How You Can Buy Your House In Italy Without Diving Into A Money Pit

Chris Renovation
Chris Renovation
Santa Domenica Talao
Santa Domenica Talao

IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO PURCHASE PROPERTY IN ITALY YOU NEED KNOWLEDGE AND YOU NEED OUR ONLINE COURSE! FIND THE DETAILS HERE.

 

Admit it. You have been watching House Hunters International and a part of you is yearning for the golden hills, the ecstacy inducing food and the and glorious beaches of Italy.

Secretly you have been exploring the property pages on Italian Immobilare websites and dreaming big dreams.

And you feel yourself inching closer to the big plunge but are afraid because you could make a huge and costly mistake.

If you have mentioned this idea to friends or relatives, I am sure you have been told that you are crazy to even think about it.

And yet you continue to dream.

Several years ago my husband and I bought a house in a tiny ancient hill town in Calabria, Southern Italy.

An entire year before we purchased, I researched the heck out of the project and the result was a smooth transition of property and good feelings on all sides.

And we have been loving it beyond our wildest dreams each time we go.

Diamante
Diamante, Calabria

There is nothing like the sound of church bells waking you up in the morning with the sun slanting in your window and the smell of caffe coming from the bar in the piazza to make you realize how lucky you are to be in Italy.

But there are several things you should know and do before taking diving in.

1. Research the Heck out of it.

I was lucky to find a great book that covered everything I had questions about. It is called Buying a House in Italy by Gordon Neale.

Additionally I sought out and got onto several forums written and administered by people who had purchased in Italy and many of whom also lived there full time.

The forum was the most important research tool. I learned about some shady deals that I was able to steer clear of because I read the unfortunate stories about people who had purchased off plan houses (to be built) and once the money was paid, no work was ever done.

One off plan project that was offered to us when we were looking to purchase several years ago still has not been built. Had I trusted someone and bought one I would have sunk a lot of money and likely never had anything to show for it but expensive legal bills.

I have read horror stories not only about property purchases in Italy but also Spain that would curl your toes.

My most important piece of advice is never buy anything that you can’t see in front of you. Make sure you know and trust your architect before taking on a renovation project. 

SDT
Santa Domenica Talao

2. Visit different areas before you make your choice.

Unless you have already visited a town or village and fallen in love with it, I recommend that you visit several areas and rent Air BNB’s there for a few weeks.

Fall into the rhythm of the town and decide whether you can see yourself living there.

Italy House
Italy House

3. Once you have found your dream town, research the heck out of that too.

There is so much you have to find out. Jus tone example is that our trash pickup is so complicated we need a special calendar to keep track of what is picked up when.

Additionally Italy has earthquakes as we have seen recently. Research where the faults are and find data on the strength of your buildings.

Ironically, in the 1980’s when there was a massive earthquake in Southern Italy, some of the newer buildings fell down and the old buildings in the historic center are still standing.

The buildings in the historic centers are built all shoved together so they support each other.

The buildings that fell had large parking structures underneath and therefore were not structurally sound in an earthquake zone which much of Italy is.

Our area near Scalea, Calabria, Italy is one of the few areas that is between faults so the danger of a catastrophic earthquake is there but is  relatively small. In the last 20 years there have been shakers but not the massive ones such as we have seen in California.

Scalea
Scalea

4. Understand that property purchases there are not like they are here.

It is not unheard of to make an offer, have it accepted and then find out that the downstairs storage area is actually owned by someone else or that the fixtures are not included.

Many times in Italy, the kitchen is considered personal property and does not stay when you purchase. The owners simply pack it up and take it with them.

In Italy the inheritences are such that you may want to buy a property that is listed for sale but then have to convince 20 cousins that they want to sell.

This can make certain properties almost impossible to purchase and you may not know that until you have fallen in love with it.

5. Know that there will be delays.

Purchasing property in Italy is a process and it goes how it goes. That said, I was very impressed by the time and care the local Notiao took to ensure that everything was fair and equitable.

