In May last year I booked a holiday villa for an Australian couple, who told me, once they had arrived, that they were also looking for a house to buy in the area. The challenge started there; everyone, including estate agents, moves rather slowly here unless pushed – and it took a few days to line up a selection of properties to view – with a bit of advance notice it would have been possible to arrange more viewings.
Once we started viewings it became clear to me that, in a lot of respects, Sue and Glenn were the ideal clients. Coming from a real estate background, they were able to see the potential in a selection of ‘unglamorous’ properties and ended up with a bargain, a four bedroomed villa, with a separate one bedroomed apartment, and spectacular views down over the valley. The location was also good, with a shop within walking distance, two pretty little towns within a 10 minute drive and the sea a further 10 minutes away.
The villa needed a lot of cosmetic work, the gardens had been very neglected and the downstairs apartment needed replumbing and rewiring. Overgrown trees had spread their roots into the water storage tanks, damp had reduced the apartment to a crumbling mess and the general appearance of the exterior of the villa was off putting, though the inside was in very good condition.
The asking price was 210,000 but the English owner was very keen to sell, as ill health precluded them using the villa, which had stood empty for a couple of years. An offer of 180,000 was accepted, the sale went through in July, and work started straight away. Glenn and Sue followed my advice to the letter, avoiding legal fees, as I did the due diligence for them, and saving notary fees by moving directly to purchase rather than going through a ‘compromesso’ first. It helped that the property was being sold through a reputable estate agent, who had already done all of the necessary checks, with the land registry and so on.
Whatever you may be told to the contrary, you do not need an architect, or permission, to carry out renovation work which doesn’t involve change of use or major structural changes – a simple ‘notificazione di inizi lavori’ to the local council, suffices, saving unnecessary fees. You do need a ‘tecnico’, who may be an architect or engineer to make that notification for you. It is usual for anyone who project manages renovation work to ask for a 10% commission on the total spend. It is also usual, however, for whoever allocates the work to get a kick back from the building company. I got three quotes for all the necessary work, and was pleased that the building company, carpenter and electrician I have worked with before, and who I trust, came in lowest. They were prepared to give me 5% of the total spend, in return for getting the work and I passed this on as a discount to my clients, cutting their project management costs by half.
Work included replacing the large terrace around the house, with insulation underneath, repairing and relining the large water tanks, insulating and replacing the flooring and ceilings of the downstairs apartment, replastering the walls and installing a new kitchen and bathroom(knocking through the existing kitchen and bathroom, sea below). The main house got a good clean, an internal paint job and new wooden shutters and the bathrooms were improved. The drive was replaced and a new electronic gate added, the garden cleared up, including cutting down three trees, and replanted and the terrace outside the downstairs apartment was paved. The railings around the terrace were replaced and those down the drive were painted. A new, custom made, wooden gazebo was added to provide a shaded dining area, and an adjacent outdoors kitchen and barbecue area were built.
The whole outside area was rewired. The total spend was around 100,000 euros, and the house has just been valued, conservatively, at 320,000 . Allowing for the fact that work men down tools for three weeks in August, the work took 3 months. We are awaiting imminent planning permission for a large swimming pool on one of the lower terraces, which will cost 30,000 but add at least 70,000 to the value of the house. This will take a month to complete.
More importantly the addition of a pool makes the villa extremely desirable as a holiday villa for rent. There is a shortage of upscale villas with four or more bedrooms, and this one will rent out at between 2000 and 4,500 a week, providing a good income for the owners when they are unable to use it.
For help and advice on purchasing or restoring property in Puglia feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org