There have been initiatives in several towns in Italy, where the town is selling unrestored houses for the starting sum of 1 euro. The latest town to announce this offer is Sambuca di Sicilia, a town located in southwestern Sicily. Since this news item was picked up by CNN, the town’s mayor has been inundated with requests from around the world.
Before you jump on the bandwagon, there are some key things to consider on these 1 euro houses for sale in Sambuca, Sicily:
- The properties are to be sold at auction, with the price starting at 1 euro. If there is more than one bidder, the price will rise according to bids.
- The closing costs are the responsibility of the buyer. If the home is not your primary residence there is a tax of 9% on the deeded value, plus notary fees and a few other miscellaneous charges.
- The new owner must commit to spending a minimum of 15,000 euros in renovation within 3 years of the sale.
- These houses are not inhabitable, and some have been empty since being damaged in an earthquake in 1968, so may need total restructuring.Here is an example of one of the 1 euro houses for sale in Sambuca di Sicilia:
As someone who has bought and restored an old farmhouse in Sicily, and am currently renovating an apartment in Ragusa, let me give you some advice on restoring an old house:
- Find out if there is a consistent supply of water, which can be a problem in some towns in Sicily. This is why you may see a plastic water tank on the roof or terrace of a house, so that the occupants have a back-up supply of water. However, sometimes this back-up supply is not enough, so it is best to plan ahead to have a large enough capacity water tank.
- Exposure: A north facing house may be cool in the summer, but is generally dark, and colder in winter. Choose a house with at least one south-facing windows for good light.
- Renovation costs: Rule number 1 is, whatever you think it will cost, it will be much more! Estimate the renovation costs to be from 1000 – 2000 euros per square meter of living space, though if you choose high-end fixtures in bathrooms and kitchens, you can spend more. Remember, you may have to replace a roof, and/ reinforce weight-bearing walls, and you may have to dig up the ground floor and refill properly to avoid having problems with rising damp. All electrical wiring and plumbing will have to be redone and brought up to code, and doors and windows replaced. The outside of the house will need new stucco or cladding. And all this before you can have fun choosing pretty hand-painted tiles or cool Italian light fixtures!
- I recommend you work with an architect who is familiar with any zoning laws regarding the allowed materials if your home is located in the historic center of a town or in an area with particular zoning. For instance, it may be mandatory to have wooden doors and windows (as opposed to aluminum or PVC,) only certain colors of exterior house paint are allowed, and sometimes solar panels are not allowed. Do adhere to the law to avoid future problems.
Now, for some good news about renovating a house in Italy: If you have an income and file a tax return in Italy, there are currently some excellent tax incentives for renovations. You can get a 50% tax break on up to 96,000 euros of renovation costs, spread over 10 years. In addition, there are incentives for using renewable energy sources and also for new furnishings. Consult an Italian accountant – called a commercialista – to get all the details on tax incentives for home renovations in Italy.
Last but not least, while the idea of buying a 1 euro house in Sicily may sound enticing, you should first consider if this offer is in a town where you would want to live. Don’t expect to renovate and then “flip” the house for a profit, as the market is not amenable. Instead, you might consider buying a place that needs a bit less renovation work in a better location – visit some areas of Sicily to see what feels right. You can find a number of properties in and around the towns of Modica and Ragusa for 25,000 – 50,000 euros that, while still needing renovation, may be in far better shape than a 1 euro house in Italy, and located in a more desirable area where house prices are predicted to rise.
I hope that you have found this to be helpful advice about buying a house for 1 euro. If you want to investigate further, I suggest you contact the town hall in Sambuca di Sicilia to see their current list of houses for 1 euro (they will be adding more houses soon) with floor plans, or consult a law firm that specializes in buying Italian property. You might also want to read this article in English from the Guardian about why the mayor has decided to sell many house for 1 euro in Sambuca di Sicilia.