The truth behind the 1 euro houses offered to repopulate rural towns in Italy

Sambuca di Sicilia, one of the towns that started the trend of houses at 1 euro.

If you have ever dreamed of living in a beautiful country villa in Europe, now may be your golden opportunity. in almost 60 Italian towns they are offering houses for 1 euro (USD 1.13).

Yes, just as it reads, a business that seems too good to be true and in a way it is, but that doesn’t stop it from being real. This offer is part of a strategy adopted by more and more rural towns in regions such as Sicily or Mussomeli, to attract new people and revive the economy of places that have seen their population decline and age over time.

The one-euro house boom began at the end of 2019, shortly before the coronavirus pandemic hit the whole world, and the first waves will cause a spike in the death toll in Europe, especially in countries like Italy whose elderly population, the most vulnerable to COVID-19, is the majority.

The trend quickly spread across the country from the Alps to Sicily, and it had the particularity that the houses for sale were very old, abandoned and in many cases, almost on the verge of falling apart. But their retail value was less than buying an espresso so they were still very attractive.

The truth behind the 1 euro houses offered to repopulate rural towns in Italy
Castiglione di Sicilia (Sicily)

Some 60 towns and villages have launched the attractive one-euro housing scheme, and while there is no official national data on how many houses have been sold, locally mayors involved in the project say it has been a success.

In the Sicilian towns of Gangi, more than 300 one-euro properties have been cleared, while in Mussomeli some 150. And the pandemic has not prevented purchases, nor has it prevented more towns from adopting the same scheme.

What is the deal about?

The first thing to keep in mind is that there are several modalities and with the high demand and interest that the measure aroused, it is increasingly difficult to get a house for literally 1 euro.

Currently the most used scheme is that of auctions, which start from that ridiculous price (1 euro) but that since last year already have a starting price of 2 euros.

This is still incredibly cheap but it should be noted that being an auction the final purchase prices end up oscillating between 5,000 and 10,000 euros (between 5,672 and 11,345 US dollars). Prices still quite cheap but much more expensive than advertised.

Still, buyers get a lot for their money. Sambuca di Sicilia, to name one of the places where this trend started, is an ancient hilltop town boasting grand baroque churches, winding alleys in the old Moorish quarter, and jaw-dropping panoramas of sprawling vineyards and a lush nature reserve. .

Sambuca di Sicilia.
Sambuca di Sicilia.

“We are 20 minutes by car from the beach, we have two airports less than an hour away and there is an archaeological park just around the corner”, Sambuca Mayor Leonardo Ciaccio told iNews.

“Until recently, we were the best kept secret in Sicily”, add.

Not bad for $11,000, but home prices aren’t the only expense buyers have to bear.

In Mussomeli, another of the towns that adopts this scheme, the new owners they have to pay a deposit of 5,000 euros which becomes effective if people do not fulfill the commitment to remodel within a specific time (usually between 2 or 3 years) the house they bought.

Not all towns pay this deposit, but there is this commitment in all 1-euro houses. It is the “trick” of the scheme, so to speak, since in most cases the houses for sale need deep renovations that end up being considerably expensive.

“In Mussomeli the new owners can do what they want with the interior of the house as long as they keep the original façade”Says Rubia Daniels, a woman from the United States who visited Sicily for the first time in 2019 and decided to buy three properties, one for herself and two for her children, taking advantage of the start of this unusual form of sale.

The truth behind the 1 euro houses offered to repopulate rural towns in Italy
Mussomeli (Sicily). Clemensfranz ( Wikimedia Commons ).

Daniels’s story was made known on the travel portal ‘Travel and Leisure’, and offers details of the true process that is to acquire and maintain one of these “dream places”.

Apart from the deposit of 5,000 euros for each house he bought, Daniels had to pay the renovation costs, which given the surfaces of the properties, which range from 11 to 190 square meters, they can add about 900 dollars more per square meter remodeled.

According to the woman’s testimony, by January 2022, he had already spent about $12,000 on the first house and had budgeted to spend an additional $20,000 on each of the three properties.

There are cases of cases and for those who bought in the first auction of 2019, the pandemic became another additional obstacle, since it delayed the renovation works.

The truth behind the 1 euro houses offered to repopulate rural towns in Italy
Rubia Daniels bought three properties for 1 euro each and is remodeling them.

