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PROPERTY

Property in Italy: A weekly roundup of the latest news and updates

Whether you're hoping to take the plunge on the Italian property ladder or are already in Italy and planning renovations, stay up to date with The Local's guide to the latest property news and helpful tips.

Property in Italy: A weekly roundup of the latest news and updates
Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

Get paid to move to Piedmont – with even more cash incentives for those under 40

Italy continues to entice new residents to its more remote spots, in a bid to reverse declining young populations and boost the local economy.

The desirable mountainous, clean-air region of Piedmont is the latest to offer cash bonuses for people looking to move there for work or to start a business, in an attempt to revitalise some of its smallest towns.

READ ALSO: Escape from the city: These are the 21 cheapest Italian provinces to move to

There’s a €10 million pot of funds available to attract newcomers to municipalities with under 5,000 inhabitants, which must be used to renovate a home. Out of that financial aid, you could personally obtain an allowance of between €10,000 and €40,000.

To be eligible, you must be born after 1955, with more cash up for grabs for those born after 1980, in the hope that young people will be encouraged to move to the area.

Other factors that could give you a bigger piece of the kitty include moving your main residence there, working at least 50 percent of your time at home and having a child under 10 (who lives there too).

Piedmont. Mountains, fresh air and friendly locals. Photo by Daniele Cereda on Unsplash

If you use local materials and restore the property in keeping with the Piedmontese Alpine landscape, you’ll gain extra points.

There is a timeline, though, as renovation works must be completed within 18 months and if you buy a house, you have six months to sign the deed after placing the offer.

There are a total of 465 small municipalities taking part, including 132 in the province of Turin, 48 in the province of Alessandria, 12 in Asti, 48 in Biella and 132 in Cuneo. The complete list can be found here.

Applications opened in September and run until December 31st of this year – to find out if you’re eligible and how to apply, take a look at the Piedmont region website.

READ ALSO: Will Italy really pay you to move to its ‘smart working’ villages?

More one-euro homes in Pignone

The list of idyllic villages in rural Italy selling neglected properties at the symbolic price of €1 has grown again.

This time, Pignone in Liguria is the latest municipality to launch the scheme.

Due to several abandoned properties in the centre, the local council has approved an initiative to sell homes for €1 in order to take away the burden from owners who have no desire to renovate them or who can’t afford to.

Pignone is in the province of La Spezia and has just 500 inhabitants. The project is hoped to prevent the historic centre from becoming derelict and also to ideally draw in new residents, rather than sell to those who want a holiday home.

La Spezia, home to the world-famous Cinque Terre. Photo by Dirk Gonçalves Martins on Unsplash

No homes are on the market yet, but it’s thought around 20 properties will be put up for sale in the first round of the programme, which is due to begin at the end of September.

Around 3,000 requests have been made already, with around half of those coming from buyers abroad, according to reports.

As always, there are terms and conditions. For this one, you’ve got six months to submit your project and three years to carry out renovation work. To make sure you’re serious, there are also deposits required, which will be returned upon completion of the works.

Did you know?

If you’re buying and renovating a property in Italy, it’s wise to do your sums (spatial ones) and figure out the ratio of your house to the garden.

We discovered when going through the plans of our build that our garden was suddenly becoming too big for the size of the house.

Since we bought a wreck and plan to demolish it entirely, as it’s almost at complete collapse, we’re building a brand new home.

However, it will be much smaller than the original property, meaning that the proportion of home to garden will change.

READ ALSO:

Why does this matter?

Well, the way that the Inland Revenue Agency (Agenzia delle Entrate) works out the classification of homes, known as categoria catastale (cadastral category) dictates that if the garden is above a certain threshold in relation to the building, it becomes a villa, therefore a luxury property, according to the Ministerial Decree 1969 – and that means significantly higher taxes to pay each year.

Photo: Gianluca Carenza/Unsplash

Cadastral categories are determined according to their type or intended use, calculating the property’s income. So for example, residential houses are categorised differently from a B&B.

