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!

 

 

 

Love and Renovation Italian Style!

Our lady's generous back side
Our lady's generous back side

 

Our grand old lady
Our grand old lady

Ciao Everyone!

Who hasn’t wanted to rescue an ancient house that was once filled with families, honor, fine food and love?

Millions of us have watched “Under the Tuscan Sun”, some of us many times (that would be me!) and as we did so we dreamed of perhaps one day, finding a house that speaks to us and begs us to give it a second chance at glory.

As you may know, my husband and I purchased a house in the Calabrian hill town of Santa Domenica Talao, Italy.  Our village, like so many others in the area, has a lot of abandoned ruins.

Ruined grand house
Ruined grand house

Back in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s many Italians fled Italy to America looking for a better life. Most of them were from Calabria and, although they have made great contributions to us in America in terms of food, family and culture, they left holes in their villages.  As a result the abandoned homes have been left to degenerate into a sad state of disrepair.

As you wander through our village you see these empty old beauties and you can’t help but think about how they might look all done up like new. But many of them have been salvaged and brought back to life, once again filled with love and family.

Houses lining the street leading to the piazza
Houses lining the street leading to the piazza

The street leading to the piazza is lined with beautifully renovated houses, all except for the ancient beauty that rises up over the street like a grand old lady, the only house on the block that needs a redo.

And, ever since my husband and I looked at her when we were in the market for our current house, we have never gotten free of her mysterious pull and finally after 9 years, we decided to purchase her and turn her into a BNB.

This lovely lady standing at Via XXIV Maggio, is ours at last.

Not the new one, the pink building next to it
Not the new one, the pink one next to it.

This was not a simple Italian property transaction. My husband and I decided to use some retirement money to set up a self directed IRA and purchase, renovate and run the BNB through this company. This means that we had to set up a separate company and deal with all of the tax and bureaucratic infrastructure that goes along with it.

Add to that the trouble we ran into getting the tax ID number and some other assorted bits of trouble and, well it took a bit to get it done.

View from the roof terrace
View from the roof terrace

Happily we had some big hitters and “get it done” people on our side. I want to take the opportunity to send out massive kudos to Antonello Lucchesi, our architect and Ivan De Luca, our estate agent and all around get it done guy. These two ran into so many obstacles and found ways around them all. It was really epic!

OMG! Where do we start?
OMG! Where do we start?

I also have to thank our seller Anne for being to gosh darned patient with our bits of trouble and hanging in with it all.

At Last it is Time to Renovate!

Ok, lots to do
OK, lots to do.

While Pete and I were in Santa Domenica last time, we had the opportunity to sit down with Antonello and his staff and go over the layout of all the rooms.

From the front, the house looks a lot smaller than it is. She has a ground floor and another floor above it however her generous backside rolls down the hill giving two more good sized floors that can be turned into accommodations.

Our lady's generous back side
Our lady’s generous back side

In the end we will have four “studiette” apartments with ensuite bath and coffee and fridge facilities and a full sized, one bedroom apartment.

Most of the apartments will have views of the mountains and the sea and one will have a balcony overlooking the street. We also have a large roof terrace where residents can enjoy sweeping views of the mountains and the sea from high above the village.

Balcony view
Balcony View of the mountains and sea

We have decided that we wanted a communal kitchen and eating area where breakfast will be served daily and where we can have events and classes.

And the best news we received while we were there? The cooking school that our mayor has been wooing is finally going to arrive!

As our renovations progress we plan to be in conversations with the cooking school to see about putting together vacation packages for those who want to learn real Calabrian cooking from the masters. In addition we will have ladies from our village teaching classes on everything from pasta making to meats to all of the seemingly millions of appetizers that one finds here.

We will have morning field trips down to the world famous Pasticceria Arrone for coffee and to die for cakes, beach trips, photography tours and whatever else we can think of.

So with the final signatures on all the documents and the money having changed hands, we are ready to start phase 2, renovations!

And a one bedroom apartment
And a one bedroom apartment

Stay with us along the way and watch as this beauty regains her past glory and takes her rightful place as one of Santa Domenica’s leading ladies of the piazza.

The Piazza
Our Piazza