Tags :EuropeItalyPROPERTYReal estateWorld
It was too good to be true. It is possible to buy a new house in sunny Italy for as little as one euro (or AU$1.60).
Many small towns in Italy, from Sicily in the south to the northern Alps, offer such bargains to attract residents and revitalize dying communities.
Millions of people are in love with the idea that a simpler lifestyle is possible and that they can leave behind the urban rat race.
Numerous towns were overwhelmed with inquiries. All day, telephones rang. Websites creaked under the strain.
But did anyone actually purchase one? What happened next after they bought one? They were caught up in the notoriously corrupt Italian bureaucracy.
Did they run into language barriers? Did the houses turn out to be money pits, or just a wasteful of time? La dolcevita quickly turned sour, leaving buyers feeling depressed and ripped off.
CNN Travel caught up with some of the pioneering buyers – or “€1 citizens,” as the locals call them – who did what most of us have only been willing to daydream about to discover whether it’s been worth it.
Morgane Guihot (a French national) was one of first to take advantage the 1-euro deals that were offered in Mussomeli. Mussomeli, a charming town located in the heart of Sicily, has narrow, old streets that are clustered around a crumbling hilltop citadel.
She bought the house using her husband’s pocket money.
Most deals require buyers to make renovations. Guihot (27) and her husband (31), made it a priority get started.
The Mussomeli house, measuring 50 m2, has been almost renovated. The walls were painted and the floors are in good condition.
She said, “We just need to finish the toilet.”
“As both artisans as well as renovators, the majority of the work was done by us. It was amazing to see our 2-room house come back to life.
“The 15-metre panoramic terrace is breathtaking.”
They will use it to provide a home for their children during Christmas and the summer holidays.
Guihot explains, “When we made the decision to buy a second home, we were drawn by the bargain prices in Mussomeli, when compared to France’s expensive estate markets.”
We were drawn to the charm of the area the first time that we visited. It’s charming and the people are so welcoming.
They are used to rural life in Nantes, but Mussomeli has provided them with a quieter place to live.
Guihot said, “Even if it’s not an enormous change for us, it’s what makes it exciting?” The great location.
“The town is not isolated like other villages, but it is close to beautiful Sicilian locations. There are shops, supermarkets and everything else you need.
It’s possible to live a cool lifestyle. It’s amazing.
There weren’t any unpleasant surprises.
“Everyone was very friendly, and the girls from the realty agent were there to help us every stage of our journey. They helped us with paperwork, and translated the deed.
It went much better that we expected. Our home was in much worse shape than we expected.
“Oh, it could be done over-and-over again.”
While she and her husband are still young, they are already considering Mussomeli for retirement.
“We are still young. Who knows? It will be our vacation home, and we will have plenty of time to learn Italian.
Many buyers were willing to purchase dilapidated homes at bargain prices, but others preferred better quality homes.
After spending much time touring Mussomeli’s 1 euro buildings, Patrick Janssen (a Belgian entrepreneur) decided to buy a “superior residence” at a much higher cost. This home has been nearly completely renovated.
He was attracted by the media coverage of the low-cost homes, and the chance to make an important life-altering decision.
He claims, “I’ll be honest, we didn’t buy a house for one euro.”
“We were shown 25 different buildings. Some buildings were in dire need repairs. So we bought a three-room decent structure at AU$16,000, and spent more money renovating it.”
He was not just unhappy with the condition his buildings were in, but he also wanted to avoid the euro side of this scheme.
Janssen said, “I thought, if I bought a nice home, not crumbling, and I neatly fix it making it new again. it will last many, many years.”
“My five children would still live in a perfect home 20 years from now.” Even if something happens, they’ll still be able live in a nice house. They can also visit as friends when they grow older.
He currently plans to use his house as a vacation place for his family where they will be able to spend several weeks, or even months each year.
“But now, after giving this a second thought, I see the beauty of it and it might be my next retirement spot.”
Janssen purchased the property with his long-term goals at heart. He considered many factors including the distance between Mussomeli, his home in Brussels, and how much it would cost.
“Sicily’s right around the corner. We fly from Belgium in two hours. This is a big plus if you’re coming from Europe to spend the weekend.
Mussomeli, when compared with frenetic Brussels, is another world, he claims.
“People in Belgium don’t relax. It is a simple place to live, with a small town and beautiful surroundings. It is a great place for detox and to recharge your batteries.
Janssen’s home boasts a terrace overlooking the old district’s tiles roofs and narrow alleyways.
“This area of Sicily is wild, unspoiled and green, with a peaceful atmosphere. It is the ideal place to start exploring other parts of the island.
Janssen also found the entire process to be smooth. Janssen found the paperwork to be much easier than she expected, despite Italy’s reputation for excessive regulation and red tape.
“Actually it was quite surprising that renovating in Sicily is so much easier than in Belgium.”
Some people found something more appealing than the lure of a cheap house – such DNA and ancestry.
Meredith Tabbone, a Chicago-based financial advisor, was one of 16 buyers who purchased an old house in Sambuca.
Tabbone’s blood is Sicilian. Her ancestors were Sambuca.
In January, it was reported that abandoned buildings were being sold by local authorities to reverse the population decline. The village was hit by a property panic.
Sambuca was inundated by interested buyers from all over the world, who sent thousands upon thousands of requests.
The mayor decided to auction it off because he couldn’t satisfy the high demands and recognized a business opportunity in the property.
The houses sold at AU$40,000. This is a substantial increase over the one-euro price but still a bargain.
Tabbone offered to purchase two dwellings, but he never visited the town.
She said, “When my friends sent me the article, I realized Sambuca was where my family is originally.”
“My great-grandfather immigrated to America many years ago. I had always wanted to visit Sicily but hadn’t been to my hometown. “I have wanted to visit Sicily for 10 years, but I never got the chance.”
Tabbone was shocked to discover that her family line still lives in the original location.
“I still have relatives that live near my new home, but I have not yet met them.” Next time, I’ll meet with them.
Tabbone paid AU$8,900 for each of the houses, including the one on No.5.
She stated that she loves the number “Five”. “That’s why I bid the exact amount on that spot and selected that house.”
She completed all paperwork online and Google-mapped every property. She had to postpone her first trip to June after winning the May bid.
“I had just broken my foot. “I bought the house sight unseen.”
The new home features three bedrooms, tiled ceilings, and curved stairs. It was a pleasant surprise.
She stated, “It’s different from what I expected.”
“I Googled it, but I had no idea what it was. It was more than I had imagined. The balcony is even better.
Tabbone said that the house is currently without electricity or water, but that it was “like being a blank canvas which can be painted with all the beautiful and cute Italian items that make for a cozy home”.
The building’s history is another attraction.
Tabbone states, “The stables are on the ground floor.”
“Horses were kept downstairs in the 1800s and families lived upstairs. They still have the ropes.
Tabbone has completed all paperwork and received the blueprints. Tabbone is working with architects to coordinate the next steps. It will be a basic re-design.
Many people believe paperwork is hard to handle. It’s not. It was very easy and smooth. Everyone thought it impossible. It was.
You can easily download all required documents online and apply to your new fiscal codes in order to pay your property taxes in Italy. She claims that she discovered the architects on Instagram before ever setting foot in Sambuca.
Tabbone stated that her ultimate goal was to become eligible for Italian citizenship and make Sambuca her retirement home.
“For now, I’ll only work for a few months each calendar year. Although I’m only 40 years old, I have begun to think about my future and when I will retire. Sambuca is warm, sweet and kind.”