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Finding A Cheap Home To Renovate In Italy



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By : Adriana Giglioli    99 or more times read
Housebuyers' purse strings are much tighter these days in the wake of the global economic downturn, but the appeal of owning a holiday home in Italy remains as undimmed as ever.

As a result foreign purchasers are still flocking to Italy, but rising numbers of them are opting to fix up properties or even start from scratch as opposed to buying resale homes.

The principal attraction is obvious – the expense. Leave behind any ideas of unearthing renovation homes for Euro 1, a PR stunt rolled out a couple of years ago by authorities in one Sicilian town. However, in areas of Italy's south such as Sicily, Calabria and Molise a rustic ruin can be purchased from just Euro 8,500.

Factor in a bill for restoration that can begin at roundabout Euro 750 per sq m and it is possible to convert a tumbledown hovel into a 90sq m idyllic vacation property for just Euro 85,000 – far less than the cost otherwise. And, beyond the initial buying price, construction costs may be spread over the lifetime of the construction, which can be as long as the buyers find convenient.

Stefania Russo, founder of Italy real estate search experts The Property Organiser, says: "The credit crunch has meant greater numbers of investors going down the restoration path. The costs in places like Abruzzo are of the order of Euro 800 per sq metre – around 50-60% what you would face in the north of Italy. And instead of having to stump up funds up front, restoration allows them to spread expenses over months or years, if they want to turn it into a long-term project.

"In addition, buyers like the option to leave their personalised imprint on their homes, which is easier to do by restoration than if they buy a resale and then try to change it."

The country's history means there is no shortage of rundown and luxury Italian property dating from as far back as the 18th century and needing only some TLC to convert them into superb modern dwellings.

The country also has a plentiful supply of farmhouses – a popular choice of overseas househunters – largely owing to the mass migration of large tides of people who, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, abandoned Italy's countryside for towns and cities or even a new life beyond the country's borders. By the way, if you are tempted by something a little different, the answer to your prayers may lie in the estimated 5,500 churches and chapels on the Italian property market and available to be converted into living accommodation.

Once you have picked a property, the next step is engaging reliable professionals to turn your dreams into fruition. Although some are happy to do the legwork themselves, the most advisable route is to get a reputable geometra/surveyor (your realtor ought to be able to put you in touch with one).

They will be able to take on good workmen for you as well as talk to local authorities for the required building permits. Bear in mind that many ancient Italian properties are made in stone so work on such homes will need workmen practiced in working in stone.

A frequently present danger with projects like this is that your outlay can fly out of control, often by as much as 25%. Common pitfalls include swimming pools budget up to 20,000; upgrading access roads allow up to 2,000 for a 50-metre section; and upgrading landscaping. However, your surveyor can make a contract with your work team specifying a maximum budget and a target date for completion, with penalties charged if they are not stuck to.

Although geometre design homes to a certain extent, their skill is limited and many experts recommend also engage an architect to oversee design. It is vital from the start that you make abundantly clear what you have in mind and that you pass this on to the architect. Deciding on something different once work has begun is time-consuming and a pain in the rear for everyone else concerned.

Face up to the likely timescales involved. The purchasing procedure can take between four and 12 weeks and acquiring work approval a further three to nine months depending on the local authority involved.

One last thing, unless you plan on being on-site almost continually, you should also have an independent project manager to oversee everything and help keep the project on track. Your architect or geometra can also step into this role.

One project manager explains: "By popping up on site as often as is needed, usually unannounced, we keep the client up to date with what is going on through detailed dossiers and digital photographs. So any issues can be resolved quickly. We maintain everything on track and, even more importantly, ensure the client isn't caught unaware by nasty shocks."
The author works for Homes and Villas Abroad.com, who advertise 5,000 houses for sale in Italy. Her areas of expertise include Abruzzo property, Tuscany real estate Italy and Sicily real estate.

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