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The Italian properties ‘nobody’ wants to buy in 2021

The Italian properties ‘nobody’ wants to buy in 2021
Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
The lockdown and travel restrictions caused by the pandemic are changing what potential buyers are looking for in future homes in Italy, as well as what they’re trying to avoid.

It’s a generalisation, but it’s fair to say that before the pandemic many Italians didn’t give too much importance to the place they put their head down to sleep at night.

Italy is statistically a nation of apartment-dwellers (more than two-thirds of the population live in apartment blocks), preferring to spend most of their time outdoors and meeting friends and family in cafés and bars rather than hanging out at home.

This doesn’t mean people in Italy don’t care about the state of their homes – far from it, in fact. But one cultural difference those from northern Europe often find with Italian partners or flatmates is that there’s not much interest in making the space especially comfortable or cosy. After all it’s mainly just somewhere to sleep, shower, and make a quick coffee before dashing to work.

Or at least, that was the case until about a year ago.

The pandemic seems to be changing several property trends in Italy, including the penchant for apartment living that’s been around since the 60s.

Photo by Tiziana FABI/AFP

We’re not predicting that Italians are all looking for a life in the suburbs now that remote working is catching on. But some property types have become far more popular – others less so.

The following are all factors to bear in mind if you’re thinking of selling or buying a property in Italy in 2021.

Too small

More space was one of the things Italians under lockdown yearned for most in 2020, and this is clearly reflected in current market trends.

The average size of an Italian home is 81 square metres – smaller than the Spanish (97 m2), German (109 m2) and French (112 m2) averages.

READ ALSO: ‘Smart working’? Here’s what you need to know about going self-employed in Italy

According to a study by real estate website Immobiliare.it, searches have increased for properties that are 100 sqm or larger over the past year.

This change in priorities is thought to have contributed to property price drops of more than 10 percent in central parts of big cities such as Milan, Rome and Bologna, where small apartments have long been the only affordable option for most.

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

No outdoor space

There’s no doubt Italians will continue living in blocks of flats once the pandemic is behind us, but having some form of outdoor space such as a balcony, a terrace or a garden is more important than ever. 

According to property search engine Idealista, the filter for homes with balcony or terrace is now being used up to 40 percent more than this time last year.

And it seems that some people have re-evaluated their priorities completely and are searching for even more space.

In Italy, rural homes have long been perceived as the preserve of retirees and foreign second-home owners – but this is another trend that appears to be changing.

One survey last year highlighted a rising trend among young people (20 percent more than during the same period in 2019) hoping to move away from urban areas.

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Italy has a large stock of older, often rural properties which have long proved difficult to sell in a market where apartments and new-build homes have long been more in demand.

But the government’s renovation superbonus, introduced as part of a package of financial aid for the country, is now making the prospect of renovating an old house in the countryside a more realistic prospect – especially for younger generations who previously would’ve been unable to afford such a project.

READ ALSO: Italy’s building bonus: Can you really claim back the cost of renovating your Italian property? 

“This is quite interesting as it speeds up the requests for properties in need of huge renovations,” noted Sara Zanotta of Lakeside Real Estate, based on Lake Como.

“Enquiries for this kind of property will increase in 2021 by up to +45%,” she told The Local in January.

“From July 2020 to December 2020 these requests increased by +32% on the same period in 2019.”

Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Outdated or no facilities

Older houses and apartments with an outdated layout, lack of natural light or poor funtionality are big no-nos nowadays in Italy thanks to the pandemic, as well as being key factors in why new, more practical builds are likely to see prices remain stable.

However while old-fashioned apartments with long corridors and lots of tiny rooms are not desirable, more modern open-plan layouts (or “open space”, as they’re often called in Italy) are also becoming less popular as people now spend more time at home, estate agents say.

Since most apartments available in Italy now fit one of those descriptions, buyers are reportedly making more changes to new homes than before – knocking through walls or otherwise altering unsuitable layouts.

Properties without a lift in the building or without parking spaces are also less in demand. 

Among estate agents’ predictions for Italy’s property market in 2021 are an increased interest in “multifunctional homes, with larger dimensions and modular spaces adapted for remote working.”

And those who do continue living in apartments will increasingly be looking for blocks with more facilities, “such as a garage, gym, storage or multipurpose spaces.”

Location, location

Houses in premium locations, such as by the coast or lakes, have also always commanded higher prices and this is unlikely to change.

However, property prices in areas outside regional capitals rose, in many cases for the first time in years, as property experts say people are increasingly looking for larger homes in quieter areas.

“Non-capital municipalities grew most of all, by +8.1%, compared to an overall decline for the capital city municipalities (-6.7%),” a joint report by Italian estate agencies Gabetti, Professionecasa and Grimaldi stated.

As in many other countries, Italian cities are experiencing the trend of losing some of their population as people move to the provincial outskirts of the big urban areas in search of space, greenery and more freedom. 

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While real estate agencies focused on the international market say there’s continued interest from would-be buyers abroad despite the pandemic, Italians too are increasingly looking at buying a second (or first) home in the country.

But as well as the traditionally expensive areas, demand is rising in previously less sought-after parts of the country.

Many are considering relocating to rural areas due to the rise of remote work or ‘smart working’, with southern Italy now a sought-after destination among people looking to swap city life in the north for a lower cost of living.

While there are suggestions that more people may move back to Italy’s many depopulated hilltop towns as a result of the pandemic, these hopes may be hampered by the fact that such areas usually lack infrastructure and internet connectivity.

If a property offers neither the transport connections of a city nor the extra space afforded by the countryside or suburbs, it’s unlikely to be snapped up under the current circumstances.

See more in The Local’s Italian property section.


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