Buying a House in Italy

I know this blog is technically about Paris, but I wanted to touch on this because I have been trying to buy property. I’m looking in the US, more specifically in New England. I wanted to buy in Connecticut or Massachusetts. Unfortunately home prices in both are very high. Not to mention taxes (MA is a free healthcare state after all). So I began to look at upstate NY. People commute from NYC to various parts of the East Coast (mostly CT), so there are a lot of train routes available to other parts, making living in those areas a good option. Bedford, the Berkshires, and the Catskills are probably the most famous “upstate” options outside of CT, but there are others.

My interest lies in older homes, which is why I am looking at that part of America. They’re not only better built, and cheaper, they also have beautiful architectural details that you can’t find in newer homes. In Philadelphia for instance there are Federalist townhomes for sale that basically look like property in London. I recently saw a listing for a pair of townhomes for $500k and they were phenomenal. Granted they were completely refinished, hence the price tag. I saw a 1790 Federalist home in NY that was amazing. Beautiful older homes can be had, but of course the East Coast is where a lot of these 200+ year homes are, and a lot of them are in need of renovation.

My home search won’t actively begin until spring because of quarantines and winter. I am not looking to trek around the East Coast looking at properties in snow storms. I also need to look into all of the first time buyer programs available (the US offers a lot of incentives for first time home owners, and everyone should take full advantage of them). 

While looking for property in America, I started stumbling on property in Europe. I loved being in France, and I find Europe to be much cheaper than the US. Unfortunately as I said in another post I can’t afford to buy property in Paris. Living in Paris is too expensive, and they’re not exactly handing out home loans. It’s not America where you can get a home for only 10-20% down. While cheaper property can be had in France, France is a headache. Taxes, renovations, bureaucracy, I feel like there are countries that don’t make it as hard on prospective buyers. 

Enter Italy. 

The Italian government is always advertising old homes in ruin. Some of them cost nothing. The better ones cost very little. Most of the towns with these homes badly need people to buy them, restore them, and give these towns life, so they almost give them away (in this sense for the ceremonial cost of 1€). 

Of course there are costs involved. It’s not cheap to renovate, but it’s not crazy either. I was actually shocked that it didn’t cost more. I was thinking a few hundred grand. You really have to do your research though. You need to find a town that is accessible. It can’t be in the middle of nowhere, because you’ll need to be able to fly in, and you’ll need to find building supplies. You also need to look into the requirements for each town, because each town lists the properties that they are selling, and they all have their own requirements. You need to fill out applications, the towns need to approve you, you have to put down the deposit ($5000+), and you have to have a notary (notaries in Europe function differently than in the US, they’re almost like lawyers).

Some of the houses being offered are better than others. For instance Lorraine Bracco is doing a reno show on HGTV because she bought a “1€ home” but her’s was in bad shape. It had no running water, no electricity, and I don’t even think it had a bathroom. Sicily has an abundance of homes, but obviously some of the homes are better than others. For instance there are people who would rather pay 8,000€ instead of 1€ to get a home in better shape. 

I guess what really got me interested was not just having a home in Europe, but also the time Christian Kinnersley and I spent in Lourmarin. I loved that house. It was small, and it was basic, but it was perfect. The town was a good size, and if you really needed anything you could drive to another town close by to get it. As a Texan, who grew up commuting between the city and my family’s ranch and lake homes on weekends, I don’t mind a drive. Having a retirement home in the countryside sounds like heaven. 

Anyhow there are a number of requirements to buy a home. Mainly the promise to have the renovations completed in 3 years, and at least $5000 down as a deposit. I’m just putting my toe in the water, and I haven’t made it far along enough to give a lot of insight into the process. I have an appointment with the local Italian council to look at homes in March. The renovations will be the biggest (scariest) thing. They say they offer help with that so we’ll see. It probably sounds crazy, wanting to do this, but I’m nothing if not spontaneous. When I do get further into it I’ll make a new blog about it (because of course). For now I’m just dealing with paperwork. And that’s not very fun or interesting.