It is getting to the time of year where I get inundated with emails from people wanting advice about buying in Puglia. I would say that 3 out of 5 do not have a realistic budget – the kind of property they want is simply not achievable with what they have to spend or at least not without a healthy dose of luck and willingness to compromise.
While it is true that there are lots of overpriced properties on the market, especially on sites or from agencies which concentrate on non-Italian buyers there are an equal number of properties which seem like bargains but which are not.
Last year a client sent me a property to have a look at, and my first comment to them was that I suspected there was something majorly wrong with it as it was significantly underpriced by property type and area. I rang the estate agent and asked them why the price was low and whether there was a problem. They replied that the owners needed to sell fast for family reasons and so it was priced for a quick sale. I went to have a look and, ostensibly there was nothing wrong. We got very excited. I went back to have a second look, it got better and better. Then I made an appointment to get quotes for work (I always do this before an offer is made). Previously I had been given afternoon appointments – this time it had to be in the morning. The agent was not keen on a morning appointment but I insisted. We got there and there was an unacceptable noise level from a nearby stone quarry which only operates until 2 pm. We had previously spotted the quarry on google maps and had been told by the agent it was disused.
Other than confirming what I always tell people, that not all agencies are to be trusted, this was a case in point – there was a reason for the price. Another reason for low prices is that Italians know an area is potentially dodgy, particularly if you need to restore or get planning permission – see https://wp.me/p2S7ZG-rF. There is definitely a willing suspension of disbelief – which I absolutely understand, but I would recommend a comprehensive search through Italian sites such as immobiliare.it to get a realistic idea of market prices.
Whilst it is the norm here to photograph properties badly, and full of clutter or even rubbish it is also true that, in photos, the tendency to have whitewashed walls covers a multitude of sins. When doing property searches for people they often send me photos and I can see straight away that there is rising damp, or water ingress from above. Not a deal breaker, but it does mean that work needs to be done. Similarly, if you are looking to rent out your property, the wiring and plumbing needs to meet current regs and, unless the property was restored in the last four years it won’t – again another cost. If you have to re plumb and rewire you will have to replace floors and replaster and paint.
Bargains definitely exist, but they sell very quickly and you need to move fast. There are also a number of ways to get more bang for your buck:
- Buy in town, with outdoor space rather than in the countryside.
Country properties are more expensive to restore and maintain and there are more unforeseens in the restoration process.. (I will give more detail in a future article) No mains water means that you need a water tank which meets current regs – an existing water tank will almost certainly need repairing, relining and treatment to meet regs for drinking water. The area may be not be suitable for an artesian well and these, in any case, are expensive and you pay whether you hit water or not, and without knowing in advance how deep you need to go. All piping from the water source to the property will need to be replaced. Similarly the septic tank will almost certainly have to be replaced and also the piping to the house. The list goes on… I would seriously recommend, if you are on a limited budget, buying a town property with outside space, a roof terrace or garden. Metres of plumbing and wiring to be replaced will be less for the same square metres of house, there will be mains supply and there are less likely to be problems with the foundations as most towns are built where the rock is closer to the surface.
- Keep an open mind, and try and look past hideous finishes and furniture. There is a property, in Nardò, currently on the market which should tick everyone’s boxes. In the historic centre, high ceilings, three bedrooms, space for two bathrooms, panoramic roof terrace. First floor so lighter and no rising damp, large balcony. It is priced at 57,000 – and should be 80-110. Why? It has hideous bathroom tiles and rooms painted yellow and pink so it has been on the market for ages.
- Consider a certain amount of DIY. You will not be allowed to re plumb or rewire your house (unless you are a professional electrician or plumber and, even then, you will need to pay a local tradesman to certify the work) but doing any painting will save you up to 15 euros a square metre which soon adds up – if you are able to tile even better. Definitely shop around for fixtures and fittings online and avoid shipping stuff over from the UK because you don’t know where to look locally..
- Get expert advice about what work needs to be done and, again, don’t make assumptions. Often people are put off by what looks like a problem which is actually minor, and cheap to fix, and overlook stuff which is actually a real problem. Ideally ask the agency for an engineer, not a geometra as is often suggested online. These are quantity surveyors not surveyors as we think of them in the uk. Subject to other commitments I am also always happy to help – after 15 years I have my eye in!
- Buy as ‘prima casa’ ie state that you intend to take up residence within 18 months, even if you don’t. This will reduce the purchase tax from 9% to 2% (on the catastal value). This will ease cashflow.
- Keep a watching brief and be ready to move fast if a genuine bargain comes up.
- Seriously consider fractional ownership if you are not planning to actually live in Italy. We are working on a project at the moment where 100,000 would buy you a share of a four bedroomed country house with pool, near the sea and a lively town and enable you to use it 45 days a year and a week in July/August. Smaller or larger shares are also possible. See here for details.. Otherwise 100,000 would buy you a one bedroomed country property including work (maybe) or, possibly, a two bedroomed apartment in town unless you were really lucky.
I am writing a whole series of articles over the next few weeks. Next up is an article on what you can buy where and for what price (the article linked above was written in 2019!) – focusing on town properties, followed by another one focusing on countryside properties. Follow this blog by putting your email address above in order to get a notification when new articles are published. Your email address will never be used for any other purpose. If you would like a, free of charge, initial chat to discuss your property plans and budget do email me at firstname.lastname@example.org