for quality office space, and demand from the banking and telecoms sectors. Looking ahead rents are expected to remain stable, with only modest acceleration over the next two to three years. Prime rents are around 180 per square metre a year, compared with 220 in Prague and 205 in Budapest
"With more businesses entering the market, demand for high-quality offices is expected to increase," says Valeri Valtechev. Future opportunities may also exist in towns such as the second city Plovdiv, and Varna and Bourgas.