Buying a house in Sicily! Where they cost 1 Euro!

I have been back in Sicily for a month and I’ve only just got my head together well enough to write a new post.

After three months in the quiet English Cotswolds, I was suffering from extreme culture shock. I realised how much I love this place, and I also realised that having dozens of Sicilians around me all shouting different conversations at the same time made my brain short-circuit.

In the Cotswolds, going shopping means pootling down to into town and rubbing shoulders with all the oldies in green wellies and green anoraks (“They dress like quilted bogies” says my sister) as you browse around the antique shops, and then stop off for a relaxing tea and a cupcake before wandering into the supermarket. In Sicily, shopping consists of entering a demolition derby till your vehicle eventually comes to a halt, sometimes unplanned, then dashing into the nearest sequinned clothing shop to cool off under the air-conditioning before facing your pasta dash in the supermarket.

While away, I was interested to see that Sicily features regularly in the British press. It seems the journalists are still fascinated with this lovely place.

I read one article in The Telegraph claiming property prices have plummeted so heavily that ‘Cianciana is attracting English buyers looking for houses that cost little more than a railway season ticket in the Home Counties.’

Then I read another saying that the mayor of Salemi is selling off houses for 1 Euro each.

What? Really? Should I sell my current house and buy a street in Cianciana? Or the whole town of Salemi perhaps?

Of course, there is always an explanation, a catch if you want to call it that. Sicily is actually still part of Europe, still part of the world, and still in 2013. You cannot buy a house for 1 euro unless it is really truly only worth one euro.

The reason you can buy a house in Salemi for one euro is because the houses are derelict and have been so since the town was destroyed by an earthquake 40 years ago. So if you buy a house there, you have to practically rebuild it from scratch, and that will indeed cost you more than one euro. It will cost you approximately the price of a house! And at the end if it, you’ll have a house in an earthquake zone, in a town which may not offer running water or sewage facilities or gas. Do you even want gas pipes running under your house, in an earthquake zone? You do know when there is an earthquake your house insurance pays you exactly NOTHING, don’t you?

Oh, and have I mentioned that you even need planning permission to paint your front door or window frames a diferent colour in Sicily? If you’re going to restructure a house, oh deary me! You pay for any planning permission, you usually have to do it piecemeal, and the process often takes years rather than months. You see, Sicilians aren’t idiots. There are good reasons why it’s foreigners buying these 1 euro “houses”.

I had probably better tell you, whilst I’m being disappointing, that if you buy a house in Italy that had a mortgage on it organised by the previous owner, that debt becomes yours. So just imagine what a bummer it would be if you bought a derelict dump for one euro, then found out you had a mortgage of 200,000 Euros to pay off.

In Italy, always ALWAYS, the rule is CAVEAT EMPTOR.

Meanwhile in Cianciana, I found out there is basically one estate agent that is selling heaps of houses via a UK website called Rightmove. All the cheap ones, that the UK newspaper raved about, were a lot like this house, which I spotted for sale in Tindari a while back:

CIMG4364

CIMG4365 - Copia

And they were described like this:

A CHARACTER HOUSE FULL OF ORIGINAL FEATURES: [by which they mean the antique electrical wiring and bucket-based plumbing I presume], well-lit and airy [thanks to the well-ventilated front door and lack of a roof] The property features a rustic- style facade, a lusciously planted green roof garden [growing out of the remains of the roof], with additional garden areas both inside and out, and an open-plan interior [it’s just one room]. This character home would make an ideal pied-a-terre for those seeking a Mediterranean villa with character.

Why are there so many abandoned houses for sale in Cianciana? The area is so economically depressed that the original inhabitants had to move away to find work. Sicily is rather full of ghost towns like this. If you’re a foreigner looking for a holiday home, of course you don’t care if there is work to be had locally or not, you just care if there are sights to be sightseen, and around Cianciana, there are.

You do care, however, if you can get running water, electricity and a company to rebuilt your bargain wreck for less than the total value of your home in London. I’m not saying don’t buy a holiday home in Sicily, I’m just saying, CAVEAT EMPTOR.

If you want to know more about buying a house in Sicily, here’s a realistic and actually intelligent article about the pros and cons of buying property in Sicily. You can also ask me for advice if you like.

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29 thoughts on “Buying a house in Sicily! Where they cost 1 Euro!

