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PROPERTY

Property in Italy: A weekly roundup of the latest news and updates

Stay up-to-date on the latest Italian property and renovation news with The Local's weekly roundup.

Superbonus extension

You’ve probably heard of the Italian government’s superbonus scheme, an economic stimulus measure introduced amid the coronavirus crisis which promises homeowners a tax deduction of up to 110% on expenses related to property renovation.

While most people are unlikely to be able to claim the full amount, there are still potentially hundreds of thousands of euros in savings to be made via the so-called ‘ecobonus’ and ‘sismabonus’ which can be used in conjunction when making energy-efficiency upgrades and reducing seismic risk respectively.

The government has promised to extend the superbonus scheme into 2023, as a huge spike in demand means many construction companies are now unable to start new projects until at least early 2022. While this hasn’t been signed into law yet, it looks all but certain to happen.

READ ALSO: The building bonuses you could claim in Italy in 2021

The complexity of the paperwork involved in claiming these bonuses has also meant many projects are taking a long time to get off the ground – and many people have reportedly decided against using the bonuses altogether.

A quarterly report by market research firm Nomisma found that, one year on from the launch of the superbonus, there have been “obstacles in the path meaning that the number of [renovation] projects increased but not at the expected speed, and there is resignation and discouragement on the part of Italian families.”

Photo: Antonio Sessa/Unsplash

The most popular (and expensive) areas for would-be buyers in Italy

As the coronavirus crisis and the move to remote or flexible work is reportedly spurring people to move out of the cities in Italy, as in other countries, where exactly are people moving to?

Data analysis from property search website Idealista found that, perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of property searches in the first quarter of 2021 were recorded in southern regions . mainly Campania, Puglia and Sicily.

The study only includes municipalities (towns, or city districts) with at least 2,000 inhabitants, but it showed that the most popular areas included Naples, Lecce, Taranto and Palermo – a new trend perhaps fuelled by people who’ve moved north to work and have been looking at a move back home, as well as those dreaming of a new life by the sea.

The Italian municipalities which recorded the most online property searches in Q1 2021. Source: Idealista.

But is this really going to lead to an exodus from the major cities, or a boom in house sales in the south?

There haven’t been any dramatic changes so far, with Idealista also recording that the majority of enquiries made about properties for sale continue to be in the cities of Milan, Bologna, Naples and Rome.

Meanwhile, average sale prices were highest in Venice, Milan, Florence and the Tuscan seaside town of Pietrasanta.

More one-euro homes in Sicily

No Italian property guide would be complete without a mention of the rural towns selling off neglected homes for the price of a coffee.

The latest to get on board is the Unesco heritage-listed town of Caltagirone in Sicily.

This one is slightly unusual as, far from being a crumbling village in the middle of nowhere, Caltagirone is a lively town with some 40,000 inhabitants and a beautiful historic centre.

The town’s councilor for heritage said they wanted to stimulate repopulation and regeneration in the historic area as “many inhabitants preferred to abandon their homes in the historic centre to build in the new expansion areas.”

READ ALSO: Bargain homes and fewer crowds – but Italy’s deep south is not for everyone.

As in many Italian towns, older properties in the historic centre are often passed down through generations. Often, those who inherit them have no interest in spending money on the (usually sizeable) renovation project needed, and are keen to sell the houses quickly due to the tax and expenses incurred.

You can find more information about the properties for sale in Caltagirone here, and see our detailed list of towns offering one-euro homes here.

(Please note that we at The Local won’t be able to help you buy one of these houses – but we’d love to hear about it if you make an offer!)

Photo: Philippe LopezAFP

Did you know?

The taxes and additional costs involved when purchasing property in Italy are notoriously hefty, with some experts advising buyers that they’ll need to budget as much as ten percent of the property price just to cover these upfront charges. And of course, that’s in addition to any deposit.

The biggest extra chunk you’ll pay is likely to be VAT, which comes in at around 2% of the cadastral value of the house. That’s if you live in Italy full time – it’s 9% if you don’t.

One bit of recent good news is that, if you’re under the age of 36, you may be able to benefit from a new tax rebate scheme which refunds this cost over five years and also cuts various other taxes and charges when purchasing a property.

Find more details here: Under 36? Here’s how Italy plans to help you buy a house

Property tip of the week

In some countries, a mortgage broker is seen as an unnecessary extra. But in Italy they might be key to a smooth (and surprisingly fast) purchase.

In personal news, I finally succeeded in purchasing a property of my own this month after several failed attempts over the last couple of years (which long-time readers may have read about). This time, the process was far easier and faster than I expected, taking just over two months from start to finish. 

I couldn’t believe how quickly things moved – after all, the average time it takes to complete a property purchase in Italy is around four months – and it can easily take much longer.

Deciding to pay for the services of a mortgage broker made all the difference in my case. The fee was eye-watering, but it turned out to be money well spent, both because the mortgage has much better terms than anything I could’ve got independently, and because the broker smoothed over various bureaucratic difficulties and sped things up significantly.

