This Italian city is struggling to sell its empty houses for one euro. Here’s why

The sale of one-euro homes in Italy has attracted great interest in recent years, with dozens choosing to buy abandoned properties in some of the country’s depopulated cities.

But while towns like Mussomeli in Sicily and Zungoli in Campania have managed to sell various abandoned dwellings to foreigners yearning to live the Italian dream, some are struggling to sell their vacant homes.

Among them is Patrica, a remote medieval village of just under 3,000 residents south of Rome, where more than 40 properties abandoned at the beginning of the 20th century have fallen into disrepair.

Located on a rocky plateau overlooking the Sacco Valley in central Italy, Patrica is an idyllic place, but life here used to be difficult for the locals.

Left houses

Many left in search of a better future elsewhere, leaving their homes empty for decades.

To breathe new life into the dying village, the city’s mayor, Lucio Fiordaliso, is trying to emulate the success of other Italian villages that have put their empty houses up for sale for one euro, or just over a dollar. So far he has had little success.

“We initially mapped all the abandoned houses and made an official call to the original owners to invite them to hand over their dilapidated family property, but we managed to sell only two houses for one euro,” Fiordaliso tells CNN.

While local authorities in cities underpopulated due to earthquakes and other natural disasters have the authority to put abandoned houses up for sale without the owners’ permission, this is not the case for Patrica and similar cities.

“We first need the willingness of the owners or their heirs to sell their old houses,” says Fiordaliso.

“Only then can we put these properties up for sale with their consent, which makes the process very complicated. Almost impossible.”

Fiordaliso explains that the city received a “positive response” from ten owners after sending out a “public call for participation in our one euro houses project,” but they withdrew at the last minute. The rest never responded.

Public call

Fiordaliso believes that those who changed their minds may have done so because of problems with other relatives who owned shares in the same property.

Abandoned buildings in old Italian cities are sometimes divided between multiple heirs who own only one part – such as a bathroom, a balcony or a kitchen – and under Italian law nothing can be sold without the written consent of all heirs.

It used to be common for children to inherit parts of their family home, including land, wells and orchards.

But it is not always a guarantee that relatives will have good relationships and/or stay in touch years later.

“The sale of potential one-euro houses reached a dead end as most of the relatives who shared the same property were at odds due to personal reasons or could not agree on the sale, some barely spoke or knew each other, others lived in distant cities and … “also abroad,” says the mayor.

In some cases, houses in the past were never officially divided between heirs, so the line of ownership was broken over time, with no clear indication of who the current owner should be.

According to Fiordaliso, it was successful in tracking down the descendants of owners who long ago emigrated abroad, mainly to the United States, Canada and Argentina, and may have had different surnames or bequeathed their Italian property to foreigners, without the Patrica town hall to notify a very difficult task.

“It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack,” he adds.

The only two abandoned houses Patrica was able to sell under her One Euro program were wholly owned by two locals, so there was no need for cooperation from fourth cousins ​​or great-great-grandchildren, and she sold the properties even without them could sell complications.

Family ties

In situations where family feuds are involved, relatives may choose not to sell their share for legal reasons related to inheritance disputes or even revenge.

And first-time homeowners who have lived elsewhere for many years could be wary of reporting to local authorities and potentially facing back taxes on their property and garbage disposal fees of up to 2,500 euros (about $2,730 a year, plus unpaid payments) to be faced with utility bills

Another reason why the one euro program never really came into force in Patrica could be the condition of the abandoned houses.

Some homes are simply too neglected to sell, even if the owners are willing to agree to it.

Gianni Valleco of Patrica and his two brothers decided to put their parents’ abandoned house on the market to see what would happen, but soon discovered that the house was less than desirable.

“We thought, ‘Why don’t we give it a try?'” Even if it was only for a euro, we’d be rid of a bunch of useless bricks. “We were curious to see if anyone would be interested in buying it,” says Valleco.

“We were aware that after half a century our parents’ house had been reduced to rubble and completely destroyed, as if it had been leveled to the ground.

“The roof and most of the walls had collapsed, leaving an outdoor space covered in grass and bushes. All that was left was a piece of land, an ugly garden in the middle of the historic center.”

According to Valleco, a neighbor had used what was left of the house to throw away his old things.

“Then we realized no one would ever buy it,” he says. “It is a bad investment that requires a lot of money to rebuild the house. It is more worthwhile to buy a small rural house in the area.”

Luckily, not all of Patrica’s abandoned houses that could potentially sell for a euro are in such terrible condition, and some have piqued the interest of potential buyers.

“Some foreigners came to look at the abandoned one-euro apartments. There was a lot of interest, but unfortunately we had nothing to offer them,” says the mayor, adding that the interested parties came from the USA and Europe.

Meanwhile, Fiordaliso has come up with new ways to increase the city’s appeal in hopes of attracting newcomers.

New scheme

The town hall recently financed the renovation of the exterior facades of some old palaces, which prompted several locals to completely redesign their old family homes and put them into use after decades of neglect.

Local resident Alessandra Pagliarosi went a step further and transformed the 1950s mansion she inherited from her husband into an elegant B&B called Patricia.

“We replaced the roof, which was virtually non-existent, and the interior. “The mayor’s move finally gave us a good excuse to completely renovate the property that was lying there useless,” says Pagliarosi, who benefited from new tax breaks introduced by City Hall to stimulate the local economy.

Anyone who decides to start a commercial activity such as a B&B or an artisan boutique in the Old Town district will be exempt from paying taxes on waste disposal, advertising and use of public spaces for ten years and will receive tax credits for restructuring costs.

“For a small B&B, that would be a total of about 1,200 euros (about $1,310) in tax savings per year, which is a significant amount of money,” says Pagliarosi.

Foreigners who plan to move to Patrica and start a small business are also entitled to tax benefits.

So far, two new B&Bs and a restaurant have been opened.

Local real estate agent Ilario Grossi, who runs the Immobil Lepini real estate agency in the nearby town of Ceccano, says several American descendants of expatriate families recently visited Patrica to look at properties.

But the city’s move-in-ready homes, with two-bedroom apartments starting at 20,000 euros ($21,832), proved more attractive.

“The interest is there, but when many (foreigners) actually see the poor condition of the old houses, they prefer to opt for turnkey apartments that have already been renovated or only need minor repairs,” says Grossi.

“So it’s much more convenient to buy one of these newer buildings than to grab an old building that needs major renovation and where the final cost would end up being much higher.”

Despite these challenges, Fiordaliso has not given up on selling some of the city’s long-neglected homes, even if it means negotiating between feuding relatives.

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