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PROPERTY

Ten surprisingly affordable homes on Lake Como for under €150,000

Think living on Italy's glamorous Lake Como is beyond your budget? It might be time to think again.

Ten surprisingly affordable homes on Lake Como for under €150,000
Owning a home on Lake Como could cost less than you think. All photos: Lakeside Real Estate

Italy's glamorous Lake Como area is known for attracting the rich and famous, and unsurprisingly, the property market in this particular corner of the country is booming.

If you've always dreamt of buying your own holiday home here, but don't quite have the movie-star budget, don't be too quick to dismiss the idea as unaffordable.

READ ALSO: 10 things you need to know about property on Lake Como

Local property experts from Lakeside Real Estate showed us around ten surprisingly affordable homes in the area under €150,000 each, all of which are habitable and not in need of structural work.

Could one of these be the dream Italian holiday home you've been looking for?

San Siro, one-bed apartment

€75.000

“The only sound you can hear from this romantic retreat in San Siro (5 minutes drive from the resort destination of Menaggio) is that of the lake waves. The recently renovated, two-storey house, an historic fishermens' townhouse, typically featuring a wide entrance originally used as storage for recovering the fishing nets, is set just ten meters from the water.

It boasts a 180° lake view from the master bedroom and idyllic location, in one of the oldest medieval hamlets on the western shore of Lake Como.”

More information

Plesio, apartment

€68.000

“This cozy little apartment is ideal if you love hiking: it’s set in the hillside of Menaggio (10 minutes from the beach), a perfect starting point for many hiking trails around the glorious mountains surrounding the village (Rifugio Menaggio, Sant’Amate, Alpe di Nesdale, Mount Grona and Mount Bregagno).

Featuring a super sunny terrace with breathtaking view: from Plesio you can easily detect the y-shape of Lake Como as a whole! A bit of a cosmetic renovation would be needed.”

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Argegno (hillside), apartment

€80.000

“Fully renovated, set in a very peaceful location – a car is needed to reach the lake and the highlights of the vibrant village of Argegno. Bargain!”

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San Siro, apartment

€ 129.000

“Ideal as an investment: excellent conditions, sunny, close to the beach (just five minutes' drive), super peaceful location. Fully furnished. The romantic bedroom in the attic boasts an enviable skylight enabling far-reaching views.”

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San Siro, townhouse

€ 110.000

“Traditional local townhouse: tall, narrow, with multiple rooms scattered over multiple levels. Stunning lake view. Set in a timeless little hamlet with cobbled alleys, a handful of houses, with the woodland a few steps away. The beach is just three minutes' drive.”

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San Siro (hillside), detached house

€ 115.000

“The soundtrack of this little house could be Lucio Dalla’s “Attenti al lupo”, when at the beginning he sings “There was such a small house…”.

It’s a small house indeed, but with plenty of potential with its stone facade and, most of all, its enviable garden with pergola benefitting from a 180° lake view. Habitable, with a bit of a cosmetic refresh needed. 25 minutes driving from the lake. Not so close to the beaches – ideal for those looking for their retreat far from everything and everyone.

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San Siro, apartment in residence

€120.000

“The public beach is just three minutes on foot, all the local services are at hand, the lake view is great: this apartment ticks all the boxes for being considered a good investment. A proper cosmetic refresh would be needed, although the house is perfectly habitable. The cellar is included in the sale.”

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Moltrasio, renovated apartment

€135.000

“A romantic pied-à-terre, fully restored, conveniently located 10 minutes from Como city and access to the highway to Milano and Switzerland. Example of artful restoration: look at the original stone vault in the master!

Just an additional note: Moltrasio in 2019 ranked 4th in the national chart of the most beautiful hamlets of Italy. Visiting is believing!”

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Menaggio, apartment

€129.000

“Ideal for history lovers: this little apartment is on the top floor of the most charming period buildings of the village, the ex railway station; the latter ended its service in 1939, during Second World War II. Waterfront location, although the apartment itself doesn’t face directly the lake.

The centre of the village is just three minutes on foot. Just perfect as an investment, ideal pied-à-terre.”

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Argegno, renovated apartment

€148.000

“Incredibly cozy and stylish at the same time. Artfully renovated, with plenty of original details. Literally behind the main piazza in Argegno, with all local services (e.g. ferry stop, bus stop, restaurants.) at hand. Great as an investment!”

More information

Please address any enquiries about these properties to Lakeside Real Estate. But do let us know at The Local if you decide to make an offer!

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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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