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PROPERTY

The cheap Italian properties buyers are choosing instead of one-euro homes

Everyone has heard about Italy’s one-euro homes offer, designed to breathe new life into abandoned towns and villages. But there’s another affordable option that many foreign buyers find more interesting.

A view over the rooftops in the town of Mussomeli, Sicily.
A view over the rooftops in the town of Mussomeli, Sicily. Photo: Case1euro.it

Dozens of towns across Italy are now offloading crumbling properties for just one euro, but a few spots have come up with a clever move which is proving more alluring. 

They’re selling old but cheap turnkey homes that are immediately livable – or at least, only in need of minor fixes.

The most successful towns so far have been Troina and Mussomeli in Sicily, the quaint isolated village of Carrega Ligure in Piedmont, and the town of Latronico in deep Basilicata. 

Local authorities in these areas have opened real estate offices and created online platforms advertising empty old homes on sale for as little as €4.000, most in great shape and some even with furniture. Catalogues have been drawn up to show newcomers what’s on the market. 

These places have also put a few dilapidated one euro properties up for sale, but local administrators say the demand for these has been much lower.

OPINION:

“It’s interesting to welcome visitors who initially want a one euro house but then, after taking a look at other available, more expensive properties, change their minds and snatch up a ready-to-occupy home”, Latronico’s deputy mayor Vincenzo Castellano tells The Local.

Castellano believes the appeal of the one-euro homes leis solely in their “advertisement-like lure”; the thought of buying a house for less than the cost of an espresso would excite anyone. 

But then, he says, interested buyers are taken aback by the many requirements and excessive bureaucracy the schemes entail.

These include completing restyle work within three years and paying a guarantee deposit of between €2,000 and €5,000 on top of the extra expense and hassle of giving it a thorough makeover. 

The front door of a one-euro house for sale in Mussomeli, Sicily. Photo: Case1euro.it

Such strict rules pushed American buyer Anne Procianos Cohen to opt instead for a €20,000 traditional dwelling in Latronico’s old district. Minor work needed included re-activating the utilities. 

“We wanted a place we could immediately live in,” she says. “It was the pure joy of buying a turnkey house, not a shell, through speedier procedures and knowing exactly that we wouldn’t be bearing any unpredictable costs with a massive renovation. We needed a high degree of certainty in our investment.”

Anne and her husband moved in the house even before finalizing the purchase deed, and spent one whole month in Latronico this summer. 

“We loved the great added value of directly experiencing how local people lived in these old homes,” she said.

READ ALSO: The parts of Italy where house prices keep rising despite the pandemic

“Had we bought a one euro property and totally changed it, the house would have lost its charm, character and practicality. You can see that our house has an intelligent design to it, we wanted to keep that even if it meant spending weeks trying to figure out how the window shutters worked.” 

Budget is key. Procianos notes that you’re never really getting a one euro home due to unpredictable renovation expenses, and that even the notary costs, ranging between €2,000 and €4,000, are equal to those paid for the sale of a turnkey property.

I always say, you get what you pay for, so with a one-euro house we were afraid we’d get a … one-euro house worth that exact amount in all ways, but then how much more to spend? If you decide to go down that road, you need more financial resources and flexibility than we have.”

Procianos advises others who are willing to buy a cheap turnkey home – or even a one euro one – to first take a deep dive into local village life and pick the location carefully.

It’s been crucial to them that Latronico has everything – from boutiques to pharmacies, while good hospitals are nearby.

Choosing an isolated village could be risky, she says, as often in Italy these tend to be totally empty, without even a bar or supermarket. 

An Australian visitor tours one-euro homes for sale in the town of Gangi, Sicily. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Castellano argues that while buyers of ready-to-occupy cheap dwellings don’t get to re-shape these from scratch like a blank canvas, as they could with a one euro house, they’re offered a wider choice of newer homes and know exactly what they’re getting into. They also get to meet the old owners to negotiate lower prices. 

UK-based Muhammad Ramzan snapped up a panoramic apartment in Mussomeli for just €4,500, in need of minimal fixes, after touring the whole town and seeing 22 properties ranging from one to 550.000 euros, including a rural villa with pool. 

Mussomeli’s town hall has set-up a multilingual task force of volunteers who show visitors what’s for sale and assist them.

“You have more options when you search for homes that are above one euro, and that’s crucial to keep in mind,” Ramzan says. “If you focus on just one crumbling property and then there’s a problem with it, you run out of alternatives and get stuck.”

“There was always something missing or wrong with all the other 21 properties I visited and scrutinized – one had a low roof, another small rooms and required a lot of structural work.” 

“I finally picked a house overlooking the castle because of the stunning view and sense of utter rural peacefulness. The minor fixes needed, mostly of extra design, I do those in my own time, at my own pace”, he explains.

He advised other buyers to “take things slowly, avoid rushing in to buying a house. It’s better to think twice than to grab a one euro home sight unseen, maybe even online, just because you think you’re getting a great bargain.”

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

What frightened Ramzan away from the one euro scheme in Mussomeli was the higher risk entailed, linked to meeting the restyle deadline or face losing the deposit guarantee, and how much he’d end up spending to fully renovate it. 

“If you invest just 4,500 euros in a cheap, immediately livable property that’s way less than doing a basic restyle of a one euro home. I also kept some of the original furniture”, he says.

The goal of most one-euro schemes in Italy is to breathe new life into dying rural communities, but Procianos thinks this can also be a negative point. 

“Revitalization projects are extraordinary, however, we’re not needed to make a town vital because Latronico is already vital, and that makes a huge difference to us. It’s close to the coast and beautiful cities like Matera, there’s a pristine scenery and popular thermal baths.”

“Everything is close at hand”.

