For Members

PROPERTY: Why Italians sell off old homes so cheaply to foreign buyers

Silvia Marchetti
Silvia Marchetti - [email protected]
PROPERTY: Why Italians sell off old homes so cheaply to foreign buyers
A historic Italian farmhouse is the dream for many international buyers - while Italians are often keen to offload these properties. Photo by Carlo Alberto Burato on Unsplash

Italy has a large number of old homes on the market, and they're often sold off at bargain prices to international buyers. But Italian property owners should place a higher value on these homes, argues Silvia Marchetti.


Italy’s cheap and €1 homes bonanza reveals two sides of the same coin: there are the lucky buyers who snatch them up for a song, and there are sellers who often offload them losing a lot of the value, when they could be making much more money out of them. 

Recently, I've met many Italian property owners who are selling off properties extra cheap, knocking off anything from between €10,000 to €20,000 from the initial low price just to get rid of these properties. Plus, they’re also always open to negotiate further with interested buyers.

READ ALSO: Can you still buy Italy’s one-euro homes in 2024?

These can be great deals, often independent rural villas in deep Basilicata and Calabria, that need little or no renovation work. They’re located in places that aren’t really on the map, which partly explains the bargain price.

Owners want to sell these buildings - which are usually inherited - because they simply don't use them and would like to buy summer homes elsewhere in Italy, perhaps near the coast.

The properties are abandoned in the sense that nobody lives in them anymore, but they are habitable and in some cases have been renovated.

Mario Forgetti, who lives in the countryside near the remote Calabrian village of Cinquefrondi, last month sold his recently renovated 300 square-metre villa to a retired Portuguese couple for just €39,000.

The starting price was €50,000 but he was desperate to offload it and accepted the couple’s offer. 

“It was ready-to-occupy, furnished, with appliances, beds and everything you might need, even utensils and bed sheets and curtains. It used to be my grandparents’ farmhouse”, Forgetti tells The Local. 

READ ALSO: Five things non-residents need to know about buying property in Italy

“Last year I spent €10,000 to repaint the walls and fix the roof and floors, so at the end I only made €29,000.

"I know, I practically gave it away for free, but in these past 15 years, I only went there two whole months one summer, so it was a pity keeping it empty”.


Forgetti, who lives in the historical district of Cinquefrondi which, unlike the rural villa, has everything at hand like supermarkets and pharmacies, says he would like to buy a small seaside cottage along the Ionian coast but is aware that €29,000 won’t be enough. 

“I will have to put in part of my pension to buy my dream summer retreat, but at least I will use it more often than the farmhouse,” he says. 

In Basilicata, in the wild countryside near the village of Latronico, families are rushing to give away their unused properties.

One 120-square-metre farmhouse with orchard, garden and annexed stone cottage was recently sold to an American couple for as low as €30,000. It came with painted majolica floor tiles and a barbecue patio. 

READ ALSO: Why there are so many derelict houses in Italy - and no-one seems to care

Former owners Giuseppe and Rosa Vizzani were so happy when they signed the sale deed that they invited the new owners for an aperitivo to celebrate. 

“I know it may sound crazy, but we’ve been hoping to sell the house for at least five years and nobody showed up.

"Then we got lucky to meet this American couple through friends of ours, who wanted to buy a house in a non-touristy area, and our dream just came true”, says Rosa. 


“The final sale cost may seem low for a property in such good conditions but we’re satisfied with it. In this area, we can still find some good deals ourselves for a small studio in another location closer to the seaside”. 

They explain that there is no point in keeping a house when nobody from the family goes there anymore to enjoy it.

Like Forgetti, their property was a former farmhouse where Rosa’s aunts kept livestock and grew tomatoes, selling them at the local market. 

“Often when you inherit an old property, you feel obliged to keep it alive, to restyle it, to nourish it, even if you don’t live there.

"But at a certain point, basta. You realize that it’s best to offload it for cheap rather than keep paying for property and city service taxes”, says Rosa. 

READ ALSO: Five pitfalls to watch out for when buying an old house in Italy

It is a real pity that certain properties in stunning, pristine and quiet locations are being sold at such low prices, when similar properties elsewhere in Europe, in the UK or the US could be worth up to a million euros.

In an ideal world, the more untouched the place is and the better shape is the house in, the more it should cost.


Italian property owners, even if eager to sell, should give more value to their old homes and raise the bar, start to ask for more without negotiating too much.

There are several reasons though why Italians aren't giving more value to these homes. First, maintenance costs for inherited properties are often very high, including taxes and utility bills on second homes.

Second, local buyers have little interest in Italy's many old homes, unless they’re lovers of historical buildings. Most Italians want new apartments in well-serviced areas. So international buyers are more likely to see the appeal of such properties, even though they might want turnkey, renovated homes. 

But the risk is that of selling off half of the country - the most authentic and untouched parts of Italy’s south.  



Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also