When Brazilian-born American, Rubia Daniels, started exploring €1 houses, like many others, she had difficulty finding the information she was looking for online. In a case of what she now refers to as ‘destiny,’ Mussomeli was the first town to respond to her questions. And their response was that she would have to come to visit.
Before making her trip over, she did some more research online about the town itself and says she began to feel more comfortable about the idea.
“Mussomeli has all the basic infrastructure for daily life.There’s a hospital, movie theatre, pubs… you don’t need to leave the city for anything, which made it seem like an easier place to live than some of the smaller towns with fewer resources.”
While Rubia isn’t fluent in Italian, she does speak Portuguese and Spanish and studied Italian for a year in college. As she says, she can speak enough to ‘give people a hard time.’ But she doesn’t see a lack of Italian as an obstacle. Mussomeli is working hard to make the process very easy for people to go and buy a house. They have a dedicated website where people can search for available properties, an active Facebook group, and they have contracted a local real estate agency to handle the process for them.
“It is a very welcoming community, and through this program, the town is becoming really multicultural. There is an incredible diversity of backgrounds and cultures among the buyers. I really love the multicultural vibe the town has.”
1 Euro House Program
When asked about the process for obtaining a €1 house in Mussomeli, she says they do it a bit differently than other towns. Rather than charging a deposit up front, as a guarantee that renovation work will be completed, Mussomeli does it the other way around. In Mussomeli, you pay a fine if you don’t complete the renovations on the facade of the home in 3 years. But this will be returned once the work is finished. This further reduces the upfront costs, which for many has been appealing. But they do require all buyers to visit and tour the houses in person.
This arrangement seems to be working for them. Thus far, Mussomeli has sold about 250 houses, some of which Rubia helped to organize.
She says she wants to help build the community, so she volunteers to give tours and answer questions from prospective buyers. Every visit she makes to Mussomeli, she tries to bring people with her and, once they also fall in love with the town, she helps them through the process as well.
In choosing her own house, she says she went with very specific requirements. She wanted a house with marble and high ceilings. She admits that the one she selected is in rough shape but it has great french doors, lovely high ceilings, and marble on the floors and stairs.
She estimates that she has another three months worth of work to do on the first house she purchased before it is completed. To date, she has spent about €12k on the renovation and expects to spend around €20k in total for the exterior. After completing the work on this house, she will begin the renovation process for the other two houses she purchased there.
But most of all, she says you have to go there. It is so important to “feel the town and embrace the process.”
The renovation process, she says, has been fairly easy so far since her properties don’t need full restructuring, mainly just some cosmetic updating. Her brother-in-law is a home builder so he drew up the plans for her, and once travel restrictions are lifted, he will go to spend some time there to work on the homes.
As a solar consultant by profession, she is particularly proud of the finished roof renovation, which she did herself. Although she eventually plans to have solar panels installed, she is still researching companies in Italy for this and says she is not optimistic about the Italian Renovation Bonus programs, which are supposed to provide tax or financial incentives for energy efficiency, seismic, and facade renovations.
She says what would have originally cost around €400, has now gone up to €1,200 as a result of the program and there are long waiting lists for the contractors who can do the work. However, with the recent updates for these programs announced, this may change.
For now, Rubia is using the properties for holidays with plans to eventually retire there. She is currently working on getting the documentation together to apply for an Elective Residency visa.
She intends to fully equip the homes locally, rather than sending items over from the US. A friend of hers owns a furniture store there which she plans to use and says she has already selected everything for her kitchen, of course, all from Italian wood, as well as her bed and chest of drawers. Once she obtains her visa, she also plans to buy a car there. She is hoping to get an electric one, though it will depend on the availability of charging stations.
When asked what advice she would give to someone embarking on this journey, she recommends asking a lot of questions (writing down the answers for later reference) and adjusting your concept of time.
On Island Time
She says she has to keep reminding herself and others to stop having ‘American expectations’ of time frames. The Sicilian concept of doing something ‘right away’ is very different from that of the US. She chalks it up to island culture. But says there are upsides to this as well. In particular, she loves how friendly and welcoming the people in town have been to all the foreigners flooding in. Neighbors help each other out, bring you coffee, stop by to say hello… After living in the US for so long where neighbors rarely speak to each other, Rubia says this is a welcome to change
For Rubia, everything has gone just as she hoped. She loves her visits there, socializing with the local Sicilian families and all the new home buyers. She tells everyone she knows to go saying “basically, you are getting an amazing home in a vibrant, multicultural place for nothing.” And she points out that it has been especially interesting to see the high number of women buying these houses. According to Rubia, Mussomeli is building an incredible community.