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PROPERTY

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

Are you one of thousands of people dreaming of snapping up a house in Sicily for the price of an espresso? If so, you might want to take a closer look at what your euro will get you in the village of Sambuca.

Here are the houses you can buy for just €1 in a Sicilian village
Some of the houses for sale in Sambuca, Sicily, for just €1. All photos provided by the Municipality of Sambuca di Sicilia.

The town recently announced it was selling off vacant houses for just €1 in a bid to boost its shrinking population, and promptly found itself inundated by inquiries

READ ALSO: €1 homes offer causes property stampede in Sicilian village

Now the town hall has published more details of the properties available – along with a list of FAQs in English, in a sign of the international attention the offer has attracted.

Seventeen houses are available in total, and to judge from the photos provided, some are in pretty rough shape. Here’s Lot 7:

It looks like no one’s lived in Lot 11 for quite a while.

We’re not even sure that Lot 9 is a house.

Does Lot 1 have windows? It’s not clear.

And Lot 13 appears to be missing some other crucial elements – like walls. 

Yet while they’re all fixer-uppers – the deal is that buyers commit to spend at least €15,000 renovating their new homes – some properties look like they would require less fixing up than others.

Like Lot 12, for instance:

Lot 17, too, looks like someone may have lived there within the past 50 years:

The other thing for would-be buyers to consider is that these houses aren’t exactly roomy.

Anyone harbouring romantic notions of a sprawling villa for themselves and the extended family should check out some of the floor plans. Lot 2, for example, is smaller than many city apartments.

Even the larger properties have a maximum of two bedrooms (unless you’re prepared for some major restructuring). And many – given that these are old houses built for different times – are just strangely shaped.

Check out Lot 17:

Pictures of all properties can be found on Sambuca’s official website, where you’ll also find a list of frequently asked questions.

The contents give a glimpse of the thousands of queries the village says it has been fielding ever since its offer went viral: “Do I have to be an Italian citizen to buy real estate?” (No.) “Must I transfer residency to Sambuca after buying real estate?” (No.) “How much does the restoration cost?” (It depends on the size of the property, its condition and how you plan to renovate it – but the work must be completed within three years.)

The FAQs also state that if more than one buyer wants the same property, the highest bidder gets priority – which suggests that you could find yourself stumping up a lot more than €1 if you want to secure your Sicilian home.

But don’t worry, there are a number of other “real estate opportunities” in Sambuca, the town hall assures. Twenty minutes from the beach and less than an hour from Palermo and Trapani airports, the village officially invites you to go and check it out.

“We want to provide all the information necessary and invite people to visit Sambuca to appreciate the beauty of our village, which we intend to promote further with this initiative,” Mayor Leo Ciaccio told Italian TV.

For the list of €1 houses in Sambuca, click here. To read the FAQs, click here.

Please note: The Local cannot help you apply to buy any of these houses. Please address all inquiries to the municipality of Sambuca. But do let us know if you decide to make an offer!

Member comments

  1. Advertising properties for sale for €1 effectively says, in real estate market terms, that the property is worthless.

    And in reality that is exactly the case. Once purchased the gullible new, most probably non Italian speaking owner will have to attempt get multiple and varied permissions to do any sort of renovation.

    And, God forbid, if they even attempt perform any sort of structural changes they will be bogged down in incomprehensible local regulations for years.

    The issue is not the price of the property, it is the local administration and government bodies attitude to anything to do with innovation and new business ideas.

    Until that changes there will continue be ‘ghost’ villages all across southern Italy.

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PROPERTY

‘It’s so frustrating’: My 25-year Italian property renovation nightmare

When US-based Davide Fionda embarked on renovating his mother's Italian property, he couldn't have imagined the obstacles and the timescale in store.

'It's so frustrating': My 25-year Italian property renovation nightmare

Building a home in Italy was almost inevitable for Davide, as he’s been visiting the same area in the Le Marche region, where his Italian-born mother grew up, since he was five years old.

Although he lives in Boston, US, and speaks with a charming East Coast twang, he’s also an Italian citizen and has long dreamed of having his own place to stay for the summer.

He began making this dream a reality back in 1997, when a barn that had been in his mother’s family for generations, in the village of Schito-Case Duca, was damaged by an earthquake.

“My mother, who had both her mother and sister in Italy, decided that it would be really nice for us to build our own new home instead of relying on family to host us each time we visit,” Davide said.

“The goal was simple. I would acquire the barn from my mom, renovate it and move in for the summers, as I’m a college teacher and can spend time in Italy,” he added.

“Simple” the goal may have been, but the project itself proved anything but, as Davide came up against unforeseen bureaucratic problems, legal hiccups and personal disappointments.

READ ALSO: The hidden costs of buying a home in Italy

As a former entrepreneur in his professional life, he said he’s “used to getting things done”, owning five companies and selling three.

But conquering Italian property renovation is his biggest challenge to date: “Never in my life have I had so many complications as I’ve had with this house,” he told us.

The earthquake-damaged barn. Photo: Davide Fionda

“In the beginning, I knew exactly what I needed and the costs to carry out the project. My mother was, and is still, living in the United States: the project started when she was approached by her godson, who is a geometra (civil engineer), to help her rebuild this barn.

