Expat Essentials

Expat Essentials: 1 euro deals on homes are attracting people back to Europe’s abandoned villages (updated)

(Editor’s note: This post on 1 euro deals on houses in remote villages has suddenly become our most-read post, with more than 25,000 page views, as Europe returns to a post-pandemic “normal.” So, we called Casa a 1 Euro in Italy for an update.)

The major news sites such as CNN have endless headlines exclaiming “You can still buy $1 homes all over Italy.” And you can if you have the time and resources to fix up a ruin in a remote, abandoned village in Italy, France or Spain.

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic brought this trend to an abrupt – though temporary – halt as country after country across Europe shut down and border after border closed. The good news is, as of 3 June, you can return to Italy on house-hunting expeditions, according to real estate agents we interviewed in mid-May. And you had to know that “COVID-free villages” would become the next big marketing ploy.

While some media present buying the 1 euro house as a new opportunity, his trend has been going on since at least 2015, when entire Spanish villages started going on the market for less than the cost of a 1-bedroom apartment in London. And the reason is simple: While a lot of outsiders can afford the luxury of living in an idyllic village in rural Italy, locals can’t.

“A lot of people move to the city from the countryside to work,” said Maurizio Berti with Case A 1 Euro. “It’s a cultural phenomenon, not just a business phenomenon.”

The details

We can say without fear of contradiction that people rarely give anything of value away for free. And that’s at the heart of this proposition as working-age people leave small towns and villages in rural Europe, they leave behind houses that don’t appeal to conventional buyers.

Now, getting one of the fabled 1 euro deal for a house might seem like a gimmick, but it’s not. Some houses – typically those in poor shape – really change hands for 1 euro. But they’ll revert right back to municipalities if buyers don’t hold up their end of the bargain – spending serious money to bring the buildings up to code in a fixed amount of time, usually three years.

And it’s worth noting that a lot of people set out to buy one of the 1 euro homes, but end up buying a move-in property at market price, which is still a huge bargain compared to big cities.

By far, Italy has the most villages and towns using the 1 euro scheme to restore and repopulate, and there are dozens of active campaigns to attract investors from north to south as well as on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia.

France, Spain and other countries are only now getting on the bandwagon.

Italy

In Italy, there are thousands of houses available from north to south and on Sicily, said Maurizio at Case A 1 Euro. Most are in poor condition and the municipalities sell for a symbolic price of 1 euro, though auction prices tend to be higher.

Buyers have to make a significant investment in rehabbing the houses. There are also fees for real estate agents, taxes and the costs of hooking back up to local utilities. By the time the house is done, it’s not unusual for the new owners to have spent 30,000 euros. In fact, the process of finding the right house for a comparatively small amount of money, then finding the local contractors to do the restoration, is so nuanced that Maurizio says it’s imperative for shoppers to come to Italy.

Before the pandemic, he took people from all over the world on tours to the villages and introduced them to the local mayors and familiarized them with how the process works, because it’s complicated.

First, the south is far different from the north, Maurizio said. A small village in the north might have 300 residents where a “small” village in south might have 20,000 inhabitants.

Second, many of the houses in the south including Campania, the poorest region, were built for migrant workers who traveled from region to region, working on estates. Those houses are quite small, perhaps 60m2 on three floors. “So, if you want a big house, sometimes you have find three close to each other and turn them into one house,” Maurizio said.

You can call Maurizio at: country code 39 – 349-664-0136 or email him at: maurizioberti1959@gmail.com.

So, let’s go shopping..

Bisaccia

Bisaccia, in the Campania region, has 90 – yes, nine-zero – properties listed, each for 1 euro, according to CNN. But that post has an interesting twist … because all those properties are clustered together in the center of the city, Bisaccia’s strategy is to find buyers who’ll also bring their family and friends for a communal approach to reviving the village.

We couldn’t find a website or contact information for the 1 euro properties. But you can see market-priced homes here starting at about 11,000 euros.

Bisaccia is in the mountains about 130 kilometers east of Naples.

Cammarata

No town has ridden the train to international headlines like Cammarata. They did it by upping the ante … well, actually, by lowering the ante to zero. That’s right … the city fathers and mothers of Cammarata in the mountains of Sicily are giving away their houses for free to a good home like a litter of kittens.

Cantiano

This village toward more affluent Northern Italy is just south of San Marino. Two former farmsteads located in the rural surroundings have already sold, but a couple of historical buildings in the old village center are available, according to media reports.

Check out the municipality’s 1 euro home website here.

Cinquefrondi

You could see this coming from a mile away ….

Cinquefrondi is the first Italian village to market itself as a “COVID-free” alternative in Calabria. CNN has a post promoting the village as set in the “rugged Aspromonte National Park and overlooking both the Ionian and Tyrrhenian coasts,” but blighted by abandoned homes. Lots of abandoned homes.

