The Libejovice chateau looks like something out of a 19th century romantic novel: an elegant, mustard-hued Renaissance palace with tall windows and elaborate balcony railings bearing the noble Schwarzenberg family’s coat of arms. Natalia Makovik will sell it to you for less than the price of some Manhattan studio apartments. The catch: Restoring the place, a two-hour drive south of Prague, could cost 10 times the purchase price. “I look at a ruin, and I see an investment opportunity,” says Makovik, founder of VIP Castle, a real estate brokerage specializing in historic buildings.
There are plenty of such opportunities in the Czech Republic, with its 2,000-plus castles and chateaux, the legacy of a turbulent history of feudal lords, royal dynasties, and minor aristocrats. Makovik started her business in 2007, eight years after she arrived penniless from her native Belarus. The history buff had fallen hard for the run-down castles she discovered in the Czech countryside. Lacking the money to buy one, she decided to make them the focus of her career—first as a tour guide and then as a real estate agent.