The Notaio is charged with the task of ensuring that the sale is conducted in alignment with Italian real estate law.. Our notaio was extremely careful and took great pains to ensure that we understood everything about the contract.

However an illness may cause delays as your Notaio may be the only one for miles.

Stairs
Renovations

6. Understand that renovation estimates can, at times, be wild guesses.

My friend in Scalea has become the resident counselor to those who have purchased and seen their renovations go wrong and spiral out of control. (Note, I have never seen this in Santa Domenica Talao where we personally know the architect and builder.)

A ruin in Italy is likely several centuries old and those of us who live in America which has very few old buildings don’t always understand the true meaning of the word “ruin”.

I have heard of properties having to be taken apart brick by brick and rebuilt.

My advice if you don’t know a contractor, is to purchase something habitable that perhaps needs floors and finishes.

We purchased our house and the attached ruin. We were willing to take it on as we have worked with the builder on several other house projects and he is good and trustworthy.

Additionally the structural work had already been done so it is just the interior that needs finishing.

Meanwhile, we had the house which was habitable and very nice and were able to enjoy it right away without waiting for renovations. The renovations are now complete and they are truly spectacular.

If you have your heart set on a total ruin renovation project, go ahead but budget over the amount you are quoted.

7. Treat everyone with courtesy and respect

There is no nightmare quite as complete as buying a property somewhere and being ostrasized by everyone in the town.

These villages and towns have survived because they are like a large family. Courtesy goes a very long way and an effort to get along and become a part of the village is accepted with open arms.

Volterra
Volterra

8. Learn the language

You will not be expected to read and understand the contracts in Italian as an interpreter is present if you don’t speak the language.

Nonetheless, when you make the effort to speak and be understood, you earn the respect of your new neighbors. They are way more willing to overlook any social gaffs made out of ignorance of local customs.

Chris in Ostia Antica, Rome

9. Don’t consider it an investment in anything but experience.

When I was getting ready to make my purchase, several people asked me with horror in their voices, “Aren’t you afraid you will lose money?” as if that were the greatest sin I could ever commit.

The answer was, who cares what the market does after I buy? If I buy a property and I love it and it gives me joy and I can afford it, it is a good purchase. End of story. The property market gyrations would never make it worth any less in my eyes.

You are buying a dream. Dreams do not come with a price tag. It is whatever you are willing to pay for it that gives it its value.

There is a person who was looking at buying at the same time we were. She asked me all manner of questions like the above. She had so many “What if’s” that I gave up answering them.

Needless to say, she has not purchased and we have been enjoying our property for many years now.

10. Once you have purchased don’t let anyone kill the love you have for your beautiful new home.

I don’t know why people do this but some have to tell you what a huge mistake you have made.

They have to prove to you that you have been foolish and normally it comes down to money that in their opinion you should not have spent.

These are the people who never do anything big in their lives. Listening to them is destructive.

In the end you will have done your homework, you will have experienced the ins and outs of a foreign property purchase and will have many, many years of beautiful experiences to enjoy as a result.

Buying property in Italy is absolutely worth the effort and the money.

If money is tight, look in Southern Italy. Calabria is stunning and the prices are so good you could almost put it on a credit card.

I’ll see you in Italy!

Check out our YouTube channel under Super Savvy Travelers, LLC

The Truth About 1 Euro Italian Houses

Italian house
Photo credit Pixabay

 

Italian house
Photo credit Pixabay

Ciao!

I hope you all are following us on Youtube! We have gotten some really great traction over there and some of the videos are really taking off!

We are trying to put up informative and fun content that we know you want to see and it looks like we are succeeding so thank you if you have gone over and watched any of them.

By far the most popular video on YouTube is the one where I talk about the 1 euro Italian houses that are so popular nowadays and whether or not these are a wise purchase.

This video is up to 7,400 views and just keeps climbing. The other popular videos are the ones featuring our house renovations and several other renovation projects in our village of Santa Domenica Talao.

