If you’ve been fantasizing about moving somewhere far away and starting a new life, this may be your chance. According to a story in the Sun, you can now buy a house in the Italian town of Cinquefrondi in the southern part of Calabria, for the truly bargain price of one euro.
Even better? The town is just 15 minutes from the beach, and it hasn’t had a single case of COVID-19.
The mastermind behind the plan is the town’s mayor, Michele Conia. Dubbed Operation Beauty, Conia came up with this plan to find new potential residents for one district of the town which has slowly been abandoned.
There are a few catches, as you would expect when a deal sounds too good to be true.
In addition to the one-euro selling price, buyers also have to pay about 250 euros a year for insurance, and they have to commit to fully renovating the currently unstable and potentially risky properties within three years of purchase, or face paying a 20,000-euro (about $18,000) fine.
The fine is a way for the town to get some sort of certainty that buyers will truly be committed to the town and the property in question.
Conia noted that the town has lost too many people over the decades, and it can’t give up in resignation.
Despite the shrinkage of the population, the area is beautiful, nestled in rolling hills and close to two seas and a pristine river. The town’s charm and location, tucked into the ‘toe’ of Italy’s boot, could be a dream come true to the right buyers.
Cinquefrondi isn’t unique in this idea, either. There are a number of Italian municipalities that are doing the same thing. In January 2019, CNN wrote a story about the village of Sambuca in Sicily offering the same type of deal.
In Sambuca, all the houses that were for sale were already owned by the village, so the sales would be very quick, and there was the same three-year commitment, but interested buyers would have to pay a security deposit of $5,000 that would be returned when the renovations were completed within that three-year window.
Other villages from different parts of the country jumped on the bandwagon, recognizing the move as a way to reverse the population drain from their villages as more people moved to the cities. Last December, CNN ran a follow-up report talking about the areas where there were still houses available, listing nearly a dozen communities, none of which were Cinquefrondi.
One of the towns they named was Gangi, another location in Sicily. The village isn’t very from Palermo, and is part of Italy’s Most Beautiful Villages club. The town is of Greek origin, and is said to have been one of the two places the Holy Spirit appeared.
There are towns with homes available in the mountains of Sardinia, near the Amalfi Coast, and in the Alps. The houses in those town are built of different styles and materials, depending on the region, and all of them are old.
Italy is country steeped in a rich cultural heritage and which puts a high premium on preservation of that heritage, which is why there is so much emphasis on renovation of old existing structures. There’s even a website devoted to the places that are offering the one-euro homes.
It’s still a good idea to look before you leap into buying one those homes. Forbes warns that it may end up being far more expensive than the unwary might expect. Many of the towns, like Sambuca, require deposits that are typically between $1,000 and $5,000.
Renovation plans have to be submitted to the town councils for approval, and contain timelines. Some towns auction their available homes, with one euro as the minimum bid, but prices can go much higher.
There is also a lot of variation in the estimated cost of the renovations, depending on the home and the area. In Sambuca, there’s a minimum mandated renovation cost of about $15,000. Other areas may not set a minimum, but to do the job well could run as high as $100,000.
Once the homes are finished, though, the cost of living in rural parts of Italy is generally very low, as are the tax burdens. As a result, some people aren’t buying the homes as primary residences or vacation homes, but with an eye to turning them into Bed and Breakfasts or similar uses, depending on size and other factors.
No matter what use the homes may be put to, Cinquefrondi and the other communities which are selling homes on the cheap stand to draw new people and business as the empty homes are repaired and repopulated, as well as preserve their unique cultural heritage.
The buyers also have a great opportunity to live in what could their dream locations for a fraction of the price they might have expected.