  1. I was going to say, I will take 1,000 of those at 1 euro each please 🙂 But maybe I will reconsider! On a serious note though, I’ve often though that housing in Sicily offers pretty good value for money in comparison to most of Italy. But like you say, Estate Agents blurb can often be a tad misleading 🙂
    Jane x

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    1. You’re right, housing is cheaper here, in line with the lower average income than the overall national average. There are some really cheap and nice holiday houses to be had. But there’s not the great glut of ludicrous bargains that the Uk newspapers suggest!!!

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  2. I like the idea of buying one euro houses for children and then presenting them with a certificate of ownership and picture and giving them a project to investigate, the area, country, history etc. What a great educational opportunity!

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  3. I went to Tindari over the summer and did notice that house on the way up to the Greek Amphitheater with a ‘for sale’ sign and thought to myself who on earth would buy a place like that? It had been about five years since I’d been and I was surprised at how many houses, restaurants and even souvenir shops had closed down. Economically dark times in Sicily …

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    1. That’s interesting – and sad – that you noticed those differences. I’ve only been once so I didn’t have a yardstick for comparison. If anything, the place seemed to be doing better than most of the towns near me. 😦

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  4. Hey Veronica!
    This is hello from Cianciana. Cianciana is still inexpensive but the housing prices are going up here. Yup, like everywhere in Sicily, there are derelict houses for sale, but loads of the houses here are in decent condition needing little or no up grading. And no, I’m not being paid by the agenzia, I just love this place. 🙂

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  5. Thank you for your well-investigation and analysis about 1Euro Salemi house, Lucky that I’d read your post!
    They playing the same trick for Gangi, posting very beautiful photos about Gangi 1Euro house which facing infinity green with Mountains . For a foreigner like me will really thought of it’s a good holiday house to stay, until I find out Mount Etna is the most active Volcano in Europe just opposite, and Cosa Nostra in the Town.
    What is you thought about Gangi? Was there really Cosa Nostra in the town? Will Mount Etna eruption really effect the place? (It’s seem far to me, some more I have a crazy thought, staying in one of the Gangi house and watching Mount Etna eruption would be a nice scene, isn’t it? )

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    1. I just don’t know how likely a house in Gangi would be to get buried in lava! I do know the people who live near Etna keep rebuilding their houses in the same place, so they obviously love being there.

      Cosa Nostra over that side of Sicily are far less troublesome than they are on my side of the island, so I would not worry about that really. They don’t seek out foreigners to pester them unless you try to do a drug deal with them, or else appear to be making lots of money so they decide they want some of it.
      The real issue with these houses is that you can get a house for a really good price if you’re in the building trade and know how to do it up yourself on a low budget, but if you have to hire builders and watch them work, you would do better (and maybe spend less) buying a house which has already had all the work done. 🙂

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  6. Staying in a villa in Tindari for a week in September, might have a look and see if they have sold that house yet !!
    Love your blog, glad I found it

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  7. Hi, very glad I found your blog! I am seriously looking for a semi do-up house in Sicily. It would be a long term project for my family, for 3 months of the year when we escape the winter in New Zealand. I would appreciate any insight you have into the various parts of Sicily?

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    1. My hubby and I would both go for the Noto, Siracusa, Ragusa area. It has clean beaches and wonderful tourist attractions, friendly people and far less corruption than eastern Sicily.
      If you are doing up the house, do be aware that the locals will double the price of everything for you, so the more you can do yourself, the better.

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  8. We are going to try & buy this June in Sicily.
    It looks like a challenge ahead.Still can’t find the full details of what you are allowed to do as a diy er…..as we shall be renovating.
    Why do we have to pay estate agents a fee?
    They want €2500 & lawyer €3500 …..seems bizarre!
    Hopefully all will come clear in due course!!
    Paul

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    1. Estate agents in Italy tend to take the place of conveyancing lawyers, as they have legal obligations to both buyer and seller. But insist on having a complete written document of their services so that you know what you are getting.
      This expense is one of the reasons the housing market is very illiquid in Italy, by the way.
      In terms of renovation, you can do whatever you like inside the building, but outside you need planning permission for everything and this may even include changing the colour of the walls or doors. I would lean heavily on the estate agent to help you.
      Make sure the certificates of earthquake resistant structures are all hunky dory before you part with money. You don’t want to fork out 60k for structural work that you can’t even see once it’s done! This is called the certificato anti-sismico and double check its validity. If your estate agent doesn’t legally sign a liability clause that they undertake indemnity for the authenticity of this, don’t go ahead.

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