If you’ve used a mortgage broker in Italy, what was your experience? I’m hoping to write about this in more detail, so please do email me and share your thoughts.

Useful links

Here are a couple of useful articles and resources we’ve put together at The Local recently for anyone looking at buying a home and relocating to Italy:

What do you think?

Please get in touch at [email protected] to let us know if you’ve found this new weekly feature useful and share any suggestions you have for property-related news from Italy.

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PROPERTY

How to avoid hidden traps when buying an old property in Italy

Buying a cheap home to renovate in Italy sounds like the dream, but it can quickly turn nightmarish amid restrictions, red tape, and bickering relatives. Silvia Marchetti explains some of the most unexpected pitfalls and how to avoid them.

How to avoid hidden traps when buying an old property in Italy

With so many Italian towns offloading cheap old properties for sale, lots of people have been tempted by the chance to buy a fixer-upper in a sunny, rural area and live in the perfect idyll. And most are oblivious at first of what risks the purchase might entail. 

The older the properties are, the more potential traps along the way.

READ ALSO: The Italian towns launching alternatives to one-euro homes

There have been several villages in Italy eager to sell €1 and cheap homes that have had to give up on their plans once hidden issues came to light.

Back in 2014, the towns of Carrega Ligure, in Piedmont, and Lecce nei Marsi, in Abruzzo, tried hard to sell their old properties off at a bargain price but just couldn’t get past Italy’s labyrinthine red tape, hellish property restrictions, and scores of bickering relatives.

Both towns’ mayors found themselves chasing after the many heirs of unknown property owners who had emigrated in the 1800s. All existing relatives, who technically owned small parcels of the same house (whether they knew it or not), had to all agree on the sale.

Under Italian law, over time and generations a property ‘pulverizes’ into many little shares depending on how many heirs are involved (if one single heir is not named).

You can end up in a situation where you agree with two owners that you’ll buy their old house, and then one day another five knock at your door saying they never gave their consent, nullifying your purchase. So it’s always best to check beforehand the local land registry to see exactly who, and how many, are the owners, and where they are. 

READ ALSO:

In Carrega Ligure and Lecce nei Marsi, families had long ago migrated across the world and the many heirs to some properties were impossible to track down.

But there were also other obstacles.

“We wanted to start the renovation project by selling dilapidated one euro houses, and then move on to cheap ones, but the tax office would not agree on the price – saying that the old properties had a greater value, that they weren’t classified as abandoned buildings but as perfectly livable houses in good shape”, says Lecce nei Marsi mayor Augusto Barile. 

This meant buyers would have ended up spending tons of money in property sale taxes.

“Even if these were just small houses, potential property taxes start at €700, and could have been much higher,” he explains.

“This would have been a nightmare for any buyer finding out about this at a later stage, after the purchase”.

Barile says the town hall had not made a prior agreement with the tax office to reclassify and ‘downgrade’ the value of the old buildings, which also required an update of the land registry. 

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

Council officials in the village of Carrega Ligure faced a wall of red tape when they tried to sell off abandoned properties. Credit: Comune di Carrega Ligure

Several potential buyers I spoke to back then said that when they found out about the tax office’s involvement by word of mouth (mostly thanks to village gossip at the bar while sipping an espresso), they fled immediately without even taking a look at the houses. 

The best advice in this case is to pay a visit to the local tax bureau ahead of any formal purchase deal and make sure that the old, dilapidated house you want to buy is actually ‘accatastata’ (registered) as such, or you might end up paying the same property sale taxes as you would on a new home. Hiring a tax lawyer or legal expert could be of huge help.

In Carrega Ligure, where old shepherds’ and farmers’ homes are scattered across 11 districts connecting various valleys, a few abandoned homes located near pristine woods came with a nice patch of land – which turned out to be another huge problem.

Old estates often cannot be disposed of due to ‘vincoli’ – limitations – either of environmental or historic nature, that do not allow the property to be sold, or simply due to territorial boundaries that have changed over time, particularly if the original families haven’t lived there for a long time.

READ ALSO: How Italy’s cheap homes frenzy is changing rural villages

In Carrega Ligure it turned out that “a few dwellings located in the most ancient district couldn’t be sold because of hydrogeological risks. State law forbade rebuilding them from scratch, as floods and mudslides had hit the area in the past”, says Carrega Ligure mayor Luca Silvestri.

Meanwhile, other properties were located within or close to the protected mountain park area where the village districts spread, and where there are strict rules against building to preserve the surroundings.

Another issue was that a few old homes came with a patch of land which was quite distant, on the opposite side of the hill, says Silvestri, making it inconvenient for buyers looking for a house with a back garden.

In this case, checking territorial maps, and speaking to competent bodies such as park authorities if there are ‘green restrictions’ in place, can spare future nuisances.

See more in The Local’s Italian property section.

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