The pandemic is raging, quarantine rules are changing by the day, and there’s still uncertainty over when we might vacation again, but one thing remains constant in the travel world: the €1 houses of Italy.
This month, it’s the turn of another Sicilian town, Castiglione di Sicilia, to offer houses for the price of a coffee.
On the slopes of Mount Etna, near chic Taormina and the beaches of Sicily’s east coast, the town is selling a bumper crop of houses: roughly 900 abandoned homes.
Most are located in the oldest parts of the town. Around half are ruined, and will be given away at a symbolic price of €1 ($1.20). The rest are in better condition, and will be sold off cheaply, starting from €4,000- €5,000.
Mayor Antonino Camarda has undertaken an ambitious project to breathe new life into his village where the population has shrunk from 14,000 in the early 1900s to barely 3,000 today.
“We have a huge architectural heritage to rescue, packed with history. Over time, too many people have left, leaving behind a bunch of old, picturesque houses, many even dating back to the Renaissance,” he says.
Where some other towns operating similar schemes have put together a job lot of houses for €1, Castiglione di Sicilia is pricing the properties according to their condition.
“We’ve carried out an in-depth study cataloguing each property based on maps and land registry data. According to their conditions buildings will be sold at different prices, starting from €1,” says Camarda.
If there’s a lot of interest for the same property, an auction will be held.
A bumper crop
The scheme, which launched in March 2021, is the largest of its kind, with at least 400 properties in the town that are in a decent shape and require minimal renovation.
Want to snap one up? Potential buyers should get in touch with a detailed plan of what kind of house they’d like, and how they’d renovate it, in order to best match demand with supply, and help liaise between parties. A special task force has been set up to oversee the project.
“We are moving along two parallel paths: reaching out to old owners who are showing great interest in getting rid of their family homes, and new buyers,” says Camarda.
“We have already received many emails from investors and people across the world. There’s a wide choice here.”
So what’s the catch? Buyers must complete renovations within three years. Unlike most other schemes, however, there’s no deposit payable to guarantee doing the works.
Instead, they require owners to take out an insurance policy from a bank, worth €4,000.
“It would cost the new owner €100 per year, which seems a fairer sum then a deposit guarantee,” says Camarda.
Local taxes are low in Sicily compared to the rest of Italy. Buyers can also take advantage of the Italian government’s “superbonus” scheme, that dishes out tax credits of 110% for renovations which make houses more environmentally friendly.