Could a Croatian island be a canny buy right now?
By Zoran Radosavljevic
TROGIR, Croatia (Reuters) - Stipe Marusic hardly looks like someone who owns an Adriatic island. Yet the unemployed 40-year-old Croatian sailor and his two brothers are selling one for big money.
"It belonged to my great-grandfather and in a way, we are sorry to sell. But we are all seamen, the companies we worked for have gone bankrupt, we are unemployed and we have no other choice," Marusic said while showing off his island, Srednja Kluda, in the Trogir archipelago just north of Split.
The asking price for the shrub-covered island of some 2.4 hectares (5.9 acres), with a small stone house in the middle, is 1.05 million euros ($1.49 mln).
"There is interest, we have one serious buyer, but the bureaucracy is slowing us down," Marusic said.
His story sums up the complex situation in a country which emerged from communist Yugoslavia in 1990 and is due to join the European Union in 2013.
Croatia only opened its real estate market to foreigners in 2005 and two beautiful islands were quickly sold. The government then banned any new building on small uninhabited islands, saying it wanted to preserve them "for agriculture and organised visits."
The ban dampened investor appetite for many of the 1,200 or so islands scattered across the spectacular eastern Adriatic. Meanwhile, Croatia recovered from the 1991-95 independence war and has once again become a popular summer holiday destination.