Understanding what type of property it is and submitting it to the Land Registry will show the amount of taxes to be applied.

There are various criteria according to Italian law that deem a house as a luxury property, labelled as A/1 (luxury dwelling-houses), A/8 (villas) or A/9 (castles, palaces of great artistic and historical value).

We almost laughably could have ended up with a villa, as the criteria include having an outdoor area six times the inner surface area.

So, the workaround to save us from losing even more of our hard-earned pennies to this bottomless money drain is to section off a part of the garden, register it as separate agricultural land and pay different (and lower) taxes on that patch instead.

Please note: remember to seek professional advice before any building or renovation work, as the rules are complex and changing.

Property tip of the week

Italy’s properties are overwhelmingly built out of brick or stone, but have you ever considered wood as an alternative building material?

That’s what we are using to create the framework of our home, which we have discovered to be cost-effective in the long run, fast to construct (when they eventually start works) and energy-saving.

Wood’s insulating properties boast low energy consumption and, therefore, low costs.

So a wooden house will have lower energy bills than its masonry counterpart, because it needs less energy to be heated in winter and cooled in summer.

It also means it’s a pleasant environment to live in, any time of the year.

What do you think?

Please get in touch at [email protected] to let us know if you’ve found this weekly feature useful and share any suggestions you have for property-related news from Italy.

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PROPERTY

‘It’s so frustrating’: My 25-year Italian property renovation nightmare

When US-based Davide Fionda embarked on renovating his mother's Italian property, he couldn't have imagined the obstacles and the timescale in store.

'It's so frustrating': My 25-year Italian property renovation nightmare

Building a home in Italy was almost inevitable for Davide, as he’s been visiting the same area in the Le Marche region, where his Italian-born mother grew up, since he was five years old.

Although he lives in Boston, US, and speaks with a charming East Coast twang, he’s also an Italian citizen and has long dreamed of having his own place to stay for the summer.

He began making this dream a reality back in 1997, when a barn that had been in his mother’s family for generations, in the village of Schito-Case Duca, was damaged by an earthquake.

“My mother, who had both her mother and sister in Italy, decided that it would be really nice for us to build our own new home instead of relying on family to host us each time we visit,” Davide said.

“The goal was simple. I would acquire the barn from my mom, renovate it and move in for the summers, as I’m a college teacher and can spend time in Italy,” he added.

“Simple” the goal may have been, but the project itself proved anything but, as Davide came up against unforeseen bureaucratic problems, legal hiccups and personal disappointments.

READ ALSO: The hidden costs of buying a home in Italy

As a former entrepreneur in his professional life, he said he’s “used to getting things done”, owning five companies and selling three.

But conquering Italian property renovation is his biggest challenge to date: “Never in my life have I had so many complications as I’ve had with this house,” he told us.

The earthquake-damaged barn. Photo: Davide Fionda

“In the beginning, I knew exactly what I needed and the costs to carry out the project. My mother was, and is still, living in the United States: the project started when she was approached by her godson, who is a geometra (civil engineer), to help her rebuild this barn.

“I started with what I could control. I sat down with an architect and we created a design. I did research on furniture and fixtures. But then the problems started,” Davide said.

His mother wanted a simple design: an open plan house with floor-to-ceiling windows facing the mountains, spanning two floors – a ground floor and a first floor for the bedrooms.

When they went to look at the progress in 2004, he said they were “horrified” at what they saw.

Instead of windows across the front as we asked for, with views of the spectacular Gran Sasso mountains, he took the entire view with two hallways for entering the property and for the bathroom. The bedrooms upstairs were unusable,” he added.

Davide describes himself as “not a typical Italian”, at two metres in height ,and says he always looks for suitable showers and beds when visiting Italy.

It was one of the reasons building his own home was so attractive, as he could custom-make it to fit his needs.

READ ALSO: What taxes do you need to pay if you own a second home in Italy?

But when they viewed the build, he discovered the first floor had ceilings of just one metre and 40 centimetres – not liveable for most people, never mind someone with Davide’s towering frame.

