Silvia Marchetti, CNN
Buying cheap property in Italy is an attractive prospect for many travelers, especially with the ever-growing number of cities offering homes for next to nothing thanks to regeneration programs.
While some have had the courage to take the plunge and seize a house priced between one and a few thousand euros in a rural Italian village, others were probably dissuaded by the fear that some thing does go wrong.
But are there any red flags that potential buyers should watch out for when deliberating on purchasing such a home? And how do you know you are walking on slippery floors?
When it comes to offering invaluable advice and tips on this particular topic, no one is better placed than those who have done it themselves.
In January, the Italian town of Biccari made headlines when it started selling both dilapidated one-euro houses and ready-to-move houses that only needed a few repairs, the latter being the more successful.
Mayor Gianfilippo Mignogna chose to donate the houses with the aim of reviving the struggling city, which has seen its population decline over the years as many residents have left to seek work in Italian cities and elsewhere. country.
Here, three of those who bought, or helped buy, one of the turnkey properties share their experiences.
Mariano Russo, an Argentinian of Italian descent, bought a comfortable 55 square meter two-storey house in Biccari for € 7,000 (approx. $ 7,800).
Russo’s house was renovated when it was sold – even the walls were freshly painted – and has a panoramic terrace, while the entrance is located in a picturesque alleyway in the historic city center. In addition to the purchase price, the notary for the deed of purchase cost him an additional € 3,000 ($ 3,400).
“It’s already livable. We could just modernize the piped water supply system and the heating, maybe repair parts of the floors, ”said Russo, Argentine director Per Il Mondo, an organization that brings together Italo-Argentines from all over the world.
“The structure is solid, although it is an old house, there is no mold on the walls and the roof is in perfect condition.
According to Russo, the purchasing process went very well thanks to the support of the local surveyor in charge of the project.
“It’s crucial to have someone to guide you along the way, we were lucky to have this agent,” says Russo, who plans to live in Biccari with his wife and two daughters for the most part. of the year.
“He prepared the papers for us and helped us pay the property taxes. He made sure the house was free from any past debt, which you don’t want to know after you buy it.
However, Russo almost got stuck in the labyrinthine nightmare others found themselves in when buying Italian property with multiple owners.
This house had two owners – sisters who lived in different towns. The two had to agree on the sale first, then the final price.
Fortunately, the couple were on good terms and things turned out well. But it’s not always the case.
According to Italian law, even if a property has 1000 different owners, each person must accept the sale, otherwise it cannot take place. And let’s just say Italy has its fair share of bickering parents.
Therefore, buyers, with the help of the town hall, must avoid the risk of an unknown heir appearing from nowhere further away to claim the property sold.
Russo notes that it is also important to ensure that there is no pending mortgage on the property and that any minimal repairs or renovations done by previous owners have a legal permit the cost of which has already been paid. been paid. Otherwise, the new owner will have to settle it himself, under penalty of legal proceedings.
Buyers should also be made aware of any damage caused to third parties by the previous owners of the home before signing the deed of purchase.
For example, if a damaged water pipe flooded a neighbor’s kitchen, or if a collapsed tiled roof cracked a building adjacent to the property.
Even a previous renovation could be a problem if it wasn’t properly approved or retrospectively cleared via a so-called building amnesty.
“One sister could not be present on the day of the act, so she delegated the other to sign on her behalf,” Russo explains.
“We made sure everything was going well with the sale. The sisters had remodeled the house in the past, knocked down a wall to unite two rooms, but the building’s amnesty had been settled.
“All of this has to appear in the newspapers, before the sale. No one wants last minute trouble.
If such an arrangement has not been communicated to the town hall, which is a legal obligation, the new buyer could find himself in a situation where the act of purchase – and the sale – is declared void.
The right intermediary
Finding an efficient agent was a key factor for Rolf Bauer, a retired German engineer, when choosing a budget house in Biccari.
“I like the atmosphere of the village, I think fate sent me here. I went to Puglia this summer to pick a house and it was the first city I stopped by. It was perfect, ”says Bauer, who paid € 30,000 ($ 34,000) for his renovated house.
“I immediately found the surveyor’s office, it was great. It is very important to have the right person to help you choose the right home for you.
He chose to buy in Puglia rather than Sicily, where several towns sell houses for one euro.
“Sicily is too far south, and I never wanted a one-euro house,” he explains. “It takes too much work.
Bauer, who owns other properties in Europe, estimated the agent’s fees – less than € 500 ($ 560) – to be much lower than he incurred in other countries.
Since he made his home in Biccari, Bauer didn’t have to pay property taxes, which was another selling point.
“I realized you had to do something with money, use it to relax and enjoy life,” he says. “I am a house collector and I found in Biccari a warm place where I can live for several months a year. I hate the cold, here I probably won’t even need to adjust the heat.
His 150 square meter house is spread over three floors, with panoramic views, and has vaulted ceilings, an open kitchen, a large cellar and a stone staircase leading to the main entrance.
Bauer completed some of the minor work himself, such as re-coating the floors, upgrading the electrical system and putting in a new shower. He plans to turn the upper floor bedroom into a veranda.
Unlike most buyers, Bauer did not source the furniture, appliances, or even light bulbs locally.
Instead, he had them shipped from countries like Germany, where he says the prices, and sometimes the quality, can be better.
“It depends on what you want and if you have contacts with suppliers in other places like me. It’s always good to take a look and compare things, ”he says.
Bauer, who is a great squash player, has already been living in his new home in Biccari for two months and appreciates the experience very much.
Although the language has been a bit of a barrier – Bauer doesn’t speak Italian – he has relied on translation apps so far and has found that locals often make the effort to try and figure out if they are interested in talking to him.
The process of buying cheap Biccari housing was a bit more complicated for Aksana Klimavets, a Russian interpreter based in Italy who helped a Moscow businesswoman buy old housing here for € 15,000 (around 16,800 $).
Tucked away in a narrow cobbled alley, the three-story house was completely renovated at the time of the sale, with freshly painted white vaulted ceilings, marble stairs and a panoramic terrace overlooking a small plaza – the previous owners even left a stroller.
But according to Klimavets, finding a notary available to witness the signatures on the deed was incredibly difficult, as the sale process took several months.
“When we managed to find a notary, we were told to transfer the money just before the deed, which is impossible given the strict Russian rules on outgoing international payments which take several days,” he explains. she. “The bank has to verify and authorize, which delayed the sale. “
In order to speed up the process, the Klimavets client decided to wire the money to the notary well in advance of the postponed meeting to sign the deal, which meant buying the house without being seen.
Once this was settled, the client arrived from Moscow to sign the deed and discovered that the notary had accidentally added the wrong address.
“Fortunately, we rechecked or else we would have ended up buying someone else’s property,” Klimavets adds.
When she and the buyer finally met the owners, they discovered that not only did the house have five heirs, it had been inherited multiple times.
“This house has a very long history, during the notarial deed, the notary read us the list of the former owners and now we are in contact with an heir to transfer the utility bills,” she explains.
After overcoming this hurdle, the new owner then had to go through the process of opening a bank account in Italy, which can be especially difficult for Russians, before they could pay bills or enjoy their vacation retreat. .
But despite these many challenges, Klimavets says his client fell in love with Biccari’s clean streets and pristine environment.
“For Russians, Puglia is a destination of choice,” she adds. ” There is the [international] Bari airport and the Tomb of St. Nicholas, which is a Russian-Orthodox pilgrimage site.
The buyer, an anonymous businesswoman, looks forward to getting the most out of her new property and plans to add more windows and another fireplace.
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