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My Italian Home: The ups and downs of buying a property for retirement in a hilltop village in Italy

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My Italian Home: The ups and downs of buying a property for retirement in a hilltop village in Italy
Here's how one US buyer found her dream vacation home in the Le March region of Italy. All photos: D&G Design
10:09 CET+01:00
Our new series showcases readers' homes in Italy, starting with the story of how one real estate agent from the US found her dream retirement property and overcame the bureaucratic hurdles with the help of local experts.

Shayne Albright bought a home in the Le Marche region of eastern Italy this year and realised her retirement dream, but doing so wasn't always plain sailing. She explains how she was able to find a unique property in a small hilltop town, and then successfully make an offer and have all the paperwork and renovation works arranged from the US.

READ ALSO: The real cost of buying a house in Italy as a foreigner

“I have had a love for Italy for decades,” says Shayne, “I've dreamed of buying a vacation home there and have spent a lot of time researching homes for sale online, but became a little frustrated when for various reasons the viewing trips were cancelled.”

In the end, instead of organising an independent trip to view properties, Shayne attended a five-day house-hunting workshop organised by D&G Design, local property experts in Le Marche.

“I subscribed to The Local and was a member of several Facebook groups dedicated to moving to Italy,” Shayne says, “and when I came across the D&G Design workshop I thought that a group event actually held in Italy would be something that I, as a single traveller, could benefit from.”

Shayne fell in love with Le Marche as soon as she arrived. “It was beautiful, and instantly I could see myself owning a vacation home there.”

During a day of viewing different typs of properties in the varied region of Le Marche, which has everything from beach towns to homes in more remote mountain areas, Shayne found it was the tiny hilltop towns that appealed to her.

These towns, with their historic centres, medieval city walls and narrow cobbled streets, offer views of the region’s rolling landscapes and the Sibillini mountain range beyond.

"With a relatively slow property market in Le Marche, house-hunters can take their time during searches and give the options plenty of thought", explains property expert Gary from D&G Design.

It was only when Shayne returned to the US that she made enquiries about a two-storey apartment she had viewed in the hilltop town of Montedinove.

Situated in a tiny cobbled street in the town's centro storico (historic centre), the stone brick home had been partially restored and retained traditional features such as wooden ceiling beams, parquet flooring and open fireplaces.

With the help of the lawyer and estate agents she'd been introduced to during the workshop, Shayne made an offer and was thrilled when it was accepted.

Shayne's new home in Le Marche. Photo: D&G Design

While she says there were no great difficulties during the process, a bureaucratic mix-up caused some delays.

It turned out the house had been inadvertently declared uninhabitable by the local council after the earthquake that hit the region in 2016, meaning the paperwork took longer than usual.

“It turns out that the council had mistaken this building for another,” building restorer David from D&G Design explains, “so we had our geometra carry out a full inspection and our lawyer was then able to have this revoked.”

“This took time and was slightly frustrating but the most important thing is to ensure that a property is 100 percent safe.”

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As Shayne had wanted a rooftop terrace, she also asked them to investigate the likelihood of getting permission to build one from her local council.

Although not guaranteed, the planning officer has given a verbal agreement and Shayne is hopeful that this feature can be added.

“It is always worth having your engineer or geometra ask the local council if certain aspects of a renovation would be permitted,” David says.

“They will never give you a written agreement without planning permission, but if the request is not a deal-breaker to whether or not you buy the property, then have someone check with the planning department to see what is likely.”

As for the rest of the renovation, Shayne had the geometra draw up a list of projected works before she purchased the home.

“I have seen some scary quotes given to clients after they have bought a house,” David says. “We actually insist that our guests receive a full quote of projected works from ourselves and our geometra before they make any offer on the home.”

“We also look at the possibility of phasing the work so that clients can do the essentials to make it habitable during phase one, and then take their time (and save money) for any extra work needed.”

Shayne's new home still needs some repairs to the windows and a portion of the roof to make it habitable, but “the rest is cosmetic,” she says.

“I would love to expose the stonework on some of the internal walls, and have the team create a stone backsplash in the kitchen.”

Shayne and her nephew are due to visit the property at Christmas, and they're excited about exploring their new town.

“I can now look forward to owning my new home, furnishing and decorating it as well as getting to know the local people in my new community,” says Shayne. “My nephew is looking forward to decorating his room, and I can’t wait to find a good coffee bar."

Have you bought and renovated a property in Italy? We'd love to hear about your experience. Get in touch and let us know if you'd like your own Italian home to be featured.

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