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How to buy an Italian home for 1 euro

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Trend to revitalize rural sites presents unique opportunity

By Jeanne Outlaw-Cannavo

The sale of thousands of Italian homes for the paltry sum of just 1 euro has sparked international interest in recent years. Italy has long been a top tourist destination, ranking in the top five visited countries worldwide and in the top three for those who live in Europe. Each year millions travel to Italy to experience its fascinating culture, its beautiful landscapes and artistic sites and delectable cuisine. Some visitors return numerous times because of their heritage and familial ties and other because they fall in love with the country and its lifestyle.

Now Italy is giving many of these tourists an opportunity to become an integral part of the country’s charm with the opportunity to become homeowners in various locations across the country. The trend began in 2008 as an initiative by the government, mostly in rural towns and villages, to give new life to areas, which were experiencing sharp declines in population.

The aging population and the large exodus of younger inhabitants in search of better jobs in larger cities or in other parts of Europe, led to thousands of uninhabited houses which began to fall into ruin. The mayor of Salemi, a small town in Sicily, was the first to propose the initiative when he introduced the idea of selling homes that had lain in ruin since a 1968 earthquake to anyone who would agree to renovate them for just 1 euro. Since then, hundreds of towns have set up these initiatives. Some towns have lost so much of their population that they offered homes for free and even financial incentives for people to move there.

Of course, there are some regulations you must meet to purchase property. First you will need a passport just to look at properties and you will need to establish residency if you do not have Italian citizenship and plan to spend more than 183 days a year in your home. You also need to apply for a Codice Fiscal, which is comparable to a national insurance number and required to make any transactions and pay taxes. If you are buying a permanent residence, you do not have to worry about applying for a Codice Fiscale because the estate agent will get you one that does not also need a residency permit. However, if you are buying a holiday home you will need the permit. Finally, you will need to open an account in an Italian bank.

Well, this almost sounds too good to be true and in a way it is. The payment of 1 euro is a good faith offer but the caveat is that whoever purchases one of these houses must submit plans for renovation to the town council and complete the work within a specific period. Some towns, such as Sambuca in Sicily, specify a minimum of 15,000 euros for renovations and others may require insurance deposits of up to 5,000 euros. Each municipality has different requirements so that could make a difference in where a buyer might purchase a house. The cost will also depend on the size of the property and its condition. A larger house or villa could cost 100,000 euros or more. Of course, some buyers may also want to spend more for upgrades.

In Sicily there are at least nine comuni (boroughs) offering these deals including the town of Castiglione which overlooks the Alcantara Valley close to Taormina. The community is situated on a hill facing the northern slopes of Mount Etna and is an ideal location for hiking, close to beautiful beaches and the beautiful Gole dell’Alcantera and numerous historic and charming towns to visit in the region and beyond. There are over nine hundred abandoned homes in the historic borgo.

Sicily is not the only place offering houses for 1 euro. Sardinia, Abruzzo, Molise, Basilicata, Piemonte, Tuscany and Lazio are other regions with communities trying to improve the quality of life in their towns. According to the official 1E website, over 200 of these houses have been sold since Many villages are also offering homes for as little as 10,000 euros which are move-in ready. It will not be a villa, but it stills offers the opportunity to begin your dream of a slower and sweeter way of life. Some new homeowners have even opened new businesses.

Of course, in the land of la dolce vita, the purchasing and renovation process could be a bit more daunting than in other countries as you will need to find and work with a notary and make sure all owners of the property sign off on the sale. If you cannot do the renovations yourself, you will also need someone to help you navigate this process and be prepared for some twists and turns. As the ancient Romans used to say, caveat emptor (buyer beware)!
If you are ready to spend the extra money and can work through the process of reno-vation, then this would be a budget friendly way to start your journey to home ownership in this beautiful country.