The results didn’t match the renovation plans that had been filed with the comune (town hall) – they wouldn’t have been approved otherwise, as Davide discovered Italian regulations deemed this height of ceiling in a bedroom uninhabitable.

He said he grew up with the geometra and knew him well, saying they were “best friends”. However, on raising the problems with him, Davide said the building professional “refused to fix the house”, adding, “he took my mother’s money and built a house with no bedrooms”.

He said his mother decided to stop construction after spending almost $100,000 on a house that they “could not live in”, adding that they “returned many times over the years to see the shell of the building that we thought we were going to call our home”.

READ ALSO: My Italian Home: How one ‘bargain basement’ renovation ended up costing over €300K

Faced with a stalled project and unsure what to do next, Davide tried to sell the property but got nowhere. He said the “market wasn’t right” for selling it, so he considered his options for fixing the botched renovations to date.

His Italian property project has been stalled for over two decades. Photo: Davide Fionda

Then, eventually, in January of this year he decided “he was sick of looking at it and it was time to act”.

He intended to use Italy’s Bonus ristrutturazioni (Renovation bonus), which allows homeowners to apply for a 50 percent tax reduction on carrying out renovation work.

On asking for professional opinions on whether the house qualified for this bonus, he said he asked five different people and got five different answers.

In the end, he discovered it was eligible and so he could, in theory, proceed with his latest plans.

READ ALSO:

The aim is to create his mother’s original vision – an open plan space with huge windows overlooking the mountains and bedrooms on the first floor – but habitable this time.

Since the beginning of this year, however, Davide has been stuck and hasn’t made progress.

Setbacks have included trying to get a permit to renovate the house, which has proved difficult since the first geometra reportedly didn’t update the changes to the building.

This thorny issue goes back to exactly who owned the house, as Davide told us it had been sectioned off and parts of the house were owned by various members of the family.

The building headaches roll on for Davide. Photo by Martin Dalsgaard on Unsplash

“Italian law makes you want to rip your hair out,” he said.

Getting the deed in his name has been a huge obstacle in itself, as his mother wasn’t the sole owner and some parts of the land that belonged to her were never recorded.

It’s meant months of waiting while archives have been searched and deeds have been drawn up and transferred, made all the trickier by coordinating it all from thousands of miles away.

Plus, the house category was never changed to a residential one, listed previously as farmland and therefore illegal to live in.

It’s just more unexpected bureaucracy for a project that seems to have no end.

“It has been months and months of all these twists and turns, it’s so frustrating,” he told us.

“This has been a 25-year nightmare,” he added.

A partly restored, but unliveable barn for Davide now. Photo: Davaide Fionda.

Although Davide had originally planned to sort out the more practical parts of the project by the end of May, with a ticket booked to Italy to choose the windows, he’s still stuck in the paperwork part and can’t move forward.

Nothing has happened since January. Three or four times I said, ‘screw this’. But it’s not in my DNA to give up,” he said.

Although he has a strong will, the house has taken its toll on him.

Every time we go, this house stares us in the face and it’s upsetting. Family always ask us, ‘when are you going to finish the house?’ It’s a real source of heartache,” he told us.

From this point, he hopes the paperwork will be completed by August and then he can meet with the contractors to get the process started.

That in itself was a tall order, due to the construction demand and shortage of building companies Italy is currently experiencing.

READ ALSO:

It’s a problem made even more challenging by the fact that he’s based in the States and had to find a company that would apply for the credit for the bonus on his behalf.

Despite it all, he’s hopeful that he will get the house they dreamed of by next August and says he’s learned a lot about renovating property in Italy.

For other would-be home renovators, he advised people to “adjust their timeframe expectations” and expect “anything to do with land or real estate to take forever”.

So what is his secret for not giving up, despite the rollercoaster of events and emotions?

It seems he’s holding on to his vision of blissful summers in il bel paese.

“The beauty of Italy is to be, sit in a town square and have conversations,” he told us.

“It’s a beautiful thing.”

See more in The Local’s Italian property section.

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