Every week I get several letters from people asking about purchasing a property in Italy and wondering if they can make their Italian dream come true.

Italy street
Italy street, Alexander Nagelstad

Now, these 1 euro Italian houses have gotten everyone’s attention. It is a BRILLIANT marketing campaign.

But is it a good deal?

Well, it might be but here are a few things that you need to keep in mind.

The homes that are selling now for 1 Euro are abandoned and have been for a long time.

First of all, let’s go back several generations and find out why these towns and villages are abandoned in the first place.

Seaside town
Seaside town

Back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s many Italians, especially from the South. left their homes in Italy for the dream of a better life in America.

Life in the rural districts was difficult back then. The weather was capricious and one never knew whether the next year they would still be able to eke out a meagre living. Many left with the idea that they would be back after seeking their fortunes but they never returned.

Over time the properties that would have been inherited by the sons and grandsons fell into disrepair and ruin.

This was a long time ago and many of these properties are in pretty rough shape. Generally these are the 1 Euro Italian houses.

Most of them are found in the historic centers of so many hill towns and seaside villages. Some are wedged in between other houses that have been cared for and perhaps renovated and most are in a pretty severe state of disrepair.

Italian house
Guillaume Meurice

So that said, are they a good deal?

Well, it depends on so many different factors.

One of them is the state of disrepair. If the walls are intact and not crumbling due to a roof failure, it will be less expensive to fix up than one that has had the roof fail completely letting water leak into the walls and destroy their integrity.

Once that occurs, there is substantial repair needed and sometimes you may have to take the walls down to the foundation and rebuild them from the bottom up.

In the case of a house that is seriously damaged, make sure you get a good inspection and estimate on the repairs in writing before you purchase it.

A better purchase would be a house that is still pretty much intact, only needing cosmetic repairs like new floors, windows, kitchens and bathrooms. These are not generally for sale for one Euro but many times they are really inexpensive because there are so many of them.

ARCHITECTURE ITALIAN
Architecture Italian

Also kitchens and bathrooms are very inexpensive tp purchase in Italy, especially in the South. Ikea does have branches in Italy where you can purchase DIY kitchens for not very much money.

Another factor that you want to pay attention to in shopping for your Italian house is that in many villages, there may be one architect and one builder, You have to make sure that you can work with them and that they are honest and reliable.

Talk to others who have gotten renovations done in your village and ask them about their experiences.

Bear in mind that the houses for sale for one Euro are not anything like any houses we have here in America. Many of these houses were built centuries ago with whatever building materials they had to hand.

Centuries old walls may be made up of old roof tiles, bits of rock, mortar and sometimes even wood canes like the ones we found holding up our ancient roof. Miraculously we have not had leaks under that part of the roof as the wood canes are black with age and somehow still standing.

Honestly there is so much to finding and purchasing your house in Italy. It is very difficult to put it all into one blog post.

Do go watch our Youtube video and stay tuned as Pete and I are putting together a consultant package for those who are interested in having experienced help in this area.

Once you have your dream firmly in place, it is time to begin!

 

 

 

Absolutely Vital Steps to Purchasing Your Home in Italy

Belvedere Maritimo
What you need to know to purchase your home in Italy

Caio!

And thank you for helping to make our recent Youtube videos so popular.

We have also received lots of news from Santa Domenica Talao, Italy letting us know that the work on our home renovations are going swimmingly.

We really can’t wait to see the finished project. You can see our renovations in the “during” phase right here. 

Obviously before purchasing our house almost ten years ago, Pete and I did a lot of research on purchasing a home in Italy.

The housing market in Italy is totally different than in America. In my recent video I went over the differences between an American home and a centuries old home in an Italian village.

Please do your own research but ultimately you will take these steps.

1. Find the area you want to be

There are several very important things to consider when choosing the area where you want to land.

a) Proximity to medical care and hospitals is super important.

