One of the questions we are asked most often by our clients searching for their home on the Italian Lakes is ‘how can we find a great property at a really good price?’ This is a reflection of human nature across most cultures, the desire to feel that the home of your dreams is also a bargain – a property that will rise in value.
One surprising fact that seems to elude most market commentators is that there are two distinct markets on the Italian lakes. There are homes for Italians, their main home, and homes that appeal to international buyers. There is little overlap between the two, and the pricing is quite different. The ability to take a home that appeals to the Italian market and mould it to an international standard creates a remarkable gain in value.
As in every market, property location is everything. At the top of every buyer’s list on the Italian lakes is a wonderful lake view, but be careful also to find a quiet location. On Lake Como, Lake Lugano and Lake Orta it is road noise to avoid in particular and on Lake Maggiore it is a combination of road and railway noise that blights many properties. Other key requirements include parking, a fair degree of privacy, outside space and good hours of sunshine which can be impacted by the high mountains around the lakes. If you choose the location well then you will always have a desirable home.
We have identified five different levels of value, and included an example image of a property in each condition. As you read down the list the potential gain increases.
- Perfection. A property that’s in an excellent location, beautifully presented and well maintained. Nothing needs doing, you can move straight in. Undoubtedly it will be a sought after property, one that holds its value best and for which a buyer is found most easily. The convenience and immediacy is highly attractive, but beware if you are paying full price for someone else’s tastes and then need to spend time and money to adapt it to your personal tastes. Potential gain: just steady year on year appreciation.
- Nearly built. A lot of Italian properties are completed structurally and then left until a buyer is found. There is usually 3-4 months of work – from putting in underfloor heating, windows and doors, to installing and tiling bathrooms and finally painting. The ‘capitolato’ defines the finishes offered within the price and you are able to adapt this to suit your tastes, with the price adjusted to reflect your personalisation. Prices will generally be keener, there is often an opportunity to negotiate extras at no additional cost, and after a few months you have the home that suits your living style and tastes. It is likely to be worth more on completion than you have paid – so waiting a little and personalising pays off. Potential gain: 5% – 15%, the greatest gain being if the property is still on the drawing board plus general market price increases.
- Neglected and unloved. Italian’s do not have a DIY culture and most families tend to spend little on maintenance. Outdated bathrooms, unattractive décor and odd use of space make a property harder to sell; prices will be more attractive and a discount on the asking price more likely. The cost of updating to produce a bright, appealing home to international standards will lift the value far more than the cost of some fairly simple upgrading and redecoration. Potential gain: 5% – 20%, the more unsightly it is then the greater the potential. Plus general market price increases.
- Ruined. The Italian lakes have plenty of properties that have been neglected, many hidden away from view. Italians have held onto inherited properties which they no longer use. Eventually some decide to sell and there are some wonderful opportunities for the buyer with vision and a willingness to wait 12-18 months before moving in. One property we know of currently offers well over 1,000 square metres of neglected historic home; it is the perfect project for someone with a passion for restoration and the desire to have a huge property at a huge discount to its market value once complete. Potential gain: 20% – 50%, plus general market price increases.
- Unfashionable. Perhaps the best bargain of all comes from a property that is in an area that is not yet in favour. On the Italian lakes prices have risen strongly in the most popular locations (Cernobbio and the lakefront villages on Lake Como, Stresa and Verbania on Lake Maggiore) and as the opportunities there become more limited international buyers look to neighbouring villages. Where currently there may be traditional Italian homes and many homes in poor condition, the far-sighted international purchaser who buys and modernises first should see others follow over the years and the gain in popularity and appeal will drive prices up very quickly. The opportunity to gain on a 5-10 year view is probably the greatest of all. Potential gain: 30% plus, plus general market price increases.