A certain number of companies have decided to save on rent and make virtual offices in Sofia instead of onsite offices based in the heart of Sofia or in the modern business centers. These are new international companies that are thinking to settle in Sofia and register a company in Bulgaria and existing small companies that can do their work online and do not need a regular office. The virtual offices in Sofia are a special service that includes the right to use an existing central and prestigious address, telephone landline and even a personal company assistant. Other services are offered as well including checking and forwarding of the emails, receive of fax messages, etc.
The interest towards the services of the Sofia virtual offices increased significantly in the last years of the global financial crises. Some of the clients also rent an office per day or conference halls for a short period of time. In this way they have the freedom to do their job and not pay for a full-time office and all its expenses. The rental levels of the virtual offices depend on the type of the services required, the short-term offices rented and the period during which the office will be used. The rental of these offices for a day or a week includes the expanses made on electricity, water, office supplies.
In year 2012, the office market in Sofia city was characterized with dynamics as far as the renting of administrative premises is concerned. The number of the rented offices last year exceeds the number of the offices that have been taken in 2011 and 2010. The total square surface of the rented offices in Sofia for year 2012, the capital of Bulgaria, is estimated to be 76 500 sq.m. On these basis have been calculated a 30 % increase in the rental levels of the office premises and 1.5 sq.m increase in the offered office premises area. Currently, in the beginning of year 2013, there are 330 000 sq.m. of offices offered on the market, with most of the business premises being concentrated outside the city center, in the business zone of Sofia.
The main factor that has influence on the rental market of Sofia offices is the unstable economic situation in the country. Because of that, two offices out of ten are empty and in search of a company to rent them. Later in 2013 and in 2014 there will be several big projects for office buildings that will be released, like Bulgaria Tower with its 20 000 sq.m, followed by Vertigo Business Center with its 18 000 sq.m. In the end of 2014, the office market will welcome three other projects City Tower Capital Fort and Millennium Centre, which are expected to add another 100 000 sq.m. of office premises. These business buildings will be constructed according to the latest technologies and will have all extras required for making business. The offices there are expected to be rented or purchased by registered IT companies, off-shore and outsourcing companies.
Once you have registered your company in Bulgaria and you are planning to open your own office in Sofia, you will face the challenge to get the right one for your needs. You can run a foreign company, an outsourcing company or another type of company, but definitely you will need a good office. The small companies and businesses, which do not know the Bulgarian market well, will most probably be afraid to proceed and open an office in Sofia straight away. Most probably they will start with securing a virtual office before they open an office in Sofia or another major city in the country. The services of the virtual offices are perfect for the aim of the small foreign companies to get an idea about the market, the current business situation, to arrange some meetings, even to make interviews with future employees. This is a great option for these companies that allows them to be flexible, to know the market and morals and ultimately to decide whether to step on the market or not.
Those companies that have already done their research and have decided to be presented on the Bulgarian market are trying to rent offices. The location and type of the offices are usually directly related to the activity of the newly registered company. These could be a large office of the “open space” type, set in a modern business building in the business zone of Sofia, but it can also be a representative office in the center. The options are varied according to the demand and the business needs. In the capital Sofia, there are many and varied options for renting an office or buying an office. The office rental prices are stable and significant changes are not expected. The managers of registered companies are able to choose between offices in the center of the capital along “Vitosha” Blvd., “Dondukov” Blvd. and “G.S. Rakovski” Street, next to all administrative and government buildings, as well as a number of bank offices. The offices in the center and those in the top neighborhood “Lozenets” are usually scattered in different buildings or gathered in several major business centers. The second most logical option to rent an office in the Business Park, which is located in the “Mladost” District next to the ring road. There are focused most of the offices of the large corporations in Bulgaria.
Besides these major office locations in the capital were built many other business complexes along “Bulgaria” Blvd. and “Tsarigradsko Schousse” Blvd. near the big shopping center “The Mall”. In general, during the last years, the demand of the new companies in Bulgaria is for first-class offices with parking and other amenities. There are many companies that are already established on the Bulgarian market, which also looking for new offices. They are usually from branches which are not so much affected by the crisis, namely telecommunications and information technology, insurance and financial services sector, energy, pharmaceuticals, service centers and call centers. These companies come from office buildings with lower quality and level of service, and a worse location that the options available now.
Using a Virtual Office in Bulgaria is easy, comfortable and not expensive as you might have initially thought. The virtual offices have emerged as a modern way of doing business and getting professional representation of your business in Sofia when you are still becoming acquainted with the business atmosphere here and are not yet sure if you want to open a regular office and to hire personnel. By getting a virtual office one can get a business presence with no need of physical presence. Further, one can have plenty of professional services at a very low cost than the one for the traditional offices services. This is also a way to check the market and the local economic situation and not to lose too much finance or register a company, if things happen not to work properly for you here as you have previously planned.
The services that the virtual offices present are numerous and are all dedicated to the professional presentation of your company and business in Bulgaria. They might include, but are not limited to the services enumerated below. The most useful service is a receptionist that will answer the calls directed to your company in a professional way with the name of your company. Then, the receptionist will transfer the call to your office or mobile or will leave a message for you with information, so that you can contact the person who wanted to speak with you later. Thus, the clients receive the services for a full-time receptionist that will present your company in the way you want it. The receptionist will be in charge of processing your calls and also of distributing your correspondence. The calls for your company will come through a direct telephone line that will be used only for the purposes of your company. You as a client will have full access to that telephone number, but it will not interrupt your meetings and your work. In addition to that, there will be a voice mail, so that no call or message are lost if they are received after the regular business hours. The calls and the messages will be taken by the receptionist and then forwarded to you at the end of the day or at the end of the week – this depends on you.
Besides own telephone number and a professional receptionist, clients who have virtual offices will get a reputable business address, usually in the very center of Sofia city. This will be an official company address, which can be used on your business cards, brochures advertising your business, etc. The emails, the mail and the packages from the couriers to your company can be forwarded to you in the way you want it. In case that you need to meet with potential partners, arrange interviews to recruit people or make a presentation, then your company can have access to a meeting room with all facilities needed, including a wireless connection. You can use these services as long as you want until you decide to register your own company in Bulgaria.
Bulgaria, and especially its capital Sofia, is among the tempting destinations for the big companies that want to outsource their business in order to reduce the expenses and increase their profit. The process of outsourcing is not new and the general idea is for the big companies to move to emerging countries with stable economy. Since Bulgaria has very solid economy factors, the country faces an increased market share of the outsourcing companies. All of these outsourcing companies are focused on cost efficiency and the minimum risk, aiming at knowledgeable, highly-educated people who can work for them for a salary much lower than they could expect from the workers in the well developed economies. It seems that people living in the capital Sofia, as well as those in the other big cities of the country answer to all these criteria.
Companies that want to outsource their business to Bulgaria are pleased to find out that here they can count on professional services such as fast company formation, audit and accounting when needed, tax advises, payroll administrations, as well as human resources, regular office services, virtual offices, etc. By using these services in Sofia and other big cities of the country, big companies get increased flexibility in making business, planning strategies and arranging the costs. They also get the chance to make changes in the capacity of work. Thanks to that flexibility, these companies are ready to respond to the main changes on the market.
Of course, there is much more to the outsourcing process than that. Most of the companies, both small and big enterprises, move their business practices to Bulgaria as they have fewer expenses for people and equipment. People in Bulgaria are not only eager to work, but they are also well-educated and they make efforts to improve and add to their knowledge through various professional trainings, computer and language courses. The good education of the people in Bulgaria is a national policy. Thus, the companies that decide to outsource their business to Sofia and register a company here according to the Bulgarian company formation regulations will eventually become more competitive on the market and will allow them to enjoy a better market value.
The outsourcing companies are now able to try the local market at first by using a virtual office. Once they figure out how the business here works, they are welcome to rent one of the available Sofia offices in the big business centers. Another option for them is to buy such an office. However, if they do not plan to work in the country for long years and if they do not know how much they will expand, a better way is to rent an office in Sofia and move to a bigger one if needed. The business centers that are available in the capital are numerous, all of them being very modern and equipped with all necessary facilities for a smooth working process.
During the second half of last year the supply of modern office premises in Sofia grew by over 12%. This gave grounds for the real estate agents specializing in the rental and sale of offices in commercial buildings, to make prognoses for an increased interest in quality commercial and business properties in year 2012. According to the expectations of the agents, the greatest will be the interest shown by companies that are working in the spheres of Internet technology and those working in the pharmaceutical sector. In other words, the companies will search for new and modern offices for their business will be mainly from those sectors that are not affected by the crisis. These companies are generally looking for offices with an area of 1000 sq.m, placed near the main boulevards.
Currently, the market shows that almost three quarters of the available office space in the capital Sofia are concentrated in the suburbs and only a quarter of them are located in the city center. In general, the number of the office buildings in the high Class A has increased significantly, but not all of them fully comply with all indicators of the class A offices. Since there is a demand for Class B offices as well, there is such supply on the market. Offices from Class B are in the focus of the smaller, often local companies. Another type of offices on the market, that face an increased interest are the virtual offices, which are preferred by the emerging local and foreign companies on the Bulgarian market, which wish to get an idea about the market.