Understand that medical services in Italy are very different than they are here in the US. Here if  we have something wrong, we make an appointment with a doctor and see him or her before getting any kind of treatment.

In Italy the pharmacies have pharmacists who are highly trained in diagnosis and treatment of the vast majority of health problems you might have.

For example if you have a sinus infection, you can get antibiotics over the counter. I once had a rash on my face and the pharmacists diagnosed the issue and handled it with the correct ointment.

My son once had food poisoning that he picked up before he arrived in Italy. He was in rough shape. I went to the pharmacy and they prescribed electrolytes and probiotics. He was much better after starting that treatment.

I do not know where the line is medically beyond which you have to see a doctor but there is a lot you can handle with your local pharmacist.

b) Check into the availability of the services you need and want.

For example if you need a hairdresser close by, or a nail salon, factor that into your decision.

c) What is the character or your city, town or village? 

Make sure it matches your own. The most perfect house in a village where you have massively different realities with the people there will not work out well.

d) Are there other ex pats?

Depending on your independence and confidence in being able to learn the language and to fall in with the customs, this may or may not be important to you. I can say that it can be exhausting trying to speak Italian all the time when you are learning and having someone to speak English with is a blessing.

However once you are up and rolling, that all could change. It all depends on what is important to you. I do highly recommend folding yourself in with your village no matter the language and cultural differences. This will give you the richest life experience.

e) Language

In Southern Italy, English is not a prevalent as it is up north. Even in the North when you get out of the bigger cities, you may not find a lot of English spoken.

Obviously you will want to learn Italian and speak like a local but after days of listening and learning, you can get some pretty wild brain fatigue and it is very nice to hear your native language.

2. Choose your agent

I hate to say it but some real estate agents in Italy are not honest and I am not necessarily talking about the locals. I have heard some real horror stories so be on the lookout.

Additionally the standard of responsibility for an agent in Italy may not be the same as in the US. The packet of documents you receive when purchasing a house in the US is massive. In Italy it is pages.  I do not know if disclosures are even a thing in Italy.

That said we found a wonderful agent in Ivan De Luca at Immobiliare Casabella in Scalea, Italy. I will provide all the data at the end of this post.

3. Obtain your Codice Fiscale

The Codice Fiscale is the Italian tax ID number and every big purchase requires that you have one. I bought beds recently and had to show my Codice Fiscale. You can obtain them at your local Italian embassy and it is not difficult but if you want to get it in Italy your agent can assist you with the process.

4. Choose your property

Where do you see yourself? Do you want an ancient hilltop village or a beautiful beach town? Do you want a busy city or a place in the country? All of these options have pros and cons.

In hill towns you will likely need a car whereas if you get a place in a town along the train lines, you can avoid the cost and hassle of having a car.

On the other hand if you purchase something close to the beach, understand that July and August can get extremely crowded with tourists.

That said you may be right in the thick of all of the festivals and events that occur in Summer. The hill towns and villages also have their version of the events but they are not as big as the busier cities.

Do you want a renovated house or apartment? Do you want something habitable that needs some cosmetics or do you want a complete renovation? All of these are good options but do your homework and get the costs in advance for all renovations and fixtures before making an offer on your house. Again there is a lot of useful information in my recent video .

Are you thinking of purchasing something off plan or to-be-built? ok, do me a favor and DON’T!! EVER!! EVER!!! EVER!!!

When I was researching our home purchase the first thing I did was get on the local forums where ex pats discussed experiences and issues. I also got onto forums in Spain and other countries as well as in Italy to see what experiences might be similar.

What I saw shocked me. So many people had purchased off plan (or to-be-built) projects that were never built. The contractors and these peoples’ money just disappeared like breath off a razor blade.

In another forum I read the story of a couple who had put a good amount of retirement money into a new build in Spain. Due to local misrepresentations of zoning laws, their house was bull dozed and there was no recourse.

