While the rest of the western world wonders whether domestic real estate investment remains a sensible consideration now that yields and equity growth rates are tumbling and the fast moving property sector slows and even stagnates in certain countries around the world, there exists a part of the world where real estate sectors are booming and the long term prospects for profit and growth are substantial.

Eastern Europe home to stunning scenery, beautiful coastlines, unexplored forests, a wealth of history and culture - and now also home to some of the most exciting emerging economies and real estate markets in the world.

Here's a look at the top five emerging property markets in Eastern Europe.

Bulgaria

Poised on the brink of EU accession, Bulgaria is witnessing a property market explosion. Property investors are buying in Bulgaria now because they realize that to wait until 2007 when Bulgaria gains full European Union membership will be to miss out on the largest predicted price gains that will occur when membership is in place.

Investors are being drawn to the beautiful Black Sea coastline - home to mile upon mile of untouched, unspoilt and undeveloped sandy beaches and a beautiful mild and temperate climate and to the fantastic ski regions of the country's interior.

When Bulgaria joins the European Union on January the 1st2007 it will begin benefiting financially from EU financial aid packages designed to further boost the country's economy and improve its infrastructure. In the meantime many international businesses are establishing bases in the country and Bulgaria's economy is vastly and quickly improving. All positive points for a property investor interested in the long term growth in the real estate sector in Bulgaria.

Croatia

Home to in excess of 6,000 km of untouched coastline Croatia is developing a strong tourist market and a successful real estate sector which is attracting second homers and retirees looking for an affordable and safe country in which to live.

Also positioned to gain full EU membership in 2007 Croatia already has a very successful transitional economy which has attracted strong levels of vertical foreign direct investment as it aligns itself for membership of the European Union. Opportunities for the real estate investor exist countrywide and property prices are currently unbelievably low.

Estonia

Estonia is one of the most successful of the Eastern European economies as it has adopted and embraced a modern market economy whilst keeping corporate and personal taxation levels very low. These facts have resulted in the attraction and retention a lot of international business which has created local employment and led to local Estonians gaining in real wealth and in them slowly being able to afford to buy homes of their own.

A property investor should seek to target the local market and many who have already entered the market have enjoyed up to 30% annual gains in some areas.

Hungary

Hungary joined the EU in 2004 and is already benefiting from European Union financial aid whilst its government are committed to long term fiscal development meaning that the medium to long term prospects for all areas of Hungary's economy are excellent.

The country has a growing wealthy middle class who are now able to buy their own homes as wages increase and the cost of borrowing remains low. Property investors could therefore target local buyers alternatively they could focus on the tourism rental sector or the second home sector as Hungary is the most popular Eastern European country for second homers and the country's capital Budapest is incredibly popular with overseas visitors.

Latvia

Since joining the EU in 2004 Latvia's fortunes have gone from strength to strength with the capital city of Riga developing internationally competitive sectors in financial services, retailing and telecommunications.

Locally wages are increasing, the country's GDP is healthily improving and the whole country is becoming a centre for vertical foreign direct investment. Again, property investors in Latvia should seek to target the local market and can currently buy into the property sector cheaply and hold assets while wages and prices rise.

Rhiannon Williamson is a freelance writer whose many articles about international property investing have appeared in publications around the world.