Old school suvilas popular purchases once again
The popularity of a second home in the country has risen in recent years in Estonia, likely hastened by the Covid pandemic and its restrictions, along with the trend for remote working.
While summer cottages, the Estonian term is "suvila", were already commonplace in the Soviet period, these were of a set size and architecture; independence has been followed by a burgeoning market for suvilas of all sizes and locations.
However, "authentic" suvilas were not a popular type of property until around five years ago, ERR reports. As often as not, owners would demolish or extend the preexisting property, whereas now, many buyers are seeking older properties.
Meelis Paldre of realtor Uus Maa told ERR he recently sold an older-style cottage in Metsanurme, near Saku, and just outside Tallinn.
The family that bought the property had small children, and liked the location, the fact that they could plant vegetables in the garden, and the options for spending the summer months there, Paldre said.
In Harju County, which contains the bulk of the Tallinn commuter belt, families with children up to the age of 10 who want somewhere quiet outside the city for breaks year-round, and in summer in particular, while they retain their main residence in the capital are quite common, Paldre said.
"The desire is for children to be able to spend more outdoor time during the school holidays. For people aged 40 plus, the tendency is more for a property at a cheaper price, suitable for year-round living," he added.
Lea Kerma, a realtor at Arco Vara and who covers Järva County, still within reachable distance of Tallinn, concurred that "youngster-friendly" old school suvilas were popular once again.
Kerma said: "From what I can see, the trend is now that our own people, ie. a person from Järva County, would rather own their own house, if they even think about country properties. The last few years have also shown that people from Tallinn are coming to our older, or so-called older, suvilas, in Järva County."
Price is a factor in the latter case, she added – an "authentic" suvila costs just €35,000-€50,000 on average, she said.
"These are the suvilas from the Soviet era, which were in effect these small boxes, which could be had for €20,000 a few years ago, but I would say no deal on such a property goes below the €30,000-mark nowadays," Kerman went on.
By comparison, in Harju County and environs, the average sale prices of old-style suvilas, properties which have not been refurbished on reconstructed over the past 20 years, go for around €55,000-70,000.
Those properties above that price level, if they have not been improved and particularly if they are some distance from the sea, tend to stay on the market for much longer.
Meelis Paldre at Uus Maa said: "The last one, in Metsanurme,which I sold for over €90,000, evidently had been very well maintained, both the house and the garden. It was in very good condition, by suvila standards - the plot was relatively large, around 1,000 square meters, while since the land behind it belonged to the municipality and was a common area, the small forest there accentuated the impression of an open and green space."
Both Paldre and Kerma put the new-found popularity of such properties to the Covid pandemic period, 2020-2021, when many people sought a location they could be away from the city and from other people, while at the same time pursuing a simpler and greener lifestyle.
"At the start, farm houses were sought after, but their prices have likely gone up so much that it is either not ideal to buy them for that kind of money, or it doesn't make sense to spend so much money when you still intend for your primary residence to be in Tallinn, and you just want to have somewhere to escape to," Kerma said.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte