The Truth About Leaseholds In Italy

Italian hill town
Italian House
Photo credit Pixabay

Ciao,

I am so blessed in that I get mail every week from people with various questions about purchasing property in Italy.

A few times now I have received requests for information about leasehold estates vs freehold estates.

In California real estate, a “freehold estate” is one that is owned outright. A “leasehold estate” is a lease or rental.

Italian village
Photo credit Pixabay

In Italy and in the UK there are certain leasehold estates that to us might be similar to a co-op except that a leasehold is really just a long term rental.

It seems that certain real estate agents in our area of Calabria are now offering leasehold estates and the prices seem very low. On the surface it looks too good to be true.

So since people are wondering whether these leaseholds are a good option in the Italian real estate market, I did a bit of research and here is what I found.

How a leasehold works:

A leasehold is basically a long term rental. The “purchaser” has purchased only the right to live in the unit for a set period of time. The land the units are on is owned by a landlord or” freeholder” who charges rent for it and, through management company, maintains it.

One of the issues according to an article in The Guardian is that the landowner charges a fee for the maintenance of the communal areas. He or she can also charge for any work being done, decide who does it and how much it will cost. The leaseholders then have to pay for it.

The Guardian is a magazine in the UK and it discusses the situation specific to the UK however when we asked Ivan De Luca from Agenzia Immobiliare Casabella in Scalea, Italy, his concerns were similar.

Italian house
Photo credit Pixabay

In looking at the apartments that are available in our area under these leasehold contracts, it is unclear exactly what the situation is. It appears to me that these are individual apartments that are rented out with all of the rent paid up front to the owner of the property,  but then monthly fees are paid to the management company.

The fees are not fixed and you never know when they will go up.

In addition, Ivan De Luca of Agenzia Immobiliare casabella warns that there may be hidden fees that you don’t find out about until you have paid the purchase price.

In short you are at the mercy of the property management firms. If they raise the fees you have no recourse.

Additionally property management agencies are highly variable in terms of honesty and ethics.

Another issue that concerns me greatly is the fact that it does not appear that a notaio is involved in the purchase of the rental contract.

In one of the ads I read for a leasehold through an agency, they recommended using the same attorney for the buyer and seller which could be a conflict of interest.

The role of the notaio in property purchases is clear.  He is the one who makes sure everything is done according to the law. He makes sure the title is clear and that everything is in order.

There is a larger degree of safety in a transaction that goes through a notaio.

In a lease hold, you may not even know if the person leasing it actually owns the property as it appears to me that  no title search is done. And you don’t know if any other encumbrances exist. In short you may buy the perfect property only to find that someone else has  certain rights to it that you were not aware of.

You also do not know if the property management agents are honest. I hate to say it but I have heard of some shady deals in our area. The agents there may all be honest but you don’t know for sure.

And the Italian court system is painfully slow so that by the time you went through the courts on something like this, you will have paid out more money in expensive attorney’s fees than you would ever get back.

According to Ivan, a leasehold option may make sense in a very expensive city like Monaco or London where property prices are really high but in Calabria where you can purchase an apartment for very little money, the risks outweigh the potential benefits as you may be buying a bagful of headaches.

If you are looking for a property in Calabria, especially in the Riviera Dei Cedri regions (The prettiest place on earth) please contact us. We have purchased several properties there and have done renovations. We love to share our experiences and new found knowledge with you.

Hope you found this helpful!

Chris and the Gulf of Policastro at sunset
Chris and the Gulf of Policastro at sunset

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

How to Learn Italian (Or Any Romance Language) Easily

Chris and the Loa Archeological site
How to Learn Italian Easily

Ciao everyone!

I am gobsmacked at the number of people contacting me about moving to Italy. Seemingly everyone has an Italian dream.

But the one thing that strikes horror into them is the fact that they have to learn Italian.

Others hope that they will soak up Italian like a sponge when they get there, after all babies do that all the time.

But there is a difference. As babies, our lives were set up to teach us our new language. Mama takes us to the market and says “potato” a jillion times while pointing to a potato and sooner or later we associate the object with the word.

When I was 17 my family moved to Brussels for a year. Since there were several of us kids, my parents could not afford to put us in American schools and they wanted us to learn French.

So my sister and I were packed off to L’Institut Dames De Marie in Brussels where we started our quest to learn our school work and simultaneously learn French.

But we did not simply sponge up French despite being immersed in it all day. It was not until I enrolled with my parents in the evening classes taught in French to a bunch of disparate foreigners who all spoke different languages, that I really understand how to learn a foreign language and started really learning French.

Happily our instructor was Monsieur Jons who knew exactly how to teach someone to speak French.

I have used his technique to learn not only French but also Spanish and now Italian.

And his technique was different than most because it focused on the verbs.

Every class we had with him was heavily verb oriented. We conjugated hundreds of verbs and in a one year period we knew verb conjugation, irregular verb conjugation and past, present and future.  (Conjugate means to change the verb to fit  in the sentence.)

Once we knew those the rest was easy.

So following in Monsieur Jons’ footsteps, My recommendations are as follows:

First learn who you will be talking about:

I=Io
You (informal)=Tu
He/She=Lui/Ley
They=Loro
We=Noi
You (plural)=Voi

Next, learn the verb To Be. In Italian it is “Essere”

“Essere”

Io Sono= I am
Tu Sei=You are
Lui/Ley=He/She is
Loro Sono=They are
Noi Siamo=We are
Voi Siete=You (plural) are

Practice this by making up sentences with the verb conjugation and don’t worry about putting in some English words as long as you conjugate the verb correctly. :

“Io sono happy”. “Loro sono angry.” “Tu sei pretty.” etc.

Do this until you are very comfortable with the verb “essere” and all it’s present tense conjugations.

The next most important verb you must, must, must learn is the verb “To have” and this is “Avere”. This is vital for when you want to start talking in the past tense in that you can use “I have gone”, “You have seen”, etc and it makes talking in the past tense super simple.

“Avere”

Io Ho=I have
Tu Hai=You have
Lui/Ley ha=He/she have
Loro hanno=They have
Noi Abbiamo=We have
Voi avete=You (plural) have

Again, use these different conjugations in sentences mixed with English until you get the hang of it.

While doing this also download the Duolingo app. Duolingo is a great little app that lets you play fun games that help you drill your Italian without the pain and suffering. In fact, it is really fun.

I also recommend a set of CD’s called “Drive Time Italian“. This program is great in that it starts you from the very beginning and moves up from there. It also goes over verb conjugations, vocabulary and grammar. If you have a long commute you can learn a ton. I bought these and drilled the the CD’s probably about ten times each and it really stuck with me.

I also recommend “Italian for Dummies” as it also goes over the grammar and sometimes it is great to see things in writing. Also Italian for Dummies equipped me with a phrase that I thought was odd when I learned it but later realized how needed it was in Italy. It was “Signor! il Bancomat ha mangiato la Mia carta!” “Sir! the ATM has eaten my card”.

This came in tremendously handy when the ATM in Diamante ate my card and I had to go in the bank and explain what happened.

The book has a ton of other very handy phrases as well.

OK! it is time to get started! Learn these verbs and start using them. I will write another quick lesson for you soon.

For the accompanying Youtube video, check out our Youtube channel. 

 

Ruin Flippers! How Our House Hunters International Dream is Coming True AGAIN!

The ruin from the side
The ruin from the side

 

 

If you are like me, you are hooked on House Hunters International. I watch every episode on Europe and I love trying to figure out which house the buyers  will get and what kind of life they will create there. The episodes on Italy are always my favorite.

Back in 2011, my husband Pete and I made our House Hunters International dream come true by purchasing a medieval house on the top of a 300 year old building in an ancient hill town in Calabria, Southern Italy.

Back then not many people had heard of Calabria. Guidebooks ignored it despite the fact that Calabria boasts of some of the most dramatic landscapes and some of the most stunning beaches on the planet.

So we had very little competition buying our house with its sparking white tile and sweeping view of the sea.

Neighbors chatting in Santa Domenica Talao, Calabria. #santadomenicatalao #calabria #southernitaly #chasinglabellavitanow

And we have been visiting there as much as we possibly can since we bought it. We love it there and miss it sorely when we are away..

Last Summer I was there with a friend who was looking at purchasing a property there. As we wandered though the piazza toward the back of the village, my eyes fell on a ruin that Pete and I had fallen in love with when we were looking for our house.  It had been on the market then but was too expensive and needed extensive renovations.

The Pink House
The Pink House

This ruin, I had heard, had been purchased and yet here it was, still sitting in a state of partial renovation as it had for the last seven years.

So I asked my friend Antonello (Who you remember from my previous post about the ruined palace in the back of the village) about it.

Antonello told me that a lady had purchased the building with the intention of renovating it but that she had found another house and had moved in. He stated that the lady wanted to sell it and I asked him to find out how much.

In 2011 when we were initially looking to purchase, the property market was strong. People from America and various parts of the UK had come over and purchased holiday homes. Since then the market and gone pretty soft so the price was right and we are now in the process of purchasing the “Pink House” steps away from the piazza.

The Piazza
The Piazza

The house itself looks like a two story house from the front however it is built on a hill and all together it is four stories.

We have figured that if we are judicious with the space, we can create five studio apartments, a communal kitchen, communal laundry facilities and a huge roof terrace with sweeping views of the Pollino mountains and the Mediterranean.

A few months ago we agreed on the price and now we are waiting for the contracts to be translated and the date set with the notaio who will meet with us and go over the contract, line by line to ensure that all T’s are dotted and eyes crossed.

Then it will be ours.

Right now it is looking like early February 2019 and then the renovations can start.

The ruin from the side
The ruin from the side

This is going to be a magnificent project. the architect has an amazing sense of aesthetics and loves to make things beautiful.

From the back
From the back

 

We are so excited. The village has been changing and gearing up for tourism. The village leaders seem to want this beautiful place to be a destination for tourists rather than a place you stumble upon  if you are lucky.

And Pete and I have a purpose to introduce this amazing place to the people we come into contact with.

The grand opening for the BNB is tentatively set for May 2020. Please stay tuned here for updates, photos and announcements.

I will write more and post more photos when we visit in February.

Why the Calabrian Coast is the New Amalfi

Maratea_coast
Sweeping Mediterranean views from Maratea
Why Calabria is the New Amalfi
Why Calabria is the New Amalfi

Remember when Amalfi was the cool place to visit? The highbrow travelers flocked there to see and be seen.

The Amalfi coast and Positano in particular have reached truly Disneyesque status as tourist destinations.

The Disney phenomenon seems prevalent in the areas that cater to tourists. As more and more tourists descend on a town or a province, the mom and pop shops sell out to trinket shops and high end designer fashion stores.

Many times the beauty of the old architecture is destroyed and turned into a sterile new “modern” look that defeats the entire purpose of visiting a small Italian fishing village.

You could go visit Amalfi and pay way too much for a meal at one of the restaurants there but your travel dollar is way better spent a little further south.

Most guidebooks featuring Italy stop at Naples and claim to have reached “The South”.

They completely ignore the fact that there is almost half of Italy further south and that, to have a true Italian holiday immersed in the food, customs and community, you have to venture further.

Italy is a glorious country but there are reasons to avoid the crowds and tourists of the Rome, Venice, Florence trifecta.

Calabrian Antipasti
Calabrian Antipasti

1) The food

Calabria has its own cuisine. In fact most of what Americans know as “Italian food” is Calabrian cooking.

Starting in the late 1800’s and continuing through two world wars, Calabrians emigrated in great numbers to America, mostly New York.

Much of Calabria at that time was a brutal place to farm and farming was the sole subsistence of most of the people.

The Calabrian Diaspora (Emigration) continued over decades and ultimately Calabrian influence could be seen everywhere in the US.

Your pizzas and pasta ragouts are from Calabria and Naples.

A walking tour through any Calabrian village finds hand made fresh pastas, home made breads and a complete array of delicious pastries.

My two favorite restaurants in Calabria are the Bella Vista in Santa Domenica Talao where my husband and have a place, and Al Caminetto in Tortora which is another beautiful Calabrian hilltown.

Order anything off the menu at any one of these two places and you are in for a treat.

Calabrian Views
Calabrian Views

2) The Scenery

The Calabrian coast or The Riviera Dei Cedri is not only bristling with picturesque little fishing villages but also has spectacular mountain ranges jutting up into the sky in a myriad of colors.

Beautiful Tortora
Beautiful Tortora

Add to this the little medieval hilltop villages clinging the rocky crags like mushrooms on a tree trunk and you have an enchanting vacation destination.

Calabria is a photographer’s dream. Around every corner is another jaw dropping view that stops you in your tracks.

Shopping in Diamante
Shopping in Diamante

3) The shopping

Calabria and Southern Italy in general is known for their markets. The Monday market in Scalea is a shopper’s paradise. The marketplace is lined with stalls selling anything from lingerie to housewares to cheeses.

Every little village has a market once a week and the downtown areas all have shops that sell products unique to their specific regions.

Many of these products like Cedro cookies and jellies, fiercely hot N’Duja and chile peppers are unique to the region.

My Beautiful Friends Nunzia
My Beautiful Friend Nunzia

4) The people

When my husband and I first purchased our home in Santa Domenica, we barely spoke Italian and worried whether we would fit in.

Somehow, between then and now we have become fast friends with our Italian neighbors.

Nunzia who runs the market in the village took us under her wing and from that point on we were part of the community.

Giacomo and his Lovely Family
Giacomo and his Lovely Family

One day while visiting the little hill town of Aieta, close by our place, a man came running out, brought us in for coffee and introduced himself.

Since then Giacomo and his family have been good friends and they are always up for a day or a dinner out when we are there. (On the right is Roseangela who is an amazing chef. Check out our video as she tries really hard to teach me how to make pasta.)

We have made so many great friends there despite our halting Italian and funny California ways.

Giuseppe
Guiseppe the Artist. He has a Lovely Soul.

They happily look the other way when they see us eating dinner at 6:oo and drinking cafe latte in the afternoon. Any time we need anything they are there to help us out.

5) La Pausa

The afternoons in Calabria are set aside to recover from a big Calabrian lunch. Everything shuts down at 1:00 and everyone snoozes.

At first this bugged me. Where was everyone? I had to plan my day around La Pausa (The pause) but more and more I fell into the habit of reading and taking a short snooze in the afternoon.

It is a lovely custom. You feel so refreshed after a pause and you can then stay up late and enjoy the festivals into the evening.

6) Everything is inexpensive

At my favorite restaurant, I can get an oven fired pizza for eight Euros. The homemade red wine there which is fabulous by the way, is also about eight euros for a liter.

The food is fresh and many times it comes to you without you having to go out shopping.

Several times a week we hear the voice of our fish man broadcasting through the village “Peschi! Peschi fresci” and a huge filet from an unfortunate seabass who was just pulled from the sea, is yours for ten euros.

The Sassi, Matera
The Sassi in Matera, Basilicata, Italy

7) It is the perfect home base for an exploratory trip

From most Southern Italian towns, everything is accessible by rail. You can go North to Paestum for the best preserved Greek city still in existence.

You can head south to the fishing village of Scilla for seafood, or to Paola to visit the extraordinary sanctuario there.

You can head further South to Reggio Calabria and see the promenade and the beautiful museums and shops.

You can go further south to Sicily over the Straits of Messina and arrive in Taormina. Everything is a short hop.

Or you can stay in one area and explore the many hilltowns that dot the region. Each one has its own beauty and charm and the people love tourists who interact with them.

Passegiata
The Passegiata

8) The passagiata

Every evening and especially in weekends, everyone in the village dresses up and performs the passagiata or “The walk”. They leave their housework, their TV’s and telephones and they walk around the village.

They touch bases with their neighbors, have an ice cream and kiss new babies. The men play cards at the tables left out for them by the shop proprietors. The woman walk arm in arm and talk about their lives.

In my village I see no one with mental health issues and I think that the simple act of walking with another person arm in arm and talking to them goes a long way in preventing depression and loneliness.

The people of the village belong to the family that is the entire village. It is a powerful support group.

Bella Nunzia
Bella Nunzia

9) Calabria is Magical

While walking in the alleys of Diamante one day I heard a gasp. I looked up and a tiny lady was running toward me with her arms outstretched. “Che Bella Duona!” (What a beautiful lady!) she said and fell into my arms.

I looked up at my husband and friend who were as surprised as I was and said “I love this place!”

And who could not love a place that raises its children with the idea that these spontaneous outbursts of love and admiration are perfectly ok?

If you love life, all the joy it brings, all the sights, smells, and sensations, you will love Southern Italy.

Calabrian Magic Peppers
Calabrian Magic Peppers

When you go, visit my friend Clive and Cathryn at Casa Cielo, in Scalea. They are the number one BNB there and are English so language is never a problem.

Additionally Clive is a fantastic chef and at the slightest prompting he will make you a meal you will you will never forget.

And if you happen to pass by Santa Domenica Talao in Summer, look for me. I will be at a table at the cafe or walking around the village. We can have a coffee and a chat.

If you like this article and want to read a story about our village festival, check out San Giuseppe and Dog the Blasphemer .

If we have whetted your appetite for all the magic that is Calabria,  contact us. We will put together an unforgettable trip for you.