(CNN) – Buying an abandoned home in a tiny, depopulated Italian village is something many travelers have pondered, especially given the large number of bargain house programs that have been launched in the European country in recent years.
According to CNN travel reported earlier this year that Latronico, located in the deep south of Italy, had launched the platform “Your house in Latronico“To connect old owners with potential buyers, the city has been inundated with foreigners, about 90% of whom are from the US.
Although Covid-19’s travel restrictions posed numerous challenges for shoppers, some were able to visit the city more than once to ensure they could secure the right home, which stunned Latronico locals at the sudden interest in their city.
While the homes for sale here, priced between $ 10,000 and $ 30,000, are slightly more expensive than those on the hugely popular one-dollar home programs, the main difference is that these abandoned homes don’t need urgent renovations.
In fact, most of them are in good condition. Some are ready to move into, others have been partially redesigned, and some even have furniture.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, a number of homes have been bought up in the months since the plan was announced.
Frank Cohen, a retired freelance American reporter from New Haven, was so impressed with Latronico that he decided to buy three houses in the city’s historic district.
The first is a 65 square meter turnkey property for which he paid 20,000 euros, the second a similarly well-preserved house that costs roughly the same.
The third, which costs significantly less at 6,000 euros, has to be completely revised.
“It’s the best in the world”
While it may seem extreme to some to squirt in three houses in an depopulated Italian village, Cohen fell in love with Latronico pretty much instantly in the pristine Pollino National Park.
“I think you can hardly find a more beautiful or inviting city,” he says of the city, which is known for its thermal baths and healthy air.
“The people are just so nice. we [he and his wife Ann] can’t go anywhere without being offered an espresso, grappa, or amaro lucano. We sleep better here than ever before in the States. “
“Latronico has changed life. The best in the world is here. “
Cohen was the first foreigner to land in town and celebrate his new possessions. He and his wife Ann were drawn to their main property, a yellowish, freshly painted house from the 1940s, because of its trio of balconies and the panoramic roof terrace, ideal for morning coffee, drinks at sunset and in summer as a bed for stargazing.
The house is on two floors and has a three-story large garage that is just across the alley and is divided into a garage, wood storage room, and a basement with old bottles and a pizza oven.
Later, the Cohens want to turn it into a home for their guests.
They say they kept all of the original furniture, including a washing machine and king-size bed, to make sure the house doesn’t lose its Italian feel after two Americans move in.
“We found our house more useful than we initially thought,” adds Cohen. “I think people where [the house is] should live a little in their homes before throwing it all overboard and “Americanizing” it. “
While their house was ready to move into, the couple plan to either re-tile or repaint one of the rooms to put their stamp on it.
Although initially “fascinated” by buying one of the many one-euro houses that have been launched in Italian cities in recent years, the Cohens changed their minds when they realized how much work and money it was would be involved.
“Given the security deposit and the significant renovation time, we didn’t just prefer a ready-to-move home for the holidays,” explains Cohen.
They plan to live in Latronico for about half the year.
Cohen said the renovation of the third house will be more of a long-term project and he is thrilled that the Italian government is providing funding for a significant portion of the work towards sustainable improvements.
After purchasing this first home in Latronico, Cohen immediately went to the local hairdresser for a quick haircut “to get the pulse of the city”.
He says the cozy atmosphere and lively chatter in the barber shop convinced him he picked the right Italian city, and he’s grateful to have a home in a place that contrasts so starkly with his homeland.
“There are many cities in America that are five or ten times the size and only have a fifth or a tenth of the nightlife,” Cohen adds.
“[I’m] so glad not to see big SUVs and no fast food chains everywhere. I already have plans for a used Fiat Panda 4 × 4 to explore the narrow streets. “
The idyllic location of Latronico, “in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of everywhere”, near three seas and different regions and with the intoxicating southern wines, contributed to his decision.
One of the things Cohen enjoys most about life here is the back alley eating in warmer weather, which he considers a worthy substitute for American backyard barbecues.
The chocolate cornetti freshly baked at midnight and the frequent food and art fairs have also proven to be great baits.
While Cohen has no regrets about choosing Latronico’s home program, he admits that the buying process was far from easy.
He and his wife quickly realized that with the linguistic and bureaucratic challenges they would need help from someone who knew how to overcome the obstacles.
Fortunately, the deputy mayor of the city, Vincenzo Castellano, was on hand to simplify the bureaucratic procedures that are difficult for foreigners to understand.
“The main difficulties in handling the paperwork were the apostilles of the sales contract [certificates,] and understanding Italian in more technical documents like utilities and bank communications, ”explains Cohen.
“You really need to practice your Italian with locals who would like to practice their English with you in order to overcome the language barrier.”
But there will likely always be some communication problems.
“I wanted aniseed liquor with our biscuit called Anice,” explains Cohen. “But because I didn’t pronounce it properly, I got a serving of pineapple.”
While the Cohens have settled on a house (or three) in the historic district of Latronico, there are a number of properties available in the even less populated rural area.
The surgeon Michael Kessler from Washington DC managed to get hold of a beautiful villa on the outskirts for only 40,000 euros.
The two-story, 100 m² house is connected to the main road by a private path with over one hectare of land with olive, pear, hazelnut and cherry trees.
After choosing the house, he decided to buy an adjoining additional piece of land for his three children as an outdoor play area.
The villa had just been renovated by the former owners before it was sold, so that no conversion was necessary, says Kessler.
Inside, it has wooden ceilings, reddish stone floors, and countertops made from the famous Latronico stones, extracted from nearby quarries.
There is also a huge terracotta terrace with colorful tiles at the entrance with a stone sink ideal for grilling.
Although the house was furnished when it was purchased, Kessler and his wife Roanna decided to remove all of the old furniture (except for the dresser) and the kitchen in order to make it their own.
“We preferred to go to the local furniture and appliance stores to support the local economy,” he says.
“But it’s really worth living. I’ve just bought the pans, pots and sheets to make it feel at home when we come back with our kids to celebrate Christmas this year. “
“It was destiny”
Kessler explains that buying a turnkey villa with electricity and running water was far more doable for his family than buying a one-euro home that needed a complete renovation, which he thought would have been a bit overwhelming.
Before selecting the property, he surfed the Your House in Latronico website and Googled the exact location.
“Friends said we were crazy,” says Kessler. “After all, my wife chose the same house as me. It was destiny.
“We live in a big city, so it’s really nice to be surrounded by silence and nature, to relax and to switch off the phones. We hope that the children will learn Italian. “
Like Cohen, Kessler found the buying process to be quite slow and complex. He says he had to apply for an Italian social security law to open a bank account to buy the house and pay taxes.
“Selling works so differently than in the States,” says Kessler. “Our meeting with the notary was in two languages, English and Italian, and we had to endure three hours of paperwork.
“In the States it is usually with a lawyer and you only meet for 10 minutes for the final signing of the deed, all papers are prepared in advance and you just need to check the details like correct names, amount of money and that everyone agrees to the act. “
Since the separate plot of land near the villa was bought from another owner, he had to go through the entire procedure twice.
“It sounds extremely intimidating to find out all of this on your own,” he admits. “You really need to find someone on the ground to ease the process and help you navigate through the whole thing.”
However, Kessler was pleasantly surprised by the Italian tax system. The property tax on his mansion turned out to be incredibly low, barely $ 350 a year, which he thinks is very little compared to the amount he spends on his second home in the US.
“It is interesting that in Italy, in contrast to the states, taxes are calculated exclusively according to the size of the building and not according to the property, which makes buying a cheap property even cheaper,” says Kessler.
The fact that the villa is located in the south of Italy, where taxes tend to be much lower than in the rest of the country, has also proven to be a plus.
Cohen is far from unhappy at the prospect of a number of foreigners moving to her town.
According to Cohen, various locals have reached out to him to say they are considering leaving Latronico, but the foreigners’ excitement for the city has changed their perspective.
He advises all travelers who want to buy a house here to ingratiate themselves as much as possible and enjoy the slow rhythms of southern Italy.
“Don’t just try to impose your own [patterns] about the situation, ”adds Cohen. “Otherwise, try to eat in closed restaurants at six, like some Americans seem to do.”
The CNN Wire
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