Why home buy­ers are flock­ing to Italy

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Sunday Special -

It was an in­va­sion — but a pos­i­tive one!” That’s how Giuseppe Ca­cioppo, deputy mayor of Sam­buca, Si­cily, de­scribed the sale of his town’s aban­doned homes to for­eign buy­ers, the auc­tions of which started at just one euro (Rs 78).

Sam­buca suc­ceeded in sell­ing off 16 his­toric but derelict stone homes to buy­ers from the United States, China, France, Bri­tain, Rus­sia, and Ar­gentina.

There is, of course, al­ways a catch. The prop­er­ties for sale are al­most al­ways in a di­lap­i­dated con­di­tion, and towns stip­u­late that buy­ers must com­mit to spend­ing thou­sands of dol­lars in restora­tion and ren­o­va­tion to make them hab­it­able again.

In Sam­buca’s case, for ex­am­ple, buy­ers must agree to spend at least 15,000 eu­ros (Rs 11 lakh) on ren­o­va­tions, and hand over a 5,000 euro (Rs 4 lakh) se­cu­rity de­posit, which is re­funded as long as


the con­di­tions of the pur­chase are met.

None of the homes ac­tu­ally sold for a euro. In May, the homes were sold in a blind auc­tion where bids started at one euro, and the 16 houses ended up sell­ing for prices be­tween 1,000 eu­ros (Rs 79,000) and 25,000 eu­ros (Rs 19 lakh).

On top of the 16 owned by lo­cal gov­ern­ment, a fur­ther 50 prop­er­ties were sold on the pri­vate mar­ket.

Gary and Ta­mara Holm from Cal­i­for­nia were happy to have ul­ti­mately missed out on the houses at auc­tion, though not by choice.

“We picked one and we bid 5,050 (Rs 4 lakh) eu­ros on it,” Gary told me. The house ended up go­ing for 10,000 eu­ros — a price that Gary thought was ‘way too much.’

“When it was a euro — ab­so­lutely. But when it be­came a blind auc­tion, it made it a lit­tle more chal­leng­ing to get what the in­vest­ment should be,” Ta­mara ex­plained. Gary and Ta­mara even­tu­ally paid 19,000 eu­ros (Rs 14 lakh) for their home, which they bought from a pri­vate seller.

Now if a home for $1 sounds too good to be true, that’s be­cause it is. Af­ter an earth­quake in 1968 killed more than 200 peo­ple, many res­i­dents in sim­ply cashed in on their in­sur­ance and built new, mod­ern homes just down the road. If you’re will­ing to ac­cept that the per­fect home doesn’t ex­ist, then the one euro homes still seem like the best in­vest­ment.

Italy’s aban­doned homes have been pur­chased by for­eign­ers, on the prom­ise that they will ren­o­vate

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