The Pros and Cons of Buying Property in Sicily

Let’s get all mafia references out of the way from the outset. There are going to be no cons, or even pros for that matter, relating to buying property in Sicily that have anything to do with the Italian mafia.

What we are going to discuss is property buying opportunities in Sicily, the pros and the cons of purchasing Sicilian house, possible pitfalls and what attracts foreign property buyers to Sicily.

To start with, Sicily is simply gorgeous. This sun kissed Mediterranean island is very lively, boasting amazing landscapes and dreamy sea views.

It also has two volcanoes, relatively harmless if your property isn’t too close and able to provide the inhabitants of the island with a spectacular show from time to time.

By the way, if you are a prospective property buyer in Sicily, you’d better keep those two in mind – when they erupt, they do tend to cover the nearby villages with ash.

Buying Property in Sicily – Market Overview

The property market is blessed with stunning opportunities framed by a backdrop of exquisite scenery, an excellent climate and a very attractive way of life.

This is why Sicily has long been a favourite holiday home destination with Northern Italians. When it comes to non Italian buyers, it’s a trickle rather than a flow. However, as the travel connections with the mainland are improving, the numbers of those interested in property investment are growing.

Sicilian property prices are 35% lower now in 2019 compared to their 2008 peak. At that time the Italian market was hit hard by the financial crisis. Now the property market seems to have just started to recover.

In a location where house prices are low anyway, this means more value for money for foreign buyers.

If you are after luxury, there are some exceptional period houses in southern Sicily that can set you back £1 million.

If you don’t have a spare million for your perfect holiday home, then the east coast is a better location to look for property. A modern villa with a pool close to one of the beaches is likely to be less than £300,000.

Small stone houses in villages, almost all of which require extensive renovation, can be picked up for a mere £5,000 to £30,000.

Fancy a House in Sicily for 1 Euro?

In an attempt to revive the economy and increase a number of residents a few remote villages in Sicily are running schemes selling old and very derelict houses for literally one euro.

There are, however, some conditions attached to the deal: buyers must use local builders when renovating the property, and finish the renovation within 3 years. There is also a minimum budget the buyer should spend on renovation.

In general, there really are plenty of reasons to look more closely at Sicily if you’re after a home abroad for your own personal use, with perhaps a little bit of rental income on top, as Sicily is a very popular holiday destination both for Italians and foreign tourists.

Connection with the Mainland and Infrastructure

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean and is itself surrounded by a handful of smaller islands and islet.

It’s separated from the Italian mainland by the Strait of Messina, although there have been plans in the pipeline for many years to connect Sicily and Italy with a suspension bridge. 

Whether these plans ever come to fruition remains to be seen. 

To access the island one can fly directly to either Falcone-Borsellino Airport in Palermo on the west of Sicily, or Fontana Rossa Airport in Catania on the east side, with both airports served by daily flights from across Europe. 

Alternatively, the Strait of Messina is crossed regularly by passenger and car ferry, and so getting to and from the island is relatively simple. 

Depending on where you choose to hunt for property however, you may find that road infrastructure is a little on the rough side!

Buying property in Sicily doesn’t mean acquiring Italian lifestyle

Sicily is not Italy!

It doesn’t feel like the mainland, it doesn’t look like the mainland, its architecture and landscapes are different and are carved from thousands of years of exciting and sometimes violent history! 

The cultural mix across the island is heady in its intensity, and it is evident in everything from the way people speak to the food they cook and enjoy, from their customs to the ways they have of organising life. 

However, if you love Italy and all things Italian, it’s not so different and you will probably adore Sicily. You really should commit to spending time exploring the island before looking at properties for sale, get a feel for the place and how it might be to live there. Sicily is not for everyone.

The island has been repeatedly dubbed ‘the new Tuscany’ – yet, it’s nothing like Tuscany! 

Yes, there has been a mini influx of British buyers acquiring homes on the island, but that’s about as far as the comparison can go.  Once you are assured that Sicily is for you, the pros and cons of home buying get simpler to explain.

The Cons of Buying Property in Sicily

Very often properties’ historic transactions, related paperwork and ownership haven’t been kept in order

Homes and land on the island have traditionally always been handed down through generations of the same family. 

Quite often it’s been the case that the odd transfer transaction has ‘somehow’ missed being filed correctly, taxes have been avoided and the path of ownership is not clear. 

Therefore, foreigners buying property in Italy on the island of Sicily are very strongly advised to get independent legal advice from either a lawyer who is well versed in Italian/Sicilian property law. If your Italian isn’t too hot you’ll be able to find an English speaking lawyer on the mainland. 

Whilst there are of course well-qualified lawyers in Sicily, it’s often considered wise to put some distance between your legal affairs and where you’re going to live in Sicily.

It isn’t always obvious whether there are any outstanding debts on a property

The potential existence of outstanding debts has to be investigated carefully by your lawyer. All outstanding debts or loans have to be paid off by the vendor otherwise the buyer risks inheriting the debt. 

Watch the buying costs

The buying costs associated with purchasing in Sicily are high – factor in at least 10% on top of the sales price just for taxes and fees.

Renovation means paperwork

If you’re going to be buying property to renovate, consider the fact that building contractors and costs are high in Sicily and planning permission can be long and arduous to come by.

Add to this the fact that the rate at which you will be able to get things done will be far slower than you’re used to in the UK. 

Luxury homes in popular locations are expensive

And the final con is that property prices for well-established homes, off plan properties and houses in the most desirable areas, such as to the north and east of the island, are not cheap! 

With the likes of Madonna, Giorgio Armani, Julia Roberts, Mick Hucknall and Peter Gabriel all apparently fans of Sicily, the island’s celebrity appeal and exclusivity are going to keep the prices in most popular locations relatively high.

Less internet, more leg work

You won’t find many property details while doing an online research. Agents don’t upload multiple images and description of properties, so that buyers can’t approach sellers directly and leave the agent without their fees.

Also, for the same reason, viewings are always conducted together with the agent.

The Pros of Buying Property in Sicily

Rental income opportunities

The appeal of Sicily is timeless and undeniable. This of course makes owning a property on the island a lifetime investment and one that can reap dividends. 

A purchase should not be considered a short-term profit generator though, rather any income or profits can be generated from well located and attractive homes that can be rented out to either the Italian market or the British market. 

Demand for holiday homes on the island during the long summer months is strong, and because local taxes on such income are favourable, this is an added bonus!

Good choice of property prices for every budget

There is a whole range of property types on sale on Sicily.

You can choose from abandoned homes in Salemi which can be bought for almost no money at all as long as one renovates within 2 years, uses local labour and doesn’t mind that one’s living in an earthquake zone, to mansions with royal connections and with masses of land overlooking the ocean. 

In other words, there are property types for all tastes and most budgets.

Luxury high end property in Sicily offers more value for money than on the Mainland

The higher value houses in Sicily are still cheap by overseas holiday home standards compared to the mainland Italy or some other popular Mediterranean destinations.

As Sicily has only recently started to recover from the 2008 crisis, property prices have been much slower to rise than in many other Mediterranean locations. Consequently property buyers can enjoy great value for money when purchasing a Sicilian house.

The cost of living is relatively low

When it comes to day-to-day expenses, the cost of living in Sicily is inexpensive. Just find places where locals shop and eat out, and the prices won’t disappoint you. More so if you choose to live a bit further away from the big cities.

In Conclusion:

Sicily is an appealing location in many aspects. If it feels right for you, a property purchase could provide a good investment and a great place for a holiday home, or a permanent home for the start of a new life abroad.

Just remember when going through the house hunting and purchasing process to be patient, be sure the property is right for you and get professional advice and help before entering into any contract.

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