$1 home deal triggers property stampede in Sambuca, Italy

CNN  — 

Tempted by the deal offering homes for just over $1 in the town of Sambuca on Italy’s island of Sicily?

You and everyone else.

Since CNN Travel broke the news about the €1 ($1.14) offer aimed at revitalizing a beautiful but depopulated community, there’s been a stampede to buy.

Within 48 hours of the story going live, the town has been inundated with tens of thousands of inquiries from people hoping to grab their piece of the rural Italian dream.

Giuseppe Cacioppo, the town’s deputy mayor, says he’s excited by the level of interest, but is freaking out.

“This is great, I’m flabbergasted by the response,” he says. “I haven’t come up for air since the story appeared.

“It’s just been a few days, and I’m already under stress. The €1 houses email inbox is full, so people have been calling me on my mobile. It hasn’t stopped ringing. I have received something like a thousand phone calls, I hope not to go nuts.”

The deputy mayor says the constant phone calls mean he hasn’t been able to sleep. He’s struggling to juggle his institutional role, private job and this new unexpected PR gig.

As of Friday, the town had received 38,000 emails about its deal, which requires buyers to promise to spend up to $17,200 to renovate their new Sicilian homes.

Language barriers

“The whole world has got in touch,” Cacioppo adds. “Callers are from Europe, mainly Spain, Russia, and as far as South Africa, Australia, USA, the Arab Emirates.”

And it’s not just individuals and tourists lured by a dream house in sunny Sicily.

“A team of US lawyers, working for an American company interested in doing real estate business in Sambuca, wants to meet up with us,” says Cacioppo.

“A businessman from New York just called me, saying he’s flying to Sicily tonight.

“And a very rich lady called from Dubai. She wouldn’t say her name or who she works for, but wants the whole package. She wants to buy all the dozens of €1 houses on sale.”

Cacioppo says he’s delighted the article has triggered such global interest but won’t be able to satisfy all incoming requests.

Language barriers are making it all the more harder.

“That story has killed me,” he jokes. “My English is OK – not great – but with other languages I must admit I have a hard time understanding what I’m being asked.

“It’s not easy talking to people on the other side of the world over the phone.”

Desparate buyers

Cacioppo says newspapers and TV outlets have gotten in touch with him, including Italy’s state broadcaster, RAI, which had no idea of the initiative until CNN reported it. The Italian network now plans to run a special coverage on Sambuca.

Susanne Heinson, a German woman who has already bought a home in Sambuca and was quoted in CNN’s original article about what makes it such a “great, perfect place to live in,” says she’s been tracked online by interested buyers and national German media.

“People get in touch to have more info about the location, what Sambuca is like, how’s the lifestyle there,” she says. “Many ask me to liaise with the town authorities and put them through to Cacioppo. Now I’m just worried Sambuca will stop being a niche place and that flocks of foreigners will arrive.”

Many interested buyers have also targeted CNN’s reporter via social media out of desperation to get a slice of the Sambuca action.

One woman from the United States implored: “Please, can you forward me the phone number of Cacioppo? I need to buy a house in Sambuca. I need to buy it NOW!”