The appeal of property to restore in Italy

February 12th, 2010 | by Ainsley |

Vast numbers of people buying Italy are increasingly opting for a property needing restoration – and for a multitude of reasons. One is the sheer delight in taking over a ramshackle countryside ruin that may be little more than a pile of stones and watching as it is turned into your perfect Italian holiday home – with every last brick and tile matching your precise specifications. A new generation of buyers has been inspired along this path since the runaway success of Frances’ Mayes bestseller-turned-film Under The Tuscan Sun, in which she renovates an old farmhouse near Cortona. Another advantage is that it is much cheaper. One can buy a rundown property for sale in Italy for as little as Euro 30,000 with renovation costs of Euro 1,000 – 1,500 per sq m, depending on the area of Italy and the amount of restoration required. That could work out at Euro 180,000 for a 150sq m farmhouse, a fraction of what you would pay for one already completed. In addition, you spread out your costs over the duration of the work rather than having to find the entire sum up front. Some buyers even choose to renovate only part of the house to begin with, which they then live in, and then complete the rest of the work some months or even years later at their leisure. Italy’s long, rich history means it is full of charming, abandoned buildings in scenic locations just waiting for some tender love and care to restore them to their original glory. For instance, a 2009 study found there were around 5,000 churches and chapels scattered across the country ideal to be converted into homes. Another popular option is a characteristic townhouse in the heart of a medieval town or village that just oozes centuries of history. However, many English buyers interested in renovations are drawn to farmhouses set in acres of scenic countryside in regions such as Tuscany, Umbria, and Le Marche. Professionals that might need to be hired include an architect to design the property, a surveyor (geometra) to find and liaise with workmen and obtain the necessary planning permission from local authorities; and a project manager to oversee the construction if you the buyer will not be in Italy for the duration of the work. The geometra can also act as your project manager. Abruzzo and Puglia are where the cheapest properties to restore are to be found, with prices from Euro 20,000 depending on size and location. Restoration costs are low too, at around Euro 800-1,000 for structurally sound properties. In comparison, a property of the same size in Tuscany could cost around Euro 120,000-Euro 150,000, with restoration costs of up to Euro 1,500 per sq m. Stefania Russo of Italian property finders The Property Organiser summed up the appeal of the Italian restoration market as she explained: “Rustic buildings have always been an attraction to foreign buyers, possibly even more so than Italians. However, it is important to remember that restoration cannot take place without professionals such as geometras. Also, planning permission must be applied for before work is started to ensure that you avoid a financial penalty or – even worse – a demolition order.”

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