Retiring & Investing In Sibiu, Romania

Most Affordable Place To Retire In Europe?

On this warm May day, the children are gathered around the fountain, in the middle of the square. Anxiously, they wait. In an instant, the water springs up from the pavement, spraying cool drops on the cheerful young faces. The little ones jump back, and the air is filled with cries of joy. The water dances up and down, while the children run back and forth.

This is one of the largest squares in Transylvania, rectangular and cobblestoned, known as Piata Mare, or The Large Square. On the west side is the Brukenthal Palace. In the 1700s, this was the home of the Governor of Transylvania; today’s it’s an art museum housing collections of Romanian, Flemish, and other European paintings.

The other sides of the square are lined with traditional, pastel-colored houses with tiled, chestnut roofs. In the Middle Ages, these housed guilds. Now many of these structures are UNESCO heritage sites.

Thanks to Bram Stoker, most everyone knows Transylvania, the land beyond the forest. But few know Sibiu.

This former European Cultural Capital has enjoyed massive investment in recent years, transforming the historic downtown. Tourism continues to expand, and the Times and Forbes both have included the city and its surroundings on their lists of top affordable European destinations.

Located in the center of Romania, Sibiu is bordered on the south by Transylvania. A relatively small city, with just 170,000 inhabitants, it’s one of the most prosperous and modern settlements in the country. Geographically, it’s a crossroads and a hub. Its international airport offers direct flights to Vienna, Munich, Stuttgart, Cologne, and Madrid.

The Saxon charm, the beauty of the surrounding countryside, the two important museums (the Brukenthal and the Astra), the thriving cultural life, with concerts, festivals, and flea markets, combine to make this a special city. During the annual international theater and jazz festivals, you can’t find a bed for the night unless you’ve made reservations weeks in advance.

Sibiu is not the cheapest place to live in Romania, but Romania enjoys one of the lowest costs of living in all Europe. On a budget of US$1,800 per month (at the current exchange rate), you could enjoy a comfortable, pleasant, rich, and cultured life.

Figure US$600 per month rent for a two-bedroom apartment or a nice, small house. A reasonable food budget for a couple would be US$400 to US$450 per month. Supermarkets stock imported goods, especially from Germany, Italy, and France, and open-air markets offer fresh local produce, including honey and Romanian cheese made by Sibian shepherds.

Phone, cable, and high-speed Internet cost US$70 per month. Budget US$170 for utilities and US$200 for entertainment. Four hours of household help weekly will cost you US$70.

You could live cheaper. You could reduce your entertainment expense or rent a smaller apartment. You could rent a comfortable studio or one-bedroom apartment for US$300 to US$400 per month.

Property prices are very low. You could purchase a centrally located studio for as little as US$35,000 to US$40,000, a one-bedroom apartment for US$55,000 to US$65,000, or a two-bedroom for US$75,000 to US$100,000.

Many new residential projects are under development in the city, one of which will have stunning views of Fagaras Mountains. Another of note is situated near the forest. Prices here start at US$53,000 for a studio of 477 square feet.

Also on the market right now is a 3,444-square-foot house, with seven rooms and four bathrooms. The asking price is US$182,000, a very good price given the size of the property.

In the surrounding villages, you can find land for US$20 per square meter. Figure about US$400 per square meter to build.

Mihaela Damaceanu