AusFinance Gazette

Desperate Italian towns are giving away historic homes

If you thought you bagged a bargain this Cyber Monday, wait till you hear about what’s on offer in Castropignano.

The small Italian village 140 miles southeast of Rome is the latest in a long line of Italian towns selling off property for the whopping price of €1 — or $1.64 AUD, according to the current exchange rate.

Since 2019, some 20 towns all across the bellissimo boot have launched similar initiatives in an attempt to bolster dwindling populations, revamp economies and restore these once vivacious villages to their former glory—or risk disappearing altogether.

So, what’s the catch?

Home is where the crumbling ceiling is

First off, it’s worth noting that the €1 homes on offer aren’t exactly move-in ready. And when I say ‘exactly,’ I mean ‘at all.’ In Castropignano, the buildings for sale are all abandoned abodes at risk of caving in completely. Part of the deal is that buyers must agree to renovate the property within three years from the date of purchase and pay a €2,000 ($3,270) deposit which will be returned once renovations have concluded. The town’s mayor, Nicola Scapillati, says that by renovating the crumbling dwellings, Castropignano will also be safer. “It’s sad and dangerous—without renovation, these buildings are a threat. They could collapse any minute.”

Mix and match

Secondly, you don’t get to pick the house you buy. Wait, what? Instead, Mayor Scapillati will play property cupid, matching you with the perfect dwelling based on how you plan to style and use the property—be it a home, bed and breakfast, or artisan shop. Of the roughly 100 abandoned buildings in the village, he will then decide which best suits your needs, and if the current owner hasn’t yet handed their keys over, he’ll do the tough talking for you. The more descriptive you are, the better the chance of getting a look in, as apparently the town is very tiny with limited car or wheelchair access. To pitch your plan, you can email him directly at [email protected] Seriously.

Meanwhile, in Sicily…

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Last month, the medieval town of Salemi on the picturesque island of Sicily launched their very own €1 home initiative with the hope of breathing new life into an aging village. But the €1 price tag can be a little deceiving—you’ve got to bid on it first. Each home going under the hammer has a starting price of €1, but where it goes from there is anyone’s guess. In the neighbouring Sicilian town of Sambuca, over 100,000 people sent in requests for 16 derelict houses up for auction last year and only one ended up selling for the dollar listing price. The highest went for about €23,000 ($37,650), and the rest a few thousand euros.

Deal or no deal?

As with anything that seems too good to be true—conditions apply. Taxes, deposits, and extensive renovation costs aren’t included in Salemi’s one-dollar-deal. According to CNN, who’ve crunched some numbers, you’re looking at around $76K altogether (selling price excluded.) That includes $400 in taxes, a $5,600 deposit, an estimated $60,000 in renovations, plus flights back and forth for years while overseeing the job. Still, when dilapidated homes in Darlinghurst are going for $4.6M amidst a pandemic, a Mediterranean sea change for under $100K doesn’t sound too steep. Interested? Head here for more info. Definitely helps if you speak Italian.

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