Posts Tagged ‘crumbling’

Photo: Case 1-Euro.
A small town in Sicily decided to sell decrepit houses for almost nothing to see if someone would fix them up. It’s certainly bringing in more curious visitors.

Sometimes getting something for nothing may cause a recipient to be careless with the gift, as in a story I read a few years ago about a guy who built and donated a home to a homeless woman who let it run to ruin.

Other times, wonderful things happen.

Harrison Jacobs writes at the Washington Post, “If someone said you could buy a house for a dollar, your reaction might be disbelief. That was how Rubia Andrade felt when she read a news article in 2019 about towns in Italy selling properties for one euro.

“ ‘Obviously, your first thought is that this can’t be true. I needed to see it in person,’ said Andrade, a Brazilian American who works in California’s solar industry.

“Andrade booked a flight three days later and drove to Mussomeli, Italy, a hilly town in central Sicily with about 11,000 residents that had recently launched a program selling hundreds of properties in the run-down historical center. …

“The 1-euro housing program was first proposed over a decade ago by TV personality Vittorio Sgarbi. Then the mayor of Salemi in southern Sicily, Sgarbi proposed the idea as a way to save the town’s crumbling old quarter. The idea has since caught on in 34 municipalities across Italy.

“But it was only in the past few years that it captured the global imagination when articles about towns launching similar programs on the island went viral. …

“While some houses sold through these programs are livable upon purchase, most are little more than four medieval-era walls. Roofs are caved in, and floors are torn up. Many are filled with dead pigeons or other vermin. Prospective buyers who haven’t done research are usually surprised by the conditions, said Toti Nigrelli, the deputy mayor of Mussomeli.

‘We tell people to come here first because we don’t want any surprises. We want them to know what they are getting into.’ …

“Though the official cost is 1 euro (around $1.14), fees and closing costs can typically run up to 3,500 euros (or almost $4,000). Then, you are required to renovate it within a designated time frame — typically three to five years — or forfeit a sizable deposit, usually around 5,000 euros (or $5,709). According to Nigrelli, towns use the deposit to ward off speculators and ensure buyers renovate the properties instead of letting them sit. Renovations cost anywhere from 5,000 to 100,000 euros, depending on the house’s size and condition and the renovation style. Most end up spending 20,000 euros to 40,000 euros, Nigrelli said.

“None of those complications deterred Andrade. She initially purchased a 1-euro property and returned that summer to renovate. Since then, she has bought two more and become an evangelist, returning every few months with friends, family and even Facebook acquaintances to help them with the purchasing process.

“ ‘Even with the fees and the cost of the renovation, it costs less than a timeshare in the U.S.,’ Andrade said.

“While Andrade first saw the 1-euro program as a cheap way to own a vacation home, she now has bigger plans: to help revive the town. Andrade and her son are converting their three properties into an art gallery, a wellness center and a restaurant. She plans to move to Mussomeli permanently.

“She’s far from the only one. Danny McCubbin is one of about a dozen foreigners who bought 1-euro houses in Mussomeli and now lives there full-time. McCubbin, an Australian who worked for celebrity chef Jamie Oliver for 17 years, bought a 1-euro house with the intention of converting it into a community kitchen to provide meals to vulnerable people. He crowdfunded over $30,000 last March for the project.

“Complications due to the pandemic delayed renovations, but he has since purchased an 8,000-euro house to live in and rented a storefront in Mussomeli’s piazza.

“Since launching the Good Kitchen this summer, McCubbin has become an unofficial ambassador for the 1-euro program. …

‘“The townspeople thought I was opening a restaurant. They didn’t understand the concept,’ McCubbin said. After he partnered with local charities to host picnics and baking parties for orphans and those dealing with mental health issues, locals got the idea.”

More at the Post, here.

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