Such is the case of Gillian Sweeney Payne who bought one of the houses in Sambuca in 2019 and paid 1,000 euros for it, but during the pandemic she was stranded in the Scottish city of Falkirk and has not been able to make further progress on the property.

“We tried to get some quotes, but they were well above what we had considered paying,” the woman told iNews. “They were at the top end of the €20,000 mark, and that didn’t include water, air conditioning and all the essentials.”

Fortunately, Sambuca has extended the three-year renewal term due to the pandemic. Cities are pulling out all the stops to attract new residents, after decades of shrinking job opportunities and natural disasters convinced many residents to move to larger cities.

Before Sambuca was leveled by an earthquake in 1968, its population was more than 8,000. Today, it is less than 6,000. Low human density is a trend in Italian rurality.

But with houses at one euro, they have come to this town, and to others who adopted the scheme, Poles, Germans, English and Americans. Everyone with the desire to establish their life there, spend their retirement or promote new business ideas such as hostels and hotels to encourage tourism.

The truth behind the 1 euro houses offered to repopulate rural towns in Italy
One of the properties that Rubia Daniels bought in Sicily.

Another cost to take into account is that of bureaucratic procedures, which can amount to up to 3,000 additional euros.

“If they sell you a house for one euro, it is because you have to fix it”, Rubia Daniels told the ‘Metro’ media outlet.

She points out, however, that she does not regret her purchase and that the people of rural Italy are very friendly and have received foreigners attracted by cheap houses who seek to settle in them with great hospitality.

“They really make it easy for people to come and chase their dreams. Mussomeli is becoming a multicultural place with people from all over the world”, it states.

She advises those who are interested in houses for 1 euro to have a large budget to pay for renovations, to be constantly vigilant as there are houses that go in and out of sale very quickly and not to trust the internet at all, because the best thing, she says, is see the property with your own eyes.

The truth behind the 1 euro houses offered to repopulate rural towns in Italy
A square in Borgomezzavalle (Italy). Wikimedia Commons.

an alternative model

Given the boom in houses at 1 euro and the number of testimonies that plague the networks telling the truth about this business, other Italian towns also in need of new settlers are adopting an alternative scheme. Cheap “turnkey” houses that are ready to move in.

These properties require little repair, in some cases come furnished, and are ready to welcome their new tenant. The best thing is that their prices can be as cheap as 4,000 euros, less than the policy that a town like Mussomeli requires to buy houses at 1 euro.

The “trick” here is the form of the sale, since it is done directly with the owners, unlike the 1 euro scheme that requires the intervention of the municipalities. This is why even the bureaucratic and paperwork expenses are much lower.

Anne Procianos is a Filipino American who bought a property under this modality. It cost him about 20,000 euros (USD 22,691). She is now the owner of a cozy three-storey building in latronico, in the southern region of Basilicata, which has an old canteen and a panoramic terrace overlooking the green hills, which requires minimal improvements and is already habitable.

“I didn’t want to be faced with the uncertainty of how much I was going to pay in the end to redo a $1 property that looked like a dilapidated property from scratch, and I wanted all the flexibility and time to do those minor fixes whenever I wanted”, he told iNews.

The truth behind the 1 euro houses offered to repopulate rural towns in Italy
Acerenza (Basilicata) (iStock).

Aiming to embrace this new modality, many cities and towns have now launched online platforms and opened real estate agencies to showcase available vacant homes, including Latronico; Gangi, Cianciana and Mussomeli in Sicily; Carrega Ligure in Piedmont and Biccari in Puglia. In addition, teams of local volunteers help newcomers choose the house that best suits their needs.

The strategy seems to be working, and complements itself very well with 1-euro houses, and even, in places like Mussomeli where 100 destroyed houses have been sold, 150 turnkey houses have also been sold for higher prices.

The attractive strategy seems that it will continue to work during 2022 with at least 10 more cities launching one euro or “turnkey” housing schemes, such as Pratola Peligna in Abruzzo and Laurenzana in Sicily.

All this has produced a real estate boom that promises to transform Italian rurality, because with the arrival of new inhabitants from other parts of Europe and the world to these lands, it is not only intended to revitalize the economy but to make the countryside in Italy more cosmopolitan places. .


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