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Buying a Cheap Italian Fixer-Upper Explained

BY: Adriana Giglioli | Category: Real-Estate | Submitted: 2011-04-04 04:10:33
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Article Summary: "An Italian property professional gives key advice on finding a cheap ruin to renovate.."

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Property investors' spending power may have been limited in the wake of the earthquake that has hit economies the world over, but the lure of acquiring a house in a country like Italy remains as strong as ever.

Hence more and more foreign purchasers in Italy are aiming to renovate properties or even build from scratch as opposed to buying resale homes.

The overwhelming attraction is glaring - cost. Ditch any ideas of unearthing renovation homes for Euro 1, a publicity gimmick initiated a couple of years ago by one Sicilian mayor. However, in southern regions such as Sicily, Calabria and Molise a rural ruin can be found from less than Euro 8,500.

Add a bill for restoration that can begin at around Euro 750 a sq m and one can turn a broken-down farmhouse into a 100sq m idyllic holiday home for some Euro 95,000 - far less than what one would cost otherwise. In addition, beyond the initial buying price, building expenses may then be defrayed over the duration of the construction, which can take as long as the you want.

Stef Russo, head of Italy property search company The Property Organiser, reveals: "The credit crunch has led to more and more buyers following the restoration route. The costs in zones like Abruzzo are around Euro 900 per sq metre - about 50-60% what the costs in Tuscany. And instead of buyers having to produce finance at the start, it allows them to spread costs over months or years.

"In addition, buyers like the opportunity to put their personalised imprint on their homes, which is easier to do through renovation than if they go for a resale and then try to overhaul it."

Italy's long history means it is awash with buildings from as far back as the 18th century, just in need of some tender love and care to make them into superb modern dwellings.

There is also a rich supply of farmhouses - a popular choice of overseas househunters - in the main owing to the mass migration of large tides of Italians who, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, left behind villages for towns and cities or even a new life in the US and Latin America. By the by, if you fancy trying something a little different, the answer may lie in the estimated 5,000 religious buildings up for sale to be upgraded into houses.

Having picked a property, the next stage is to hire trustworthy professionals to turn your dream into fruition. Some buyers are prepared to do most of this themselves, the best route is to pay a reputable geometra/surveyor (your realtor ought to be able to point you in the direction of with one).

They will be able to find good workmen for you as well as get in touch with local authorities for the requisite building permission. Bear in mind that many ancient Italian homes are out of stone and therefore work on such homes will require craftsmen practised in dealing in this material.

One frequently present danger with building projects like this is that your costs can rocket out of control, often by as much as 30% or more. Common pitfalls include pools allow up to 20,000); upgrading access roads allow up to Euro 4,000 for a 100m stretch); and upgrading lawns. However, your geometra can agree a contract with your construction workers specifying maximum expenditure in addition to a deadline, with penalties to apply if they are not abided by.

Although geometre design homes to a certain level, their skill is limited and you would be advised to also engage an architect to take charge of design. It is crucial from the outset that you make crystal clear what you visualise and that you pass this on to the architect. Brand-new ideas once work has begun wastes time, is costly and inconvenient for everyone else concerned.

Don't be unrealistic about the likely timescales involved. The buying procedure can take between one and three months and sorting out work approval a further six months depending on the Commune involved.

In addition, unless you intend being on-site for most of the time, your team should also include an independent project manager to oversee everything and help keep things ticking over. The architect or surveyor can also fulfil this role.

One project manager explains: "By popping up on site frequently, often unannounced, we keep the client clued in on what is going on using fulsome notes and photographs. It means any issues can be dealt with immediately. We keep everything on schedule and, even more crucially, make sure the buyer receives no nasty surprises."

About Author / Additional Info:
The author works for Homes and Villas, where she specialises in Tuscany ( and Sicily (

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