You Could Buy a House for 1 Euro in Italy -- With a Catch

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  • Italian local authorities are offering homes at the cost of 1 euro in an effort to revive rural areas.
  • Buyers will need to cover the legal and renovation costs, which can be costly.
  • Moving abroad can carry headaches in terms of visas, