So many foreigners see how cheap houses are in Italy, particularly in Calabria, and they jump on buying a home, sometimes sight unseen.
I strongly advise AGAINST doing this, but let me explain my reasoning.
1. You Don't Know the Area
It may sound idyllic to live in a quaint little village with a population of a couple hundred people on paper, but reality may be quite different for you.
You might envision walking everywhere in your new town, but upon arrival find out that the grocery store that appeared on Google Maps is actually shut down and that you would need to drive to buy your groceries. Or that the short distance to the commercial area is along a busy highway.
I rented my home in Montepaone after a quick week to check out the town. In general, it was fine, but after living there for several months, I hated being in the suburbs and not within walking distance of anything I wanted to walk to. I also didn't like the lack of...soul. For me, I want to live in a town that feels active and alive, and Montepaone didn't feel that way for me. Soverato, on the other hand, does. So I'm so glad I didn't buy my house in Montepaone!
2. That €1 House Deal Comes with Strings
We've all seen articles about those houses for sale in remote Italian villages for €1. While it may sound like a fantastic deal, you'll still have to deal with heavy renovations (in another language and in a culture that often takes a lot longer to complete a renovation project than Americans want it to!).
And the towns that are promoting these houses are often close to abandoned. You may have few, if any, neighbors. If you're looking to get to know the locals, these houses may make it hard to do so.
3. Prices Are Often Higher for Foreigners
Italians aren't stupid. They know foreigners can afford to pay more for their houses, and so they'll sometimes inflate the prices if they know the buyers are from another country. It may seem like no big deal to buy a villa for €100,000, but if an Italian wouldn't pay more than €50,000 for it, you're getting robbed.
Italians often inherit homes and end up with one or more empty houses they'd be glad to get off their hands. I find that by getting to know people, you can often hear about homes for sale, and if you know the right people, you might even score one at a discount. But this comes with you moving here first and becoming a part of the community.
4. Selling It Later May Be Hard
As I said, there's a surplus of empty houses in Italy, particularly in Calabria. If you're thinking you'll buy a house in Italy, clean it up, and then sell it in a few years, you might be shocked to find that you can't sell it. I say when you're ready to buy a home, be ready to own it for the rest of your life.
My Alternative to Buying a House in Italy
Even if you can afford to buy a giant palazzo in the center of town, if you haven't yet moved to Italy, my advice is this: rent a house for several months or even a year.
This gives you time to get accustomed to the town or city you're in. Remember, as a new expat, you will go through a range of emotions as you adjust to your new life, so while you might have stars in your eyes when you first move, a few months later, you may see the area in a completely different light.
Renting gives you the ultimate flexibility to change your mind.
You might, for example, realize that your chosen town is far too cold in the winter for your blood, and so you might decide to move further south (but take it from me: it's cold, windy, and rainy down here too!).
Or you might, like me, rent an enormous house because you can afford it, and then realize you'd be happier with something smaller.
If you're renting, you can simply try something different the next time around.
Also, renting gives you time to put down roots in the community and sniff out the perfect place to buy later. The owner of the apartment I'm renting in Soverato may want to sell, and I love that this year of renting allows me to spot all the issues so I can make an informed decision should I decide to buy it.
I know it's exciting to see properties so affordable in Italy, but take it from me: it's better to go piano piano with the decision to commit to buying a home in Itay.