By Charlie Whiteley
Every month or so, another story of an Italian offering one-euro homes pops up on Facebook. Usually, the story is met with excitement, and shows comments such as, “[Friend’s name] we should buy this!” or “There’s no way this is real!”. Outside of the occasional news story, not much is known about the scheme. For those who buy these houses, is the deal truly worthwhile? More importantly, do the villages in question realize any growth from this scheme?
While the deal was first proposed in 2015, the first legitimate one-euro home deal was offered in 2018 by Ollaloi, a village on the island of Sardina. With a declining population of just 1,300 people, Ollaloi was a city in slow decline looking for new residents. The town’s mayor promised the deal would bring new investment and jobs to the area. Over twenty additional villages have since offered one-euro homes, hoping for a similar boost in investment. Just recently, Taranto in southern Italy became the first city to offer one euro homes. Taranto, like many other Italian locations to offer the deal, is in Italy’s south. Sicily holds the highest concentration of one-euro villages, but there are additional locations across the country. For individuals to buy into the scheme, certain conditions need to be met. They must renovate the property as soon as possible, costing thousands of dollars. Additionally, they are not permitted to sell the property for an additional five years, a policy used to discourage the “flipping” of properties.
While it seems a bargain, the villages will theoretically benefit even more. Ollolai and similar Italian villages have suffered from a lack of investment. Rubble, structural damage, and worn out infrastructure are a common reality for these villages, discouraging crucial droves of tourists from visiting. Through bargain real estate, villages have attracted hundreds of foreign investors, with each bringing along new opportunities for local businesses. New buyers also attract a younger demographic, a crucial need considering Italy’s aging rural population. Officials hope the one Euro homes will help struggling areas transition to tourist escapes. Taranto’s Heritage Councilor, Francesca Viggiano, remarks, “We have a big port and the cruises are coming back to our city, so it’s a big transition plan that takes in everything — investment, tourism. It’s kind of a new life for the city.”
Are the benefits brought by one-euro homes actually being realized? Based on the demand for properties, the scheme is certainly successful. In the Sicilian village of Sambuca, the deputy mayor has received thousands of calls and emails enquiring about properties, the majority of which come from outside Italy. Additionally, many properties have been turned into vacation rentals. Some are repurposed as AirBnbs, while others now operate as bed and breakfasts. This has brought in valuable tourist revenues to villages at risk of disappearing entirely. A 2016 study found over 2,500 villages at risk of being abandoned completely. In these decaying villages, selling property is extremely hard, leaving many properties completely abandoned. In Sambuca though, the tourist “boom” has seen the revival of a once aging town. One writer visited in 2019, remarking that while the town was relatively empty, the evidence of refurbishment and renovation was apparent. With historic charm and incredible hospitality, these Italian villages have won over many.
Through the revolutionary one-euro property deal, villages have seen investment for the first time in decades. More importantly, international media coverage has brought attention to the woes of Italy’s decaying rural economy. Forgotten towns have been put back on the map, waiting to be discovered by adventurous tourists. Due to success in Italy, don’t be surprised if other countries offer a similar deal. As of now, villages in rural Spain and France have also offered one-euro homes, hoping to see a similar pattern of interest. Though unique, one-euro properties offer an excellent platform for struggling villages to gain attention and investment. The populations of these villages may be declining, the interest in preserving them has not.
Image Source: Travel Away