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PROPERTY: How Italy’s building bonuses are delaying the restyle of one-euro homes

Facing long delays and cost increases amid a renovation boom, some foreign buyers of Italy’s cheapest homes are now giving up on their dream renovation plans.

PROPERTY: How Italy’s building bonuses are delaying the restyle of one-euro homes
Cheap one euro homes continue to go on the market in Italy. Photo by Alex Vasey on Unsplash

Finding builders these days is proving challenging for many buyers of Italy’s one euro homes and other cheap properties in need of major renovation.

While the wide array of building bonuses introduced by the government offering homeowners up to 110 percent deductions on expenses related to energy upgrades and reducing seismic risk, or to simple fixes, has breathed new life into the economy, it has been so much in demand that it has delayed the restyle plans of many foreign buyers.

READ ALSO: How Italy’s building ‘superbonus’ has changed in 2022

Patrick Brown, from the US, last year bought an old rural farm in Bergamo’s countryside for €30.000 but is still looking for a building company to take on the repairs needed, including fixes to a partially collapsed roof, a new garage, and modern bathrooms.

“I knocked at the door of at least eight firms in the area and they all told me I would have to wait some 7-8 months,” he says.

“They were too busy with other pending renovations and were facing a lack of builders and other professionals, including architects, engineers, and contractors,” he explains. “I found out quite unpleasantly that Lombardy is among the regions with the highest number of building bonus-related delays.”

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

Brown complains that the extension of building bonus schemes into this year by the government means he’ll have to look for builders in other nearby regions where demand might be lower, but at a higher cost to him.

Superbonus delays are causing buyers of cheap Italian properties to abandon their renovation plans. Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

“I was hoping the building delays would end when the pandemic abated, but now I face these new obstacles. In the meantime, as the months drag on, more parts of the roof are collapsing and the living room walls are starting to crack”.

Brown is feeling so downbeat he’s even considering getting rid of the farm before starting the renovation by selling it to the highest bidder – or to the neighbours.

READ ALSO: Italy’s ‘superbonus’ renovations delayed by builder shortages and bureaucracy

He says this bad experience is killing the “adventurous thrill of bringing back to life an old home”, and that friends of his who have bought a cheap dwelling in the surroundings are also facing the same problems. 

The shortage of builders is occurring all over Italy, particularly in Lombardy and Liguria. Rural areas, where there are many dilapidated homes and fewer building companies, are the most vulnerable. 

It’s also happening in deepest Sicily, where many towns have launched one-euro home schemes to lure new buyers.

In the town of Mussomeli, Australian chef Danny McCubbin, who runs a social kitchen for the poor, bought a house for one euro and was then forced to sell it back to a real estate agency for the same price.

READ ALSO:

He says it was very difficult to find a builder, and over time the house deteriorated. By the time he did find someone, high demand and the spike in inflation had doubled the cost to renovate it, so he thought it was not worth it anymore. 

Danny eventually bought a slightly more expensive property in better shape in Mussomeli, and says other foreign buyers who have faced the same delays are now renovating their one-euro homes themselves. 

Mussomeli mayor Giuseppe Catania explains that the high demand for all building bonuses from villagers meant that nearly everyone in the area was exploiting the tax breaks in order to redo their homes, with the town’s handful of building firms facing overwork and a shortage of builders.

Local architects in Mussomeli assisting buyers of one-euro homes say there could now be delays of up to five months, but it largely depends on the degree of renovation work required.

READ ALSO: My Italian Home: ‘We bought the cheapest house in Piedmont and live mortgage free’

Firms are willing to squeeze in massive restyle projects that involve the entire restructure of a house, and are more profitable – rather than taking on minor fixes like redoing a kitchen. 

Some buyers have resold their cheap Italian properties as they can no longer go through with renovations. Photo by Ehud Neuhaus on Unsplash

Also, if the buyer is willing to invest significant sums of money at once instead of doing the restyle project in phases, it is easier to find builders.

Catania is however confident that the situation will improve as measures have been taken by the town hall to boost supply: “Most of these bonuses are expected to expire by year-end, so the pace of new renovations will decrease, and in the next few weeks there will be an influx of new builders from other Italian towns to help out, perhaps even from abroad”. 

Given that many towns in Sicily have either been rocked in the past by terrible earthquakes or mass emigration which has caused abandoned buildings to deteriorate, says Catania, most families and condominiums are now rushing to benefit from the tax credits to give their homes a makeover or turn them into B&Bs. 

OPINION: Why Italy must put its forgotten ‘ghost towns’ up for sale – or risk losing them forever

But the delayed renovations are still pushing foreign buyers to have second thoughts. 

Anna Müller, from Switzerland, also had to give up her dream of living in a renovated cheap home in Genoa’s countryside. 

She says it took her contractor eight months to find an available builder and by the time he did, Susanna and her partner had decided that the house, for which they paid just €4.000, required too much work. Like Danny, they sold it back to a local agency, luckily for the same price they paid.

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PROPERTY

PROPERTY: Is this the end of Italy’s building ‘superbonus’?

As state funds for Italy's popular building 'superbonus' have already been exhausted, Italian authorities are reportedly considering halting any further extensions to the discount scheme.

PROPERTY: Is this the end of Italy's building 'superbonus'?

