The best real estate in Italy: Europe’s best cities for renting or buying

Written by By Staff Writer

Provence, Sardinia, Sicily, Puglia and Tuscany — if you’ve ever thought about buying a home in one of Italy’s best-known regions, you’re in luck. They have some of the best real estate prices in the country, but there are other areas with gorgeous houses for sale, too.

This is especially true if you’re willing to live there temporarily, when you can take some of the homes off the market to concentrate on your home. Then you can live here permanently or rent it out to someone else until prices head higher.

“There are many opportunities for temporary vacations if one works in the same region and holidays away,” says Matio Pasquale, director of Corso Property Italy, a real estate brokerage based in Rome.

“Many people come here, live in an apartment and then sell it, so they earn on the investment, and they feel like a millionaire after just a few months, if not a year.”

A four-bedroom villa near Modena, Italy, in a Tuscan style of villa. Corso Property Italy

Staying in Italy can be particularly appealing for vacationers who can look for homes that are not easily viewed, but don’t advertise, he says.

“Usually you have to rent one to two weeks in order to watch one property in the region. Many are beautiful but get bad reactions.”

This usually means the houses are largely unattractive, so the rental is short-term, says Pasquale.

Several reasons

Prices for homes on the Italian mainland can be higher and more immediate than prices in the islands and mountain regions. Homebuyers in Lombardy can typically afford to buy properties on the mainland for around 1.5 times the area’s per capita income. Homes in the regions of Tuscany and Umbria, on the other hand, can cost up to three times the per capita income.

Italy’s most popular non-hotel destinations are Tuscany and Puglia.

In other parts of Italy — such as the Alps, Tuscany and Campania — there are many seaside locations and villas where homes can cost up to 3 times the per capita income.

For buyers looking for tax relief, the ideal property is one that is currently being lived in, says Pasquale. “Everything else is not necessarily legal, such as a year in which the house is no longer inhabited. It is easier to make changes to the house and avoid taxes in the next house.”

Data from the National Association of Homebuilders, Italy, shows that among buildings in mature or superior condition, approximately 30% are in city centers and the rest in suburban or village centers. However, during the recent recession, many young people began to return to their hometowns.

You might also consider renting instead of buying. Because of population declines and urbanization, Italian cities are increasingly dependent on tourists and foreign residents, and renting gives you a chance to put your home to work.

You can also find interesting properties in the countryside when you’re buying in one area and not another.

“If you just look at a map, you’ll find a very interesting range of real estate in several countries. It is a global environment, so you shouldn’t think about buying a farm house in eastern Italy,” says Pasquale.

Traditional farmhouses in Umbria in Parma, Italy. Corso Property Italy

While cityscape buildings have their appeal, they can also be expensive to maintain in a down market, says Pasquale.

A typical farmhouse needs an annual maintenance fee of about 2% of its market value, which is common in Italy and can be in the range of €18,000 to €22,000 ($22,000 to $25,000). You’ll also need to pay for improvements, such as built-in heating systems, plumbing and furniture.

The fact that many homes require labor, as well as the above-average costs, means the costs can end up being higher than advertised. That means sellers may want to put their property on the market well before they have to, to attract more attention.

How to buy

To buy an Italian home, you need to know your tax situation, Pasquale says. In particular, to minimize your tax liability, you need to avoid owning properties outside of the taxable areas, which are held in permanent trust.

“Just looking at a map does not guarantee that the place is a good place to buy,” he says.

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