In addition to unspoiled vistas, the southern village claims zero coronavirus cases and is in the “toe” of Italy’s boot, a region with one of Italy’s lowest levels of contagion.

Interestingly, Cinquefrondi has its own twist on selling its dozens of 1 euro houses. Most villages in Italy require buyers to put significant skin in the game early on, with deposits running 5,000 euros. CNN reports that Cinquefrondi only requires an annual 250 euro “insurance policy” until work is completed. Though if you buy, then do nothing, you’re looking at a 20,000 euro fine after three years.

This is “middle of nowhere” Itally, but the CNN post has a lot of great cultural and culinary details, along with an interesting look at local history. And they even have an email if you want to know more: protocollo@pec.comune.cinquefrondi.rc.it

Gangi

Gangi near Palermo in Sicily has been selling houses at give-away prices since 2011. And like a lot of the towns on this list, it’s the sort of place people imagine when they dream of a quiet life in Italy. In fact, Gangi was voted the most beautiful village in Italy in 2014, according to its website.

You can check out their offerings here.

Luserna

The mountain village of Luserna in Italy’s Piedmont near the France/Italy border has a different take on accomplishing the same ends – reviving a small mountain city. Luserna officials are offering four unfurnished homes for four years to couples 18-to-40 years old. In other words, of prime child-producing years as they try to rebuild their population, which has dropped to 300 residents.

They also have a different take on the commitment to get that house, asking applicants if they’re willing to take an active part in the community in the form of collaborative living, helping raise kids and looking in on old folks.

From the website:

(The commune of Lucena) is offering young families the ideal conditions to become autonomous, build a couple life project and contribute to the development and life of a mountain area. Families will find valuable support and will be accompanied on their way by the experience and professionalism of the operators of the Franco Demarchi Foundation.

There are quite a few stipulations and unfortunately, all the documents are in Italian. But here’s the link to the municipality page with all the information. You might try calling or emailing ….

Ollolai, Sardina

An island in the Med! CNN calls this “the most untouched and authentic patch of Sardinia.” Ah, the catch is, the sea is an hour’s drive from this village that’s up in the mountains dead in the center of Sardinia.

Ollolai has 200 stone houses up for sale for 1 euro, but they’re in poor condition, according to the CNN post. Per most of the deals like this, buyers have three years to restore them, projected to cost about $25,000. Which we know from personal experience could be a heck of a bargain.

Mussomeli

Mussomeli is another town in Sicily that, like Gangi, has gotten a lot of pub for their effort, sold a lot of homes and started to attract new residents. CNN has a great feature on a French couple who negotiated the process and ended up with a small home in this thriving Sicilian town, apparently without any real complications.

Insider has the best of many, many posts about Cammarata. And of course, the standard rules apply … if buyers don’t restore the houses within a certain time, the city repossesses them.

Sambuca

This Sicilian town has probably sold more houses in the past year than any other in Italy, receiving 100,000 emails from foreigners interested in buying one of the first batch of 16 homes.

The terms are pretty standard: Newcomers taking 1 euro deals must spend 15,000 to renovate each home, along with 5,000 euros on deposit until those renovations are complete. CTV News in Canada has a great post about Sambuca that illustrates how well these schemes can work, especially when you have a beautiful town in a choice location.

Taranto

In early 2020, Taranto got a lot of publicity from the U.S. to Australia as the first real city to jump on the 1-euro bandwagon. This industrial seaside commercial center near Brindisi on the bottom of the Italian boot is trying to reinvent itself. This includes boosting the population of its neglected Old City above the current 3,000 citizens. So city fathers/mothers are selling five properties in the center.

But there’s way more to it … Taranto is getting a lot of funding that will update the steel plant that’s its main employer as well as rebuild sections of the city. You can see a .pdf of the plans here, which are in Italian. But you can see physically where the improvements will happen. This is quite an attractive city with a fortress and lots to do and see. So if joining the Village People has little appeal for you, the bright lights of the big-ish city are also an option.

Teora

In southern Italy’s Campania region near the Amalfi coast, the mountain village of Teora is offering to pickup most of the rent for families with children in a tax-free gambit to attract new residents. In the program, here are 100 houses available for 200 euros rent per month … but the city picks up 150 euros of you rent if you bring at least one child. If your family likes it, you can buy a house starting for as little as 20,000 euros, according to Forbes.

The recruitment scheme began 24 February and runs thought 31 July. You can see more details here.

Zungoli

This village about 100 kilometers east of Naples in Southern Italy has a section of the city’s website dedicated to showcasing 1 euro deals on homes. Village officials have put together a volunteer committee to help out potential buyers.

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