See more in The Local’s Italian property section.

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MONEY

How to get a discount on the cost of solar panels for your Italian property

Solar panels are an understandably popular choice in Italy, and if you're thinking of installing them on your own home there's funding available to help lower the cost. Here's what you need to know.

How to get a discount on the cost of solar panels for your Italian property

As utility bills rise, more home and business owners in Italy are looking at installing solar panels as a possible way to reduce costs in the long term.

Solar panels are already hugely popular in Italy, with the nation ranking top worldwide for solar-powered electricity consumption.

READ ALSO: Who can claim a discount on energy bills in Italy?

And no wonder: it’s a solid bet in a country where there is sunshine in abundance. But what about the costs of installation?

The good news is that there’s financial help available from Italy’s national government aimed at encouraging uptake of solar energy, as well as other incentives from regional authorities in many parts of the country.

It’s in the government’s interest to incentivise solar power, as Italy has vowed to transition to greener energy with its National Integrated Plan for Energy and Climate (Piano Nazionale Integrato per l’Energia e il Clima 2030 or PNIEC).

So how could this benefit you? Here’s a look at what you can claim at both a national and a regional level.

Regional funding for installing solar panels

As well as the national government subsidies available for covering the cost of solar panel installation, some regions have introduced their own bonuses or discount schemes.

The sunny southern region of Puglia and the wealthy northern region of Lombardy have seen the highest number of residential photovoltaic systems installed, according to market research.

it’s not surprising, then, that these two regions’ governments are offering cash incentives to help cover the cost of installing solar panels.

Depending on the type of system you opt for, you could expect to pay between around €5,000 and €13,000 for installation, design, labour and paperwork.

To contribute to this initial outlay, the local authority in Puglia has created a pot to help homeowners on lower incomes move towards renewable energy.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about installing solar panels on your home in Italy

Newly introduced in 2022, the so-called Reddito energetico (energy income) offers households with an annual income below €20,000 a bonus of up to €8,500 for installing photovoltaic, solar thermal or micro-wind systems in their homes.

The bonus is intended for residents who have citizenship of an EU country or, if you are a citizen of a non-EU country, you can still claim the bonus if you have been resident for at least one year in a municipality in Puglia.

The €20,000 annual income refers to a household’s ISEE – an indicator of household wealth calculated based on earnings and other factors.

A worker fixes solar panels. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP)

For this particular scheme, if you claim this bonus from the authorities in Puglia, it precludes you from also claiming funds at national level concurrently – such as through the popular superbonus 110 home renovation fund (see below for more on this).

Although there are other government bonuses, such as the renovation bonus (bonus ristrutturazione) that offers a much higher maximum total expenditure of €96,000, it can only be claimed as a 50 percent tax deduction spread over 10 years in your tax return.

For lower income families in Puglia, this may not be as cost effective as the grant from the regional authorities, which may equate to more money towards the cost and supply of solar panels.

For more information and to apply for Puglia’s renewable energy bonus, see here.

Lombardy is also stumping up funds to continue the solar power momentum experienced in the region.

While the coffers for private properties are currently closed, the region has made funds available for those with small and medium-sized businesses – again, in a move designed to lessen the impact of rising energy costs.

Business owners can claim a 30 percent grant for the installation of solar panels. There are more funds available to cover the cost of consultancy during the process too.

For more details on applying for this energy bonus in Lombardy, see here.

Other regions have also taken the initiative with encouraging more homes and businesses to change to solar-powered energy.

The region of Tuscany is offering an incentive on installing solar panels to residents in the form of tax deductions spread out over several years.

Works permitted include installing winter and summer air conditioning and hot water systems using renewable sources. This covers heat pumps, solar panels or high-efficiency biomass boilers.

For further details and information on how to apply, see here.

Each region may have its own solar panel bonus, either in the form of grants or tax deductions, available to private residents and/or businesses.

Check your regional government’s website to find out what may be currently on offer.

Solar panels are an increasingly popular option for those renovating homes in Italy. Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash

National subsidies for installing solar panels

If your region isn’t offering any cash incentive to install solar panels on your property, there are government funds available, which cover all 20 regions.

The authorities introduced and extended a package of building bonuses in order to galvanise the construction industry following the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

While there is no single, separate package of incentives for installing solar panels in 2022, you can take advantage of other government bonuses that include the cost of solar panel installation and supply.

As noted, you could use the renovation bonus (bonus ristrutturazione), which amounts to a 50 percent tax deduction spread over 10 years in your tax return – or through the superbonus 110, a scheme that promises homeowners a tax deduction of up to 110% on expenses related to property renovation and making energy efficiency measures.

READ ALSO:

The property must make at least a double jump in energy class or reach the highest efficiency rating when accessing these bonuses.

There’s a substantial amount of funds on offer to install your solar panels.

Using the renovation bonus, there is a maximum total expenditure of €96,000 (per single housing, including condominiums). Remember this amounts to a 50 percent tax deduction, so the maximum saving you would make is €48,000.

The renovation bonus has been extended until 2024 and, where solar panel installation is concerned, you can claim for the costs of labour, design, surveys and inspections, as well as VAT and stamp duty.

You must tell Italy’s energy and technology authority, ENEA, that you’ve done the works within 90 days in order to access the state aid for solar panel installation.

If you choose to use the superbonus route to claim funds for your solar panels, however, you can spread out the tax deduction costs over five years. Alternatively, you can apply for it as a discount on the invoice (sconto in fattura) or through the transfer of credit (cessione del credito).

The limit when using this bonus is €48,000, which can now be accessed for a while longer as the government extended the deadline for single family homes.

See HERE for details on how to claim it.

See more in The Local’s Italian property section.

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