1 Euro Houses – Where to Start?

1 euro house door

While the 1 euro houses in Italy have received a lot of media attention, it can be difficult to find real details or know how to start. If you are interested in this program, I recommend you read this information first. 

Across Italy, towns that have experienced depopulation (typically rural, inland municipalities) have launched “1 euro house” programs in an effort to revive the communities and restore abandoned properties.

Each program is independently managed by the town, with its own unique requirements and process. Some towns sell houses all year round. Some auction them in batches. Some towns have dozens of homes, and some only have a handful. There is no single place to go for all the details. 

Limited 1 Euro Houses

In most towns, to launch a 1 euro house program, the municipality announces the plan and invites homeowners to make their properties available as part of this program. This process can take years as many owners have long since moved away and some houses have dozens of owners as the property has been passed down through the family.

Because of this long process, most towns only have a handful of actual 1 euro houses. And once those properties have been acquired, often the program ends.

If you go to the map of 1 euro towns on this site and click through to the towns, many will say that the program has ended. 

Some towns will go through this process multiple times and make the homes available in batches. Gangi, Taranto, and Calatafimi-Segesta have each run several rounds of 1 euro houses, but buyers have to catch them when the properties are available. 

Other towns like Sambuca and Salemi own the properties outright. Decades ago, an earthquake struck that part of Sicily. Families whose homes were damaged took their insurance money and built new houses elsewhere. The homes that were left behind became the property of the town. In both of these towns, the Mayor’s office auctions the homes in batches. And again, potential buyers need to catch the program when the houses are available. 

Mostly Volunteer Run

The municipalities running these programs have very (VERY) limited staff – typically just volunteers from the town who are doing their best to help. After a program launches, they receive hundreds (even thousands) of messages a day asking for more information. 

Most towns do not have support staff to answer all the emails. Often the staff they have doesn’t speak English. And they are not able to take more pictures of the property to send.

If you want to view the houses, the best option is go. It may seem counterintuitive, and many people worry that all the houses will be gone, but there are thousands of empty, bargain properties available. 

First Pick a Town

To purchase a 1 euro home, you first need to select the town that you are interested in as this will determine how you go about acquiring a property.

While some towns will allow you to purchase or submit a bid/application from overseas, my suggestion is always, if at all possible, to go visit. And visit several towns! They are all completely unique, each with its own vibe and personality. If you can’t get a hold of someone in the town, just stay at a local BnB and ask your host. They can often connect you with someone to help. 

Once you find the town that “feels like home” then you can look for a house and review the specific process for that town. Don’t worry about missing out – there are plenty of bargain houses available!

Requirements

The 1 euro houses typically come with a variety of requirements which often include a deposit – to guarantee that the renovation is completed within a specified time frame. This amount ranges from €2,500 to €5,000 and is usually due at the time of application/bid. 

The deposit process and timeframe vary by the town, but typically the deposit is returned once the renovation is completed.

Some towns may also require you to visit first, and some have an application process which may allocate more points to buyers who plan live there, use local tradespeople, or are under a certain age.

You can look at this spreadsheet for a quick summary of the programs and regulations. This sheet also indicates the current status of the program and contact information for the town. If you do decide to purchase a 1 euro home, you will need to submit the documents required for that specific town. 

Not 'On the Beach'

The 1 euro houses are located in the historic centers of VERY old towns – often with roads that were built for horses, not cars. They are not villas (though often people will buy several and combine them into larger homes). They typically do not have yards as at the time they were built, owners had their farms in the countryside and their homes in the town. They are never ‘on the beach.’ And they are typically in towns with populations less than 20,000 (which is great if you are looking to take advantage of Italy’s retirement flat tax).

Most of the 1 euro houses also tend to be quite small (70 sqm/ 750 sqft on average). Many of them have been abandoned for decades and are in various states of disrepair. Some barely have four walls, while others need only some modernization. But they ALL require additional financial investment which is why they are being sold so cheaply. 

1 Euro OR Bargain House?

For some people the restrictions and scope of work involved in the renovation of a 1 euro house is too daunting. Often these people still like the communities and so decide to purchase privately-listed “bargain” homes in the same towns.

Now known in some towns as “premium” houses, these are similarly historic homes in the same small towns, but they often require less work and are sold privately through agencies or owners (though in some places the town also provides support for these homes). In Sambuca, for example, the town has sold around 30 one euro homes, but during the same time period, an additional 200 privately listed homes were purchased by foreign buyers. 

For this reason, I’ve included properties for sale for €50,000 or less, located in rural villages, on the Renovita site. Please note that in these small towns, often less than 30% of the available homes are ever listed online. To really see what is available, you have to visit. 

Renovation and Other Costs

Renovation costs for these homes are very difficult to estimate as it depends on the size of the home, condition it’s in, your personal taste…

I have been told by several sources that for the homes needing full renovation, you can estimate between €800-€1,000 per square meter. But to really understand what it would cost, you need to speak with an architect or geometra. A local real estate agent or someone from the town can connect with someone if you need details on a particular house. 

Before purchasing a home, I suggest you do as much research as possible on the total costs involved. Here is a link to a simple costs worksheet you can go through with your agent and others supporting you in the process. Simply download your own copy to edit with your numbers. 

But even with the €1 houses, you can expect to spend about €3000 – €6000 on closing costs (notary fees, taxes…) depending on size/condition of the house, location, agency… 

Not Investment or 'Flip' Properties

At the end of the day, these homes are an economic redevelopment initiative for the towns. They are an opportunity to breathe new life into shrinking towns.

They are best suited to people looking for the small town lifestyle, who are not in a rush, and who want to be part of the local community.

They are NOT really suitable as investment properties or properties to “flip.” 

Non EU Citizens Need a Visa to Live There

Home ownership and immigration status are not connected.

Purchasing a home in Italy does NOT provide a path to residency. Most nationalities can purchase one of these homes, but non EU citizens will still need a long-term visa to live there for more than the limit of your tourist visa (typically 90 out of 180 days). It is best to check with your country’s reciprocity agreement with Italy before purchasing to ensure you are able to own a house there. 

Most non EU citizens use the houses as holiday homes, or they apply for an Elective Residency (retirement) visa. Here’s a link to a visa assessment site where you can enter your nationality and purpose to see what kind of visa you would need. 

For any visa related information, I highly recommend you speak with an Immigration attorney as the process is very dependent on personal circumstances and not very straight forward. 

Most of the towns/homes listed on the Renovita site and in the Facebook group are located in Sicily. Since Sicily has the highest concentration of 1 euro house towns, that is where I’ve spent all my time. But there are certainly programs located in other towns across Italy – I just personally haven’t visited them.

I am not a real estate agent. I do not work for any of the towns. I do not collect any money from anyone. I set up the Renovita group and the site just to try to help because I LOVE these little towns and want more people discover them. I’m happy to share what information and connections I’ve made along the way and hope that these can be useful resources to people.

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