The Italian government is considering yet more changes for Italy’s so-called building ‘superbonus 110‘, as the allocated budget for the building incentive has already been exceeded, while renovation projects continue to wait in a queue.

According to the latest data from ENEA (Italy’s national agency for new technologies, energy and sustainable economic development), the approximately €33.3 billion that was earmarked for the scheme until 2025 has already gone over by some €400 million.

That makes a total of €33.7 million in claims up until May 31st, 2022.

This means that not only have the Superbonus funds run out, they have also been claimed in excess, potentially meaning that the government could ask for the money back.

In the two years since it was introduced, the building discount scheme has given homeowners the chance to claim a tax deduction of up to 110 percent of the cost of renovation work.

READ ALSO: Nine things we’ve learned about claiming Italy’s building ‘superbonus’

Building jobs covered by the bonus are related to making energy-efficiency upgrades and reducing seismic risk, with the aim of kickstarting Italy’s post-pandemic economic recovery and its construction sector.

The credit transfer system is hampering accessing Italy’s ‘superbonus 110’. Photo by Guilherme Cunha on Unsplash

But the scheme has been beset with delays due to a raft of reasons, including its popularity creating soaring demand, supply chain issues, fraudulent claims, multiple changes to its rules and regulations and a blocking to the credit transfer system – that is, the way people access the government funds to pay for the building work.

These setbacks have caused some homeowners to abandon their plans altogether, or have left many in the middle of works concerned about whether they’ll able to finish their renovation projects in time.

Despite the changes and blockages, however, the bonus has in some way been heralded as a success, considering the vast amount of claims already made.

But what does that mean for those still stuck in the process with works waiting to start or not yet completed?

Property owners who have benefited in part from the subsidies for building renovation work could see their construction site stopped and their funding demanded back, as construction companies are unable to collect the credit.

READ ALSO: Italy’s building superbonus: What’s the problem with credit transfers?

Although no official government statement has yet been made, Italian media reports indicate that, after its latest extension, the authorities don’t intend to roll on the scheme any further beyond 2022 for owners of single family homes.

There have been multiple deadline extensions for this category of property in response to ongoing delays, but the government has ruled out any further lengthening to the current timeframe, reported Il Sole 24 Ore.

As things stand, single unit home owners have until September 30th to complete 30 percent of the overall works, with a final deadline of December 31st, 2022 for all renovations to be completed.

Without further financing and an unblocking of the credit system, those carrying out renovation jobs could find themselves with stalled construction sites, half-finished homes or having to give any claimed money back.

Claiming Italy’s superbonus has been mired by delays and bureaucracy. Photo by Laughing Cynic on Unsplash

The risk to both companies and individuals has prompted criticism from various sectors, as jobs, futures and a continuing stock of energy inefficient houses hang in the balance.

READ ALSO: How to stay out of trouble when renovating your Italian property

“If the government wants the death of the superbonus, it should come and say so… knowing that it is telling companies to go bankrupt,” stated the president of the Productive Businesses Commission, Martina Nardi.

Earlier this month, the CNA (Confederazione Nazionale dell’Artigianato e della Piccola e Media Impresa), which represents Italian small business owners, said some 33,000 businesses are at risk of bankruptcy due to blockages.

Calls to unblock the credit transfer system and overcome the stalemate continue as impending deadlines cause increasing alarm and frustration.

Opening up the credit transfer system would allow construction companies to convert their credit into liquidity, that is, actual money, and thereby complete works already started.

The National Confederation of Craftsmen and Small and Medium Enterprises has spoken of difficulties on the part of “thousands of companies in the construction sector that are unable to transfer tax credits linked to bonuses for the redevelopment of buildings due to the freezing of the market”.

In other words, projects continue to face blockages until building companies can be sure that they’ll receive the money they were granted.

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

In an open letter to Italy’s prime minister Mario Draghi, one architect described the situation as an “almost unprecedented liquidity crisis” that is pushing the country to “the brink of the deepest economic and social crisis ever seen and managed”.

“It has been two years of tribulation, this we can say today, that have turned genius into monstrosity due to the constant changes, corrections and adjustments that keep everyone in suspense,” wrote Daniele Menichini.

The government has been criticised for doing the opposite of what they stated with the superbonus, instead causing further economic downturn. Photo by Damien MEYER / AFP

“The situation that is looming at this time is of uncertainty and insecurity, in which society will hit a wall because of the blocked credits and the blocking of all those projects that were about to start,” he added.

While the government has expressed no intention to refinance the scheme beyond 2022 for single family homes, a glimmer of hope remains via an opening up of credit in a further expected amendment to the superbonus.

READ ALSO:

Easing the bottleneck would ensure that at least the projects that will meet the 2022 deadlines can be financed and completed.

To do this, the government is reportedly considering extending the ability to obtain credit to other parties besides banks, such as construction companies themselves. In doing so, it removes one extra bureaucratic hurdle and would unlock the current standstill due to many banks no longer buying credit.

The question of how the authorities will foot the bill for the already overrun budget still remains, with some reports suggesting an extra financial boost from the government will be needed until the end of 2022.

Other possibilities point towards allowing firms to carry over their credit surpluses until next year, to overcome the obligation to offset the credit this year.

Meanwhile, some categories of building have until 2025 to claim state funds with declining amounts available each year, but the future financing of which still isn’t clear.

The Local will continue to provide updates on this.

See more in our Italian property section.

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