By Emma Dunn

A British family “escaped” the UK for Bulgaria for their “dream” home and are now living mortgage free after buying an abandoned house for just £7k.

Laura Phoenix, 33, and her husband Anthony, 32, moved 1,941 miles to Strazhitsa, Bulgaria, in September 2023 with their daughters – Cecelia, four, and Nova, two.

The couple wanted to live off-grid to be sustainable after seeing the state of plastic waste on beaches in Thailand.

But Laura and Anthony, a stay at home dad, couldn’t afford a rural home in the UK and decided to look in Bulgaria for their dream place – after seeing others do the same on YouTube.

The couple found and bought an abandoned three-bedroom property in Strazhitsa for £7,000.

They sold their UK two bedroom home for £85k and moved from Darlington, County Durham to Bulgaria in September 2023 and have been renovating the property ever since.

Since moving Laura says her skin condition has vanished and the family feel “free”.

Laura, an online English teacher and writer, said: “We bought a home on a whim.

“But it’s our dream home. We don’t have any mortgage.

“I developed a skin condition and had bad flare ups.

“When I got here it just vanished.

“I feel we were pushed out of the UK.

“I feel like we had no choice.

“We don’t want to both work hours for 40 hours a week just to exist.

“In England it is so unattainable.”

Anthony Phoenix with his daughters Cecelia and Nova. (Pix via SWNS)
Anthony Phoenix with his daughters Cecelia and Nova. (Pix via SWNS)

Anthony said: “Even if you own a property in the UK the cost of living is so much higher.

“We’ve always decided when we want to do something we jump at the opportunity.”

Laura and Anthony had always had a love for travelling but were devastated when they saw the state of the beaches in Thailand.

Laura said: “There was too much plastic everywhere.”

They came back to the UK and set up an eco-friendly and refillable shop in 2018 and managed to buy a fixer upper old council house for £55k.

But the pair had a dream to live off-grid together with their kids but after seeing prices around £500k for what they wanted they started to look abroad.

Laura said: “We were trying to find land for an affordable price.

“We were binge watching YouTube and dreaming of somewhere we could be free.”

After seeing other Brits move to Bulgaria, the couple set their sights on doing the same and spent two weeks finding their family home in May 2022 – falling in love with the town of Strazhitsa, Bulgaria.

They sold their business and Darlington home to buy their Bulgarian dream outright and moved in September 2023.

Laura said: “The garden had a whole mattress in it.

“Anthony demolished the top floor.

“We removed all the rats and vermin.”

Laura and Anthony Phoenix’s new home in Bulgaria. (Pix via SWNS)
Anthony Phoenix with his daughters Cecelia and Nova. (Pix via SWNS)

The family are currently living in one side of the house with a temporary kitchen while they wait for the harsh winter to pass to continue renovating.

They have spent less that £2k so far and hope to be have it completed in the next three years.

The couple have a quarter of an acre where they have already started to plant seeds to grow spinach, onion, and garlic.

They also have a blueberry, raspberry and strawberry bushes.

Laura said: “We want to grow as much as we can.”

The family want to be as self-sufficient as possible and are looking at getting composting toilets and solar panels. They currently have to drive 40 minutes to their closest supermarket.

They have a well on the land that they hope they can use for their water supply in the future.

But Laura said it hasn’t all been plain sailing – as the family have had to get used to the harsh winter and deal with paperwork to gain residency.

Laura said: “Bulgarian winter can be quite harsh.

“I don’t want everyone to think it is easy because it is not.

“I don’t think everyone would have what it takes to come here but you can if you’re tough and you want to escape.”

Anthony’s parents – Laura, 61, and Eddie Phoenix, 71, are also buying the neighbouring home for £3k and will be using it as their holiday home.

Laura said: “It will be like a family compound.”

Laura and Anthony are homeschooling their children and “don’t believe” in the school system.

Laura said: “I was told if I went to university I’d be set for life but I wasn’t.

“It’s frowned upon in Bulgaria to home educate.

“We’re teaching them to grow things and learning the language.

“They are constantly visiting towns and museums.”

The family also have a campervan they hope to get back on the road so they can travel Europe as a family.

Laura said: “I walked outside my door before in the UK and there would be thumping music.

“Now it’s birds tweeting.

“It’s just different here.

“We live in such a noisy society but here everything is quiet.”

Phoenix family costs in the UK and Bulgaria –

Mortgage in the UK – £180 a month
Gas and electric – £25 a week on a pay as you go meter – £100 a month
Council tax – £120 a month

Bulgaria Mortgage – £0
Electric – £60 a month
Wood for heating for all winter – £118
Council tax – £60 for two years (plus fines)

Saving £4,168 a year


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