€1 homes offer causes property stampede in Sicilian village

Were you tempted by the recent news that a small town in Sicily is selling off houses for just a euro? If so, you weren’t the only one.

€1 homes offer causes property stampede in Sicilian village
An old house in Sicily. Photo: Zoe Guerrini/Flickr

Officials in the small hilltop town of Sambuca, Sicily, said they couldn’t believe the response after they put a few dozen properties up for sale for less than the price of a coffee.

The town announced last week that it is selling off old properties for €1 in hopes of saving the town from depopulation.

READ ALSO: Here are the houses you can buy for just €1 in a Sicilian village

Of course, there is a catch. Buyers will be required to sign up to spend upwards of €15,000 on renovating their new Sicilian homes, and to pay a security deposit of €5,000.

But that doesn’t seem to be putting people off.

Since the sale was reported by CNN’s travel channel and then international media, the deupty mayor said he can’t sleep and has been trying “not to go nuts” after reportedly receiving tens of thousands of emails and phone calls in just a few days.

Sambuca, Sicily. Photo: Comune di Sambuca di Sicilia.

If the interest so far is anything to go by, Sambuca might soon find the world on its doorstep.

Staff at the village’s town hall have had their English-language skills put to the test after a deluge of enquiries from the US and UK, as well as many other countries.

READ ALSO:  What's wrong with the Italian property market?

Enquiries are pouring in not just from tourists and would-be second home owners, but from businesspeople, too.

“A team of US lawyers, working for an American company interested in doing real estate business in Sambuca, wants to meet up with us,” the town’s deputy mayor, Giuseppe Cacopio, told CNN.

“A businessman from New York just called me, saying he's flying to Sicily tonight. And a very rich lady called from Dubai. She wouldn't say her name or who she works for,” he said. “She wants to buy all the dozens of €1 houses on sale.”

Prospective buyers have also contacted The Local Italy in apparent desperation after we reported the Sambuca offer on Friday.

“I need to know how I can buy one of these houses in Sicily,” wrote one reader from the US. “I need to move there right now!”

READ ALSO: Can you really spend three months living in the south of Italy for free?

Cacioppo said he was delighted by the global interest in his village – but said he won’t be able to satisfy everyone.

Perhaps though this huge amount of interest shouldn’t come as such a surprise

Sambuca is not the first town to use financial incentives in an attempt to breathe new life into an old village – or to be bombarded by international calls after doing so.

One mayor in Liguria had to beg people to stop calling after he suggested in a Facebook post that villages like his could offer a €2,000 bonus to people for relocating there.

after getting more than 17,000 phone calls he took down his post, saying “it was just an idea!”

In January 2018 the Sardinian town of Ollolai was inundated after it announced that it was selling 200 uninhabited houses for one euro in hopes of attracting new residents.

And the village of Gangi, Sicily, has had a one-euro homes offer in place since 2014.

Gangi, Sicily, has also offered one-Euro homes for sale. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

For those seriously interested in the idea of renovating one of Italy’s large number of unloved old houses, many of which are proving very difficult to sell, there’s no shortage of bargain-priced properties to be found across Italy.

More than half of Italy's small towns are destined to become deserted in the next few decades as their populations dwindle further.

Last week, another scheme to save a small Italian town was announced by Airbnb, which said that it is “sponsoring four people to move to the small village of Grottole for three months and experience authentic rural life in Italy.”

But rather than enjoying a free summer holiday, they'll be put to work revitalising the town's historical centre and showing visitors around.


For members


Reader question: Has Italy’s ‘superbonus 110’ been scrapped?

The Italian government has announced sweeping changes to the country's popular building superbonus scheme, but does this mean funding is no longer available at all? Here's what you need to know.

Reader question: Has Italy's 'superbonus 110' been scrapped?

Question: I’m currently renovating my Italian property and plan to use the ‘superbonus 110’ discount from the Italian government. I’ve read in a UK newspaper that Italy has just scrapped the superbonus. Is this true, and if so can I no longer claim it?

This is partially correct – you’re unlikely to be able to begin a new renovation project using the building ‘superbonus’ now, as Italy’s government has just made a major change to the scheme which makes it inaccessible to most people.

Until last week there were three ways of claiming the funding, but following a hastily-approved amendment on Thursday now there’s only one – via a tax deduction (detrazione fiscale), which is only available to those who pay higher rates of income tax (Irpef). This effectively means the superbonus is now only open to the highest-earning Italian taxpayers.

The first thing to know however is that the rule change does not apply retroactively to projects which are already underway.

EXPLAINED: How Italy has changed its building superbonus – again

So you should be able to continue if you’ve already begun your claim for the superbonus under any of the three routes previously available: trading tax credit (cessione del credito), choosing to receive a discount on the invoice (sconto in fattura), or deduction from future income tax bills (detrazione fiscale). You can read a more detailed explanation of how this works here.

However this will depend on exactly what stage you are at with your claim. A qualified geometra (surveyor) or the building firm overseeing your renovation project should be able to confirm whether and how this could change anything in your situation.

So while the superbonus hasn’t been scrapped entirely, it is now so tightly restricted that new claims will be impossible for most.

Builder carrying out renovation work

After undergoing major changes in early January, Italy’s superbonus has been re-modelled once again. Photo by Milivoj Kuhar on Unsplash

There have already been various other recent changes to and problems with the superbonus scheme which stopped many homeowners from either making new claims or completing existing projects in recent months.

The availability of the superbonus was limited from the end of 2022 when long-planned changes came into effect preventing many people who had previously been eligible from claiming, including second-home owners. The maximum amount of funding available was also cut from 110 percent to 90 percent at this point, effectively turning it into the ‘superbonus 90’

While these generous amounts of state funding understandably drew international media attention, in reality many homeowners in Italy using the superbonus found that the maximum amount of funding was only available in rare cases – usually to those paying the highest rates of tax – and everyone else would be more likely to get a deduction of between 50-70 percent.

Still not a deal to be sniffed at, the superbonus proved immensely popular – so popular in fact that it resulted in a building boom leading to a nationwide shortage of building companies available to carry out the work. This plus a shortage of building supplies, which was further exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, meant the cost of labour and materials soared – making many projects unviable even with the hefty rebates.

READ ALSO: How Italy’s building bonuses are delaying the renovation of cheap homes

These shortages also resulted in major delays to many projects, as did another rule change which made it harder for building companies to obtain the credit they needed to begin work. This blocked credit transfers causing delays to projects and uncertainty which, readers tell us, meant they had to cancel their plans or in some cases has not yet been resolved.

So while it was technically available, many people found themselves unable to actually use the building superbonus in 2022.

But if you already have a claim underway, the latest government rule change looks unlikely to cause any further problems on top of those already faced by homeowners.

Please note that The Local cannot advise on individual cases. For more information on claiming Italy’s building bonuses, homeowners are advised to consult a qualified Italian building surveyor or independent financial advisor.

See more in our Italian property section.