The legal machinery in Italy grinds exceedingly slowly and you may never see a cent back in the event that you have to litigate. And litigation presupposes that you have tracked down the culprits who scammed you because they could be long gone.

I recommend that you buy something that you see before you and do not purchase anything with a build contract as the renovations may never happen.

We were shown an off plan build in our area ten years ago that we could have purchased for $120,000 Guess what? It was never built.

If you are thinking of getting something that needs renovations or needs to be rebuilt (Like many of the 1 euro houses) make sure that you get to know your builder and your architect before hand and are very comfortable with them. Then get all estimates up front before making an offer on your property.

Once you have all that data, make an offer that makes sense and be prepared to walk away.

Also be aware that not everything we expect in the US to be included in the price, is in fact included. Kitchens in Italy may or may not be included. They are like Lego sets and can be assembled and disassembled quickly. Take nothing for granted and if you want the kitchen, ensure it is in included in the deed. The same goes for light fixtures and just about anything else.

Also be aware that sometimes a garage or room in a house may belong to someone else. Take nothing for granted and ensure you know EXACTLY what all is included.

5. The purchase and dealing with the Notaio (Notary)

Notaries in Italy are way different than notaries in the US. According to Ivan De Luca, a PHD in economics and real estate agent extraordinaire, here is an outline of the Notaio’s functions:

a) The Notaio acts in favor of both the buyer and seller and works for the state.

b) The Notaio is a neutral third part and ensures that all documents comply with Italian real estate law.

c) Whether the transaction is done person to person or through an agent, the Notaio is required to oversee the transaction

d) The Notaio may execute certain checks after the  purchaser has paid a deposit. These checks might include each party’s rights to buy or sell a property, Whether there are any third party claims on the property (liens), a search to identify the presence of possible mortgages, and verification of planning permission.  The Notaio does not verify the compliance with planning permission only that planning permission was given.

e) The Notaio draws up the deed of sale (Atto di Vendita) based on the input from the seller or real estate agent.

f) The Notaio verifies the identities of the parties involved in the transaction.

g) The Notaio attends signing of the final sales contract and reads it aloud to both parties.

h) The Notaio ensure that the new deeds of ownership are registered at the Land Registry.

i) After the deed is registered, the Notaio gives copies of the deed to both parties.

After all of this is complete, congratulations! You are the proud owner of your Italian property!

Obviously this is an overview and since we are not attorneys, We are not giving legal advice here. Check with your real estate professionals in Italy and you can even check with your Notaio if you have questions. Also, if your transaction is complex or if you simply feel more comfortable, hire an attorney to assist you with the transaction.

Pete and I highly recommend Ivan De Luca who has acted not only as a real estate agent for us but has assisted us in setting up our business in Italy, managed our bills and advised us in so many ways on so many issues.

Ivan De Luca
Immobiliare Casabella, Scalea, Calabria, Italy
Parco Centro Marina, Via Lauro, 159, 87029 Scalea CS, Italy
+39 0985 90923

We recommend Ivan for the following reasons:

a) We have used him on several property transactions and despite some pretty grave obstacles, he has always found a way to get things done.

b) Ivan manages our rental properties and bill payments.

c) He is organized and completely transparent. You see where every penny is going.

d) Every time he makes a recommendation he backs it up with good logic and judgement.

e) He has seen everything in the Italian property market and knows what to do in every circumstance.

f) He is fluent in both Italian and English.

g) He is a one stop shop.

In addition to the sales process Ivan can assist you with these issues:

Fully assisted viewings with English translations
Provides assistance obtaining your Codice Fiscale
Offers translation services at the closing meeting
Full before and after sales assistance.
Assistance wtih residency and/or business set up
Bill payment/management
Renovation management and rental services
He has a PHD in economics and knows the Italian system very well.

We have found Ivan to be a valuable partner in all of our property handlings.

I hope that this blog post and the accompanying videos have been helpful to you. Please continue to send me your feed back and any subjects you want to hear about or any questions you have.

Ciao for now!