The prognoses of the office realtors are for stability in the rental levels of the offices, as well as a steady demand for good offices in business buildings of Class A, which will be released on the market this year. The demand for this type of high quality offices will be strengthened by the fact that they meet the special requirements of the international companies, which intend to enter the Bulgarian market.
According to the prognosis of the realtors, the real estate market in 2012 will be more active if renting and purchasing of offices in the new and luxurious office buildings in the capital is concerned. Moreover, the professionals are optimistic that the city of Sofia will attract the solid investors from UK, USA and Greece, while there will also be an increased interest from established investors in Bulgaria. The analyses of the people who work in that sphere shows that these investors are willing to take higher risks, or wish to purchase office buildings under construction and to provide for their subsequent completion and rental.
The prognoses of the brokers, who are specialized in the rental and the sale of offices, are that in year 2012 this sector of the real estate market will not only reach the level of the previous year, but will surpass it. Among the most successful deals in Sofia in year 2011 were the sale of “Mall of Sofia” and “Business Centre Bells”, as well as the “European Trade Center”. It should also be mentioned that a large and modern office in the new office building “East Tower” was purchased for the outsorcing branch of the investment company “Bernard Investments” with headquarters in France.
The consulting firm Cushman & Wakefield published a report at the beginning of the year, which states that besides Bulgaria the other attractive markets for commercial real estate properties are the following countries – Hungary and the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Estonia, Croatia and Russia. The investments made in Eastern and Central Europe last year have reached 6 billion Euro and it is expected that a similar share of investments will be made this year. We should also mention the continued interest of the investors in the virtual offices, the use of which helps them find their way to enter the market before purchasing a real office.
Over the past few months the building companies in the capital were occupied mainly by finding new tenants for the existing office buildings and business centers they have built, rather than making new investments. In other words, the trend that is clearly seen is for a slow pace market when office construction is concerned and a focus on the newly established office areas in Sofia. However, the capital remains the main city for the large office projects and continues to be a preferred destination for the big foreign companies who now enter the Bulgarian market.
Currently, there is a significant number of the developers who do not release their new office buildings before finding tenants for them and signing a long-term contract. The new tenants are often companies that come from low-end office buildings in search of better conditions and companies working in an area unaffected by the crisis and consequently expanding its staff. These days the rental levels of Sofia offices from the middle and the high class is about 8-11 Euro per square meter as the rent levels of the top offices remain stable.
The office market in Sofia faces bold relocation of companies in search of a much better quality, but possibly at a reasonable price. Naturally, the offices of high quality and a central location keep the high interest of the companies, while the offices that offer not so good conditions remain empty for a longer period of time. In the end of the last year and in the beginning of this year, there is a high interest in the option of renting virtual offices, since this service is becoming more and more popular among people with flexible businesses.
This year started with more than twenty percent vacant office space in Sofia. According to the prognosis, many companies are about to change their contracts and many new companies are to come on the market in the coming months. These companies are expected to be from the IT sector and different outsourcing companies. The contracts that are expected to be changed were signed during the crisis, so tenants are expected to have many demands for amendments thereto. This will be so, because companies today can easily find a better alternative and modern office space. The virtual offices in Bulgaria are also attracting considerable attention, particularly because of the lower costs.
Currently, the vacant offices are about 330 000 sq m, which is more than during the previous years. The expectations are for around 60,000 sq m of these offices to be rented this year. At the same time are released new offers for high-end office buildings, but they are not as many as during the pre-crisis period. The transactions made are with companies that are moving into new, more spacious and modern business centers. The expectations are for reduced rental levels. The real estate agents expect a few big companies to enter the country and to provoke the office market.
The serious supply of office buildings in the city of Sofia in the last few years formed several different segments in that sphere of the real estate business. Several projects of office buildings of the highest quality are being preferred by the companies, while other projects are turning into outsiders. Those investors who have been smart enough to put their efforts on the planning and have carefully chosen the location of their office buildings, and have further insisted on the easy access, the good technical characteristics and the available parking options are now attracting the attention of the companies.
Currently, the companies can choose from more than 350 000 sq.m of available offices for rent or approximately thirty percent of all offices in Sofia. A great part of these offices are located in organized business centers in the outskirts of the capital. The prognoses are that the high-quality office buildings will get tenants in the next two years and will keep their popularity. At the same time, it is expected that the offices of the highest class when it comes to location and amenities will face an increase in the rental levels. Part of the business companies that are still hesitating whether to open offices in the country are currently using the option of the virtual offices in Bulgaria. Once they start to feel more secure they will most probably open offices in some of the high-class office buildings in Sofia.