Buying A Cheap Italian Property To Restore

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Real estate buyers’ finance has been restricted in the wake of the stormy economic times, however the allure of owning property in Italy remains undimmed.

As a result increasing numbers of overseas buyers in the Italian market are choosing to fix up properties or even build from new as opposed to picking up resale real estate.

The most immediate attraction is obvious – the expense. Leave behind any ideas of coming across renovation homes for Euro 1, a PR ploy initiated a couple of years ago by authorities in one Sicilian town.

Yet in areas such as Sicily, Calabria and Molise a farmhouse relic can be snapped up from less than Euro 8,000. Throw in costs of restoration that can start at around Euro 800 per square metre and is it possible to convert a a broken-down farmhouse into a 110sq m idyllic holiday house for around Euro 90,000 – far less than the cost otherwise. In addition, beyond the initial buying price, renovation costs can then be divided over the duration of the building project, which can take as long as the buyers wish.

Stefania Russo, head of Italy property search specialists The Property Organiser, explains: With the credit crunch more and more buyers going down the renovation route. Restoration costs in zones such as Abruzzo are about Euro 900 a sq metre – about 50-60% what you would face in northern Italy. And instead of buyers having to stump up finance at the start, this route lets them spread expenses over months or years.


“In addition, buyers get the chance to stamp their personality on their properties, which is easier to do through renovation than if they go for a resale and then attempt to adapt it.”

Italy’s history means it is awash with properties dating from the 1700s, needing only a bit of TLC to turn them into fantastic modern dwellings. There is also a plentiful supply of farmhouses – a popular choice of foreign buyers – in the main owing to the exodus of millions of Italian who, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, evacuated villages for towns and cities or even a new life in the US and South America. By the by, if you are tempted to try something a little different, the answer to your prayers may lie in the estimated 6,000 churches available to be upgraded into dwellings.

Having settled on a property, the next stage is finding reliable professionals to turn your dream into reality. Some buyers are prepared to do most of this themselves, the most advisable route is to find a reputable geometra/surveyor (your realtor ought to be able to point you in the direction of with one).

They will be able to source goodl builders for you as well as negotiate with local government departments for the required building permits. Bear in mind that many ancient rustic homes are made in stone and so fixing up such homes will need craftsmen used to working with this material.

One frequently present problem with building projects is that your costs can fly beyond control, often by up to 25%. Common moneypits include pools budget up to 20,000); improving access roads allow up to Euro 2,000 for a 50-metre section); and working on lawns. However, your geometra can thrash out a contract with your builders outlining a cost ceiling and an agreed completion date, with financial penalties charged if they overrun.

Although geometre design homes to a certain level, their expertise is limited and it is advisable also hire an architect to take charge of design. It is crucial from the very off that you make abundantly clear what you hope to achieve and that you pass this on to the architect. Chopping and changing during the course of work takes up valuable time, is expensive and demoralising for everyone else concerned.

Don’t be unrealistic about the probable timescales involved. The buying process can go on for between four and 12 weeks and sorting out planning permits another 12-36 weeks depending on the local authority in charge.

In addition, unless you plan on being on-site most of the time, you should also have an independent project manager to keep watch on things and help keep the project on track. The architect or surveyor can also fulfil this role.

One project manager says: “By popping up on site as often as is necessary, usually with no advance notice, we keep the purchaser clued in on progress with the help of fulsome notes and digital photos. So any issues can be ironed out immediately. We maintain everything on track and, even more crucially, make sure the buyer isn’t caught unawares by unpleasant shocks.”

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The author is an expert in property for sale in Italy at Homes and Villas Abroad. She also focuses on property in Sicily and Tuscany real estate.Author: Adriana Giglioli