Italy’s super cheap houses have become the stuff of legend in recent years. The €1 home initiative “Case 1 Euro” launched in 2017, dreamt up by the authorities to reverse the effects of depopulation in rural regions and repair derelict buildings. As abandoned houses and flats were sold off in tiny rural towns all over the country, the idea of nabbing a little piece of Italy for the price of an espresso has pulled in buyers from all over the world.
But while the lure of a house for one euro might sound tempting, the reality is a lot more expensive. Most properties up for sale at that price need significant renovations to make them liveable. Some aren’t much more than four walls and a crumbling roof.
As a result, many buyers opt to pay more for a house that requires less work. By British or American standards, they’re still a bargain – it’s not uncommon to be able to buy and modernise a property in a beautiful rural village for under €50,000.
To find out the reality behind the €1 headlines, The Independent caught up with some cut-price home buyers to hear about their experiences.
‘It was the same village my family was from’
In 2019, Meredith Tabbone was already in the process of applying for Italian citizenship through her grandparents when she saw an article online describing a €1 ballot for houses in Sicily.
“I read the article and realised it was the same village that my family was from,” says Meredith, from Chicago.
Within a matter of weeks, she was the proud owner of a small two-storey townhouse in Sambuca, a picturesque medieval hill town in western Sicily. Although she’d visited Italy many times, she had never been to Sicily – but the chance to own a place a few streets away from where her grandparents grew up far outweighed the risks.
While some Italian towns are selling homes for €1, in Meredith’s case, the process was slightly different. The bidding on this home merely began at €1 through a silent auction, which she eventually won with a bid of €5,555. Even at that bargain price, there was serious work to be done.
“It had no windows, no running water, no electricity,” she explains three years on. “It was a home that was originally built in the 1600s.”
To tackle the significant renovations, she set herself a…