Can you really buy a house in a historic Italian town for €1?

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
Can you really buy a house in a historic Italian town for €1?
Ollolai. Photo: Pispisos - CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikimedia Commons

It's an unmissable offer for anyone dreaming of spending their days relaxing in the Italian sunshine: an idyllic mountain town is selling houses for just €1 apiece. So, is there a catch?


Well, yes – but you don't need to give up on the dream just yet.

The town of Ollolai is nestled in central Sardinia, the island off Italy's southwest coast which is most famous abroad for its beaches, wine, and the locals' longevity. Over the past 30 years, the town's population has halved, reaching a low of just 1,300, with middle-aged childless couples making up the majority. Many of Ollolai's historic stone houses have been left to fall into disrepair. 

To tackle this phenomenon, mayor Efisio Arbau launched the 'houses for €1' scheme, inviting interested buyers from all around the world to snap up a home at a rock-bottom price.

Bargain hunters should be aware that there are extra costs involved for anyone who chooses to take Ollolai up on the offer. As well as purchasing costs, each of the houses requires significant restoration, and a condition of buying the property is to start restoration within a year and complete it in three, at an estimated cost of around €20-30,000. Buyers become the owner of the house and, if they wish, can sell it five years after the sale.


A post shared by Vito (@vitotoro76) on Jan 13, 2018 at 2:12pm PST

The scheme has been tried out by several mayors of towns threatened by depopulation, as The Local reported back in 2014, and in Ollolai it's been running since 2015.

The first person to take advantage of the €1 houses was a fellow Sardinian, a retired builder named Vito Casula, who bought his house in spring 2016. "The house that he has chosen to restore within one year is located in the historic centre, on a street where residents are counted on the fingers of one hand," said mayor Arbau at the time.

Already by the summer of that year, the town had received twice as many applications as they had available houses, and it began to spark interest abroad. After Dutch TV channel RTL reported on the scheme in June 2017, city authorities said applications increased fivefold, with several Dutch residents hoping to settle down in the town.

By late 2017 the number of requests had risen to 120, from Russia, Poland, Australia, and the USA. Arbau said many of the applicants were second-generation immigrants who wanted a "point of contact" with the country of their ancestors.

The video below shows some of the houses included in the project.

America's CNN reported on Ollolai in late January 2018, sparking a fresh wave of interest in the English-speaking world.

But because of the popularity of the offer, anyone tempted by the move to Ollolai should know that there's a February 7th deadline for applications.

The town's mayor said that the number of requests already made had "potentially exhausted the houses currently available". He explained that applications would be assessed in the order in which they were made, and that if more houses are made available in the future, it will be announced on the town's official website.

For anyone who isn't successful in finding a house in Ollolai, there are several other towns running the €1-house initiative. 

The municipalities whose calls are active are: Those include Patrica (Lazio), Lecce de Marsi (Abruzzo) Fabbriche di Vergemolì (Tuscany), Montieri (Tuscany), and Carrera Ligure (Piedmont). Further information can be found on the scheme's website, Case a €1 Euro.

READ ALSO: The curious ways Italy is bringing its ghost towns back to life



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