“I started with what I could control. I sat down with an architect and we created a design. I did research on furniture and fixtures. But then the problems started,” Davide said.

His mother wanted a simple design: an open plan house with floor-to-ceiling windows facing the mountains, spanning two floors – a ground floor and a first floor for the bedrooms.

When they went to look at the progress in 2004, he said they were “horrified” at what they saw.

Instead of windows across the front as we asked for, with views of the spectacular Gran Sasso mountains, he took the entire view with two hallways for entering the property and for the bathroom. The bedrooms upstairs were unusable,” he added.

Davide describes himself as “not a typical Italian”, at two metres in height ,and says he always looks for suitable showers and beds when visiting Italy.

It was one of the reasons building his own home was so attractive, as he could custom-make it to fit his needs.

READ ALSO: What taxes do you need to pay if you own a second home in Italy?

But when they viewed the build, he discovered the first floor had ceilings of just one metre and 40 centimetres – not liveable for most people, never mind someone with Davide’s towering frame.

The results didn’t match the renovation plans that had been filed with the comune (town hall) – they wouldn’t have been approved otherwise, as Davide discovered Italian regulations deemed this height of ceiling in a bedroom uninhabitable.

He said he grew up with the geometra and knew him well, saying they were “best friends”. However, on raising the problems with him, Davide said the building professional “refused to fix the house”, adding, “he took my mother’s money and built a house with no bedrooms”.

He said his mother decided to stop construction after spending almost $100,000 on a house that they “could not live in”, adding that they “returned many times over the years to see the shell of the building that we thought we were going to call our home”.

READ ALSO: My Italian Home: How one ‘bargain basement’ renovation ended up costing over €300K

Faced with a stalled project and unsure what to do next, Davide tried to sell the property but got nowhere. He said the “market wasn’t right” for selling it, so he considered his options for fixing the botched renovations to date.

His Italian property project has been stalled for over two decades. Photo: Davide Fionda

Then, eventually, in January of this year he decided “he was sick of looking at it and it was time to act”.

He intended to use Italy’s Bonus ristrutturazioni (Renovation bonus), which allows homeowners to apply for a 50 percent tax reduction on carrying out renovation work.

On asking for professional opinions on whether the house qualified for this bonus, he said he asked five different people and got five different answers.

In the end, he discovered it was eligible and so he could, in theory, proceed with his latest plans.

READ ALSO:

The aim is to create his mother’s original vision – an open plan space with huge windows overlooking the mountains and bedrooms on the first floor – but habitable this time.

Since the beginning of this year, however, Davide has been stuck and hasn’t made progress.

Setbacks have included trying to get a permit to renovate the house, which has proved difficult since the first geometra reportedly didn’t update the changes to the building.

This thorny issue goes back to exactly who owned the house, as Davide told us it had been sectioned off and parts of the house were owned by various members of the family.

The building headaches roll on for Davide. Photo by Martin Dalsgaard on Unsplash

“Italian law makes you want to rip your hair out,” he said.

Getting the deed in his name has been a huge obstacle in itself, as his mother wasn’t the sole owner and some parts of the land that belonged to her were never recorded.

It’s meant months of waiting while archives have been searched and deeds have been drawn up and transferred, made all the trickier by coordinating it all from thousands of miles away.

Plus, the house category was never changed to a residential one, listed previously as farmland and therefore illegal to live in.

It’s just more unexpected bureaucracy for a project that seems to have no end.

“It has been months and months of all these twists and turns, it’s so frustrating,” he told us.

“This has been a 25-year nightmare,” he added.

A partly restored, but unliveable barn for Davide now. Photo: Davaide Fionda.

Although Davide had originally planned to sort out the more practical parts of the project by the end of May, with a ticket booked to Italy to choose the windows, he’s still stuck in the paperwork part and can’t move forward.

Nothing has happened since January. Three or four times I said, ‘screw this’. But it’s not in my DNA to give up,” he said.

Although he has a strong will, the house has taken its toll on him.

Every time we go, this house stares us in the face and it’s upsetting. Family always ask us, ‘when are you going to finish the house?’ It’s a real source of heartache,” he told us.

From this point, he hopes the paperwork will be completed by August and then he can meet with the contractors to get the process started.

That in itself was a tall order, due to the construction demand and shortage of building companies Italy is currently experiencing.

READ ALSO:

It’s a problem made even more challenging by the fact that he’s based in the States and had to find a company that would apply for the credit for the bonus on his behalf.

Despite it all, he’s hopeful that he will get the house they dreamed of by next August and says he’s learned a lot about renovating property in Italy.

For other would-be home renovators, he advised people to “adjust their timeframe expectations” and expect “anything to do with land or real estate to take forever”.

So what is his secret for not giving up, despite the rollercoaster of events and emotions?

It seems he’s holding on to his vision of blissful summers in il bel paese.

“The beauty of Italy is to be, sit in a town square and have conversations,” he told us.

“It’s a beautiful thing.”

See more in The Local’s Italian property section.

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