Normally, when people hear of European towns selling houses and even entire villages for symbolic prices – €1 – they don’t plan to move or change their lives, but the offers are so intriguing that they wonder: “Why not ?”
There are so many small, semi-derelict towns in Europe with local officials looking for creative ways to revitalize their populations and economies – and with plenty of small empty houses, villas and even palaces to offer – that the number international real estate agencies and house-hunters working on the “€1 property market” market have multiplied.
TV programs and digital media frequently carry stories of those who decided to follow suit and found their “dream home” in a small hamlet with a great view over rolling pastures or not far from a sea or overlooking vineyards and olive groves in Italy, France, Spain and even Switzerland.
A highly publicized example is that of the actress Lorraine Bracco (Freedmen, Sopranos) who bought a 200-year-old house in the Italian town of Sambuca di Sicilia (one of the first to offer €1 deals) and made a TV series (My Great Italian Adventure) about the renovation.
Over the past three or four years, Sambuca, with a population of 6,000 and promoted as one of the most beautiful towns in Italy, has reportedly sold dozens of homes and has many more on the market.
Airbnb enters the €1 market
Even Airbnb got in on the Sambuca craze and opened a competition offering a one-year rent-free deal to an individual, couple or small family willing to live and serve as hosts in a six-story townhouse. rooms in the center of the village – one of the €1 houses which have been beautifully renovated.
“Move to Sicily, live in a beautifully restored £1 townhouse and become an Airbnb host,” the vacation home rental giant offers.
The trend “has been going on since at least 2015, when entire Spanish villages began to be marketed for less than the price of a 1-bedroom apartment in London,” says Dispatches Europe (which offers a guide to properties on offer).
In 2016, CBS reported that “hundreds of years after an Italian crashed into America, Americans are now heading to the tiny Italian village of Guardia Sanframondi, where they’re ripping up homes for as little as $15,000. – and the inhabitants deploy the carpet welcome.”
There’s even a book on how to buy a $1 house.
It is still true that if you have the time and the resources, many new initiatives attract buyers for nominal figures in villages in Switzerland, Spain, Croatia and even Japan.
It’s also true that most of them are in a deplorable state, often without plumbing or electricity or as Bracco said in an interview: “It was a s… hole that had to be completely renovated.
With local help, she did it and explained that in the United States “you couldn’t do it without costing millions of dollars.”
There are also caveats around such “too good to be true” offers: potential buyers must agree to renovate the property within a certain timeframe, usually three years, and live there. Otherwise, the house goes to the municipalities.
For more than €1
Italy has been in the lead in offering creative alternatives to entice buyers and breathe new life into run-down towns. For years, according to official data, the country has had one of the lowest birth rates in Europe and is set to lose a good fifth of its population over the next 50 years.
One of the problems faced by some mayors when implementing the €1 scheme is that “owners of abandoned houses were impossible to trace and the bureaucratic hurdles to get rid of the buildings turned out to be enormous”. Local writing.
Some have proposed new schemes such as the towns of Carrega Ligure in Piedmont, Latronico in Basilicata, Biccari in Puglia and Troina in Sicily which have launched websites to present cheap and renovated houses and have opened professional real estate agencies to help connect interested buyers with abandoned homeowners.
These towns have found it better to put cheap houses on the market than to try to sell them for €1. Montieri, in Tuscany, according to Localhad initially advertised old houses at €1 but now sells them from €20,000.
Then there are other incentives: “The remote Alpine village of Locana in Piedmont recently offered to pay up to €9,000 over three years to families willing to settle and settle in the middle snow-capped peaks and green valleys, provided they have at least one child and a minimum annual salary of €6,000,” the newspaper writes.
In the small Piedmontese village of Cabella Ligure, buyers of inexpensive houses benefit from tax breaks for renovations and pay less property tax even if it is their second home.
Other recent inventive incentives include cash offers to help families wanting to settle down or start a new business.
High Speed Internet for Digital Nomads
Now that Covid has fueled the trend to work from home and anywhere in the world, the most recent Italian initiative to revive decaying rural villages is to connect them to high-speed internet and open up the market for cheap real estate to the growing number of digital businesses. nomads.
“The government has announced a billion-euro plan to promote the revitalization of rural villages by easing the visa process for ‘remote workers seeking la dolce vita’,” according to Quartz.
“We have thousands of wonderful hamlets that these visas will be able to revive,” said Dario Franceschini, Italy’s culture minister, in London. Time. “Now that people can work without being physically present in the offices, the isolation of these places is no longer a problem, but on the contrary a charm factor.”
Just a few weeks ago, the government announced the introduction of a “digital nomad visa” which was approved and enacted under the new “decreto sostegni ter”.
With the one-year renewable visa for “highly skilled” teleworkers considering moving to the country, “Italy now looks set to join EU countries, including Germany and Portugal, in offering special visas allowing teleworkers to travel to Italy from outside Europe. Local reports.
“The government must work on a new bill to implement the law, defining all the procedures and all the details,” Five Star Movement parliamentarian Luca Carabetta, who has promoted the digital nomad visa, told the newspaper.
“We have a brand new website where, in addition to details of rentals available, we have also put everything a foreigner might need to live here and feel at home, such as local contacts for plumbers, babysitters , doctors, electricians…” says Federico Balocchi, the mayor of Santa Fiora in Tuscany.
The city’s website presents Santa Fiora as “uno dei Borghi piu belli d’Italia” (“one of the most beautiful villages in Italy”) and offers “properties, services and ultra-broadband infrastructure for smart workers in a hinterland synonymous with an excellent quality of life.
“Living in the village for a short time or forever!” the site invites.
A word of warning, though: remote workers must prove they will work and not just bask in the Tuscan sun.