The good news for anyone contemplating renovating a home in Italy is that the Italian property market is not expected to crash spectacularly like the Spanish housing market, nor is it expected to witness major drops in underlying real estate values.  Such is the opinion of economists surveyed by Reuters who instead believe that the market will simply remain subdued in Italy throughout this year and next.

Therefore, if you were thinking that a move made now into the Italian housing market might not be a bad one, here’s a guide to the realities of restoring property in Italy for anyone committed (or crazy) enough to consider it.

A quick browse around dedicated property sites for Italy on the internet and one can quickly come up with a handful of delightful renovation properties for sale.  For example, there’s a very affordable 300 square meter semi-derelict house on the market in Abruzzo that comes with 5 hectares of land, is only 30 miles from Pescara airport and is for sale for a modest £95,000.  For those with a little more in their pocket, how about a property with scope to be turned into a magnificent 5 bedroom home that’s currently for sale in Tuscany?  The price tag?  A cool £630,000.  As you can see, there is something for every budget in Italy and there is renovation property for sale right across the nation – even in oversold pockets of Italy such as Tuscany.

But what about the realities of restoring these properties?  Is the idea that one can transform an old farmhouse into a rural idyll realistic?  Not without a great deal of cash, patience and time – that’s according to those who have been there and done that!  In a recent article in the Telegraph for example, one woman talks of her four-year journey to transform what was a semi-habitable house into a lovely home and why it has taken so long!  The experiences of the subject of the article is typical of those we have spoken to at Degtev, and the average story goes something like this: –

Be ware of the location you choose – what is a rural delight today could lose its integrity tomorrow as landowners sell up and sell out and the land around your new home is developed for commercial or residential property.  Anywhere within easy reach of a major town or transportation hub such as an airport or significant train station could fall foul of this fact.  Remember also that there are geological faults in Italy that render certain parts of the country earthquake zones.  You will need to factor this in when it comes to insurance and also structural engineer and geologist fees – as these specialists will need to be called in if you begin making significant structural changes to your renovation property.

Keep a close eye on the purse strings from the word go and know that apart from the cost of the property and the related purchase fees, you will have to find money for the complete restoration of your Italian home.  Depending on the finish you require and the architectural and building firm you employ, you could be looking at anywhere between a £500 and a £1,000 a square meter additional sum for complete renovation.  No, restoring a property in Italy is not cheap!

On top of these known bills and fees you will undoubtedly encounter no end of random small charges, from notary fees to town hall taxes, from money required by your builder for outside landscaping to a backhander to anyone you need to oil a few wheels!  Be realistic about your budget and be very careful with it – they have a nasty habit of running away with you otherwise!

Next you need to be very careful with your choice of architect and building firm.  You need an architect with whom you can communicate your ideas and stand a chance of being listened to (no mean feat as architects the world over are renowned for being arrogant and single minded!!!), and you need a building firm you can trust (no comment).  So, if at all possible take local recommendations for both.  You want both sets of people to communicate and get on well with each other, and you want both to take you seriously and treat you well.  Good luck!  The reality is often depressingly far from the dream.  This means you have to be on hand to keep on top of all contractors and to ensure they are working to your brief and staying on budget.

Next up – learn Italian very, very quickly otherwise you will not have a clue what is going on and you will have the wool pulled over your eyes!  What’s more, you may miss vital wording in contracts, you may misunderstand a brief and end up with a hideous mistake instead of a dream home and ultimately, you will only have yourself to blame!

Finally, be on site – and if you can’t be on site, employ someone who can and whom you trust.  And if this is also impossible – visit – often!  You need to keep an eye on every single stage of the build and you need to show your builders that you appreciate what they are doing for you.  Work with them and not against them; don’t get too friendly as you are the boss, but at the same time, have genuine interest in their work so that hopefully, they will work to the best of their ability to make you happy and themselves rightly proud of a job well done.

If you do decide to venture forth on what may well turn out to be one of the most exciting journeys of your life, know that it will be hard, worrying, stressful, trying and very, very rewarding!  If you have a realistic and calm approach to the process, you stand the best chance of success!