It has been an exceptionally challenging year for everyone. Please read on for our annual review on how the property market has been and what you might expect in 2021.
What a year that was!
As 2020 draws to a close every one of our clients has faced considerable upheaval from the Covid pandemic and we look forward with optimism to considerably greater freedom to travel in 2021 and a return to normality.
Once Covid arrived in Italy, the property market on Lake Como changed immediately; the demand for independent villas that would provide a Covid-secure bolthole away from home has been considerable and clients have been very determined to buy. In fact, the number of villas purchased this year has been twice the level of any year in the preceding decade. And this despite two-thirds of the usual buying nationalities being largely absent. Those outside Europe were largely unable or disinclined to spend time in Italy; the clients seeking properties were mostly from Europe.
There have also been a number of buyers who know Lake Como well who decided to buy without visiting in person. They were sure about location and with a combination of confidence in Ultissimo and plentiful video footage some clients bagged their ideal home without setting foot in Italy. The use of a power of attorney came into its own this year.
Many of our clients who already own a home on Lake Como have managed to squeeze in a visit this year and some others have been able to purchase a home in 2020 by navigating neatly through travel restrictions when windows of opportunity have presented themselves. Others have been understandably cautious about travelling; staying at home has been their preference.
Our own experience has been that Lake Como has felt very safe compared to the UK. Clients who spent time on Como have been reassured by the measures in place. Restaurants and bars have alternated between being open until 6pm and being on a takeaway basis only, as measures have varied, and outdoor dining is always a joy. Viewing a property whilst wearing a facemask has become strangely normal!
2020 brought upon us a great tragedy. Sarah, who looked after so many of our clients over the past decade, died unexpectedly on 16 October at her home in Argegno. She was a key driver in our business, particularly since moving permanently to Argegno in 2017. The warm messages that came from numerous clients around the world to say how Sarah had transformed their lives were a great comfort in the bleakest of times.
Whilst holding Sarah dear, and treasuring the endless stream of happy memories, her sheer energy and drive and her radiant personality, we have had to adapt quickly. Ultissimo has drawn in additional resources and created a solid plan in order to ensure continued support for our clients now and in the future. We will continue with the passion and focus Sarah always brought and we remain committed to ensuring that our clients always receive the attention and support that they expect from Ultissimo.
And what is the outlook for 2021?
2021 is hard to predict. For the moment travel to Italy is actively discouraged, but with vaccination programmes now underway and warmer weather apparently a natural suppressor of transmission we are expecting 2021 to be increasingly busy from Easter onwards. We have a significant number of clients who deferred their planned visit and time spent sitting at home has made the prospect of a Lake Como home all the more appealing.
Personally, I am wanting to ski in Italy – the early snow has been amazing and I cannot wait for the ski lifts to open. I drove back to the UK for Christmas, have served my 14 days of quarantine, and long to be back on Lake Como. Fortunately it is straightforward to overcome the new hurdles of driving back from post-Brexit Britain with Hugo, the Ultissimo dog who now requires an animal health certificate to travel into the EU! I just need to wait for France to permit travellers from the UK and it looks as though I should be back on Como at some point in the second half of January.
There is likely to be some reduction in the choice of villas available in 2021, given the number that changed hands in 2020. But with our usual access to the entire market (including opportunities which are off-market) we will always find plenty of attractive opportunities for our clients.
Once travel is permitted freely there will be a significant number of buyers hunting for their ideal home on Lake Como. Whether prices will rise with the shift in the balance between supply and demand remains to be seen, but what is for sure is that significant discounts on sensibly-priced properties will remain a rarity. Those who delay in making a purchase offer are likely to find that someone else will jump in. We saw plenty of this in the past 9 months as European buyers proved to be in a decisive mood.
We are certain that renovation projects will be in vogue again for our clients who buy properties in 2021. We have one major lakefront project completing in the middle of this year, another which will be starting, and several of the more usual projects to add a pool or adjust the internal layout of a villa, to finish the fit-out of newly constructed apartments or to upgrade kitchens and bathrooms and add some modern interior touches. This tends to generate a good return on investment and, more importantly, provides clients with an ideal home – the location is right and the property attuned to personal style.
Our message is unchanged, whatever the situation. We are here and ready to help you whenever the time is right for you.
In the meantime, we send our best wishes for 2021. Stay safe, and we look forward to seeing many of you in the coming year.