In the United Kingdom we are used to thinking of complexes
as either residential, retail or commercial. In Poland the
big retail and commercial centres do exist but on almost
every residential development part or all of the ground
floor is designed and built for offices, shops or services.
It's an historical idea from a time when car use was much
less prevalent and providing the essential amenities on each
estate made good sense. Today residents may have cars but
they still need a small food shop, nursery, language school,
bank or any number of other services for which a car journey
would be an unnecessary trial.
Most modern developments are gated but if the complex is not
large enough to support the commercial units they are often
flipped to face the streets outside thus serving both the
residents in the blocks and those in the surrounding
Polish agents rarely point commercial units out to foreign
buyers, and foreign buyers rarely ask about them, but they
can offer better yields, lower costs over the long term,
less demanding and more stable tenants and capital gain
that is every bit as promising as the residential apartments
on the upper floors.
Yields, in fact, can be as much as twice those for
residential apartments as the cost of purchasing is low and
the businesses that use the units are often extremely
profitable. If you are seeking capital gain and an immediate
cash flow then it is well worth investigating this option
before signing the reservation form on a residential
Also, as most new developments in Poland are finished to a
shell state buyers also need to budget for the fit out and,
in residential units, the majority of the financial burden
comes from kitchens and bathrooms. In commercial properties
the bathroom is usually small or simply a WC so the cost of
taking a unit from shell to rentable or sellable is much
With less “kit" in the property there is obviously less to
go wrong over the long term. No washing machines to break
down, wardrobes to damage, mattresses to replace and so on.
Commercial units are an ideal, low maintenance buy to let
In residential apartments most tenants are ultimately
looking to buy their own place when they can afford it and
so the turnover of people passing through is inevitably
high. Commercial tenants, on the other hand, are there to
stay and their motivation is to build a stable business. A
longer lease - over a five or ten year period - is much more
common than with residential tenants.
Even if they do decide to move out, it is in their financial
interest to try and sell or lease their business as a going
concern, especially if it is retail or service related, and
so the chances of landlords experiencing vacant periods are
Finally, if you buy your unit in an area popular with
holiday makers, such as Gdansk or Zakopane, and only rent it
to a tourist related business, this comes under the “second
home" rule which means you do not have to apply for a
purchase permit from the government. A café clearly aimed at
tourists, bicycle or ski rental, or a shop with beach goods
are all good potential and leave the investor free to buy
another property elsewhere.
At a time when the herd is heading for residential property,
those who understand the cultural difference in the way
Polish developments are designed are more likely to achieve
a better return both now and in the future and experience
less hassle over the long term.
For solid, reliable and unbiased advice on buying property
in Poland get Tim Hill's essential printed guide at =>
Tim is Mamdom.com's Operations Director managing a team of consultants who help foreign buyers identify and purchase suitable Poland property opportunities for investment, development and relocation. As well as speaking regularly at seminars on the Polish real estate market his comments are often quoted in the domestic and international press. Tim is married and currently lives with his wife, Agnieszka, in the Polish city of Lublin.