Houses for 1 euro

There was an American cable tv channel series last year about homes for 1 euro in Sicily.   It will no doubt cause others to think that its a brilliant idea and assume they can have a holiday home for the price of a Sicilian coffee.  Its worth adding that in the first episode we discovered that the house for 1 euro has a rebuilding budget of 135000 euros , which should be enough to realise that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

The BBC has just started its version,  Amanda Holden and Alan Carr doing up a house in Salemi.  While jolly television, funny and a nice sunny interlude to a British winter, its worth remembering it’s entertainment and not really factual.   Finding a tile shop open in a Sicilian August that doesnt tell you your personalised cementina will be ready in October only happens when you have a tv crew with you.

The current places in Sicily with the 1 euro offers are Augusta, Mussomeli, Gangi, Savoca and Troina.   The last bando in Salemi finished in August 2021 and there is no date for the new one.    Would you ever have heard of these places without a 1 euro price ticket attached?   So thats the first inkling that something may not be all its up to be.  Wherever you live, you will know the mantra of location, location, location.  Buy the biggest thing you can afford in the good location and not a huge barn in the worst.    The same applies in Italy. And Sicily.   It’s true you wont get a little house in Taormina or Ortigia for 1 euro, but you won’t get one in Mussomeli either.

Before you throw in your lot with the 1 euro brigade, have a look on the internet.  In my town – Modica, UNESCO listed baroque town, foodie capital of the south east and a short drive to the sea – a quick scan of the property sites shows around 60 houses for sale at less than 40.000 euros.  Some of these are restored. Even furnished.   Scicli – the home of Montalbano, nearer to the sea and sleepier than Modica, has 100 or so houses for sale in this price bracket – some with terraces and outside space.   That’s less money that you would spend on a ruin in Troina.   Also, and not to be ignored – in Modica and Scicli its possible to resell a house – and you might make money on your investment.   Its doubtful that would be the case in Gangi – people want a house in Gangi because it’s 1 euro.  The market for 70.000 euro homes is and will remain virtually zero.

Great play is made of the emigration from these towns, which has led to depopulation and therefore properties being left vacant.   Undoubtedly true. In part.   All of these towns have suffered pretty big earthquakes,  some have a high risk of landslip and rockfall.  Most of these towns havent got the greatest water supply.  Some are at high flood risk.  There are reasons why people have decided to move out.

For those who have bought their house, most have an obligation to restore the property within 3 years of purchase.  In some of these towns you must also use local builders, so be prepared to wait for a builder’s availability and higher prices – given the lack of competition.   Many think they can do up their properties on their own.   Remember that you’re in Italy – any structural intervention requires legally registered builders to do the work, and a ‘professional’ to oversee the work.   For example, a new roof must be done by a specialist company, the Beni Culturali can insist on how it is done and  what the tiles can be.  The seismic rules require beams to be a certain distance apart, and a seismic ring to be inserted into the structure.  You may also have to insert ties into the walls and reinforce upper floors.   Once you start on structural work, you will also have to obtain a certificate of agibilità once the work is completed.  If you dont use a certified electrician and plumbing/heating engineer, it wont be possible to get this certificate, and you cant ever sell the property.   I would guess that most of these houses also need to be connected to the sewers, which in Italy isnt just a case of digging a hole and shoving in a u bend.    Some of the comunes are streamlining the paperwork you need, but they can’t obviate the need for legal documentation, and all of that comes at the buyer’s expense.