House Hunting in Poland: A 19th-Century Cottage for $523,000

House Hunting in Poland: A 19th-Century Cottage for $523,000


This two-bedroom, two-bath house is in the village of Kwiatonowice, in the mountainous southeastern Malopolska province of Poland, about 70 miles east of the provincial capital of Krakow.

The 4,500-square-foot house evokes a fairy-tale cottage with its spruce shingle roof, wood porch and cozy garden. Built from brick and wood in the mid-19th century on 1.7 acres, it has been renovated gradually over the past 20 years, with one wing still needing work, said Dominika Dabrowska, an agent with RE/MAX Duo V, which has the listing.

A curved stone path leads to a boxy wood porch and a glass-enclosed foyer with double doors. Past the foyer is an entrance hall with stairs. To the left is the kitchen, which has original fir plank flooring and a beamed ceiling. A full bathroom with pale green walls is nearby.

To the right of the entrance is a suite of rooms connected enfilade and by an adjacent corridor. Nearest the entrance, the dining room has oak parquet flooring. The tile stove and dining table with embossed leather chairs are antiques. The living room has herringbone hardwood floors, a tile stove and doors opening to a terrace. Beyond the living room are a spacious den and a library.

On the second floor, the landing serves as an office. Two bedrooms are tucked under the eaves, on opposite sides. One has an en suite bath and the other has crimson walls and a small balcony.

The masonry, floors, roof trusses, spruce shingles and windows were updated to evoke historically authentic designs, Ms. Dabrowska said. The east wing has not been renovated, and plans have been drawn for several bedrooms and bathrooms. The home is furnished with antiques, some of which may be included with the purchase. Objects of note include an original Young Poland furniture set from the early 20th century, an Art Nouveau furniture set with modern reproduction upholstery woven in Austria, and a maroon plush set of chairs from 1908, done in the Munich Art Nouveau style.

“The owners are big fans of antiques,” Ms. Dabrowska said. “They were searching for some special things to fit this house. Every piece of the furniture inside is really very special. They are not there by accident.”

The property also includes a ground cellar, a former blacksmithing forge converted to a garage, and a courtyard with an Art Nouveau sculpture by the Polish artist Karol Homolacs.

The village of Kwiatonowice, with a population of fewer than 1,000, is about six miles from the small city of Gorlice, and about 90 minutes from the center of Krakow, Poland’s second-largest city and home to Krakow John Paul II International Airport. The hilly Malopolska region has “beautiful nature,” with lakes, valleys and traditional old villages, Ms. Dabrowska said.

Thanks to a stable economy and supply shortages, Poland has seen housing prices rise steadily since the global recession. According to the Polish central bank, Narodowy Bank Polski (NBP), the average price of existing flats in the country’s seven biggest cities (Warsaw, Gdansk, Gdynia, Krakow, Lodz, Poznan and Wroclaw) rose 7.8 percent in 2019 to an average of 7,664 Polish zlotys a square meter ($190 a square foot).

Prices in Krakow, once Poland’s capital and now an economic and cultural hub — its city center was included in the first group of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, in 1978 — have followed suit, as investors have snapped up apartments and used them as rentals for students, workers and tourists, Ms. Dabrowska said. According to the NBP, prices rose 8.25 percent in Krakow year-over-year in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Ms. Dabrowska estimated that new apartments in the city start at about 9,000 zlotys a square meter ($225 a square foot). Single-family houses up to about 12 miles from the city center can range from 800,000 to 950,000 zlotys ($215,000 to $255,000), and luxury villas start at around 1.5 million zlotys ($405,000). In Malopolska (also known as Lesser Poland), the province east of Krakow, prices vary, with rural outposts with mountain views getting more.

During the pandemic lockdown, real estate transactions in Krakow’s general market temporarily slowed, but activity has resumed, Ms. Dabrowska said. The longer-term impact on the market is unclear.

“Those who have spent the lockdown with children in too-small flats are looking for larger ones or houses to have more space and their own garden,” she wrote in an email. “The coming months will show whether the situation will remain stable or whether there will be drops in real estate prices.”

(As of Aug. 21, Poland had reported 62,310 cases of Covid-19 and 1,960 deaths, according to the New York Times’s coronavirus map — much lower per capita rates than in most Western European countries.)

Krzysztof Joachimczak, CEO of Lepidus Property Poland, a Warsaw-based luxury agency, said Poland’s high-end market is stable because prices “are not subject to short-term fluctuations in the economic climate like other real estate.” He added, however, that luxury homes have been taking longer to sell since the pandemic began.

Mr. Joachimczak said the main centers for luxury housing are in the Polish capital of Warsaw and in the nearby spa town of Konstancin, as well as the coastal tri-city region of Sopot, Gdansk and Gdynia, on the Baltic Sea. Krakow (to the south), Wroclaw (to the west) and Zakopane, which he described as Poland’s Aspen, have smaller markets.

The most prestigious districts of Krakow are Krowodrza, Zwierzyniec and the Old Town, where prices are highest, Mr. Joachimczak said.

“Within the central district of Krakow, there is little free space for new construction,” he said. “The land prices are horrendous and that is why developers are building there small, but exclusive, apartment buildings.” He cited the renovated interwar tenement houses near the Market Square and Wawel Castle, which are attracting affluent foreigners. Krowodrza, in the city’s west, where several universities are concentrated, is seeing new construction, he added. People are drawn to its green spaces.

The new condominium market has also developed rapidly in Poland’s larger cities in recent years, with rising prices and transactions. It was “very hot” in 2019, said Robert Chojnacki, CEO of RedNet Property, which specializes in new condominiums. Low unemployment, more disposable income and rising wages have helped usher many first-time Polish buyers into market in the past three years or so.

Prices for new condominiums in Warsaw reached 10,367 zlotys a square meter ($260 a square foot) in the second quarter of this year, up from 8,000 zlotys a square meter ($200 a square foot) in the first quarter of 2018, according to a RedNet Property report published on July 27. Newer developments have had higher construction costs, higher asking prices and higher demand.

Sales across Poland began to recover from the effects of Covid-19 restrictions in July, Mr. Chojnacki said. Low bank savings rates have made property ownership attractive, while government aid to small- and medium-sized businesses has helped keep workers employed, he said.

Buyers want homes with more rooms, but not necessarily more space — to create home offices without spending more money on square footage, he said. They’re also buying high-end condominiums in secluded, uncrowded coastal areas that before the pandemic were less in demand.

Ms. Dabrowska estimated that about 25 percent of her buyers are foreigners who live and work in Krakow. “Most often they are couples, one of whom is a Pole and the other a foreigner (most often from France, Italy, Ukraine or other European countries),” she wrote in an email.

In Krakow, as in the rest of Poland, buyers of new condominiums are almost all Polish, Mr. Chojnacki said.

Foreign buyers from outside the European Union are required to obtain a permit issued by the Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration to purchase a property in Poland, said Michal Dudkowiak, a partner at Dudkowiak Kopec Putyra, a law firm with offices in several Polish cities, including Krakow. The permit process typically takes around three months and comes with a 1,570 zloty ($420) fee.

“In general, purchasing an apartment in Poland would be most usually exempted from obligation to obtain a permit. Buying a house or a land would usually require a permit,” he said.

Polish: Poland zloty (1 zloty = $0.27)

This property is exempt from property taxes, Ms. Dabrowska said.

Dominika Dabrowska, RE/MAX Duo V, 011-48-510-146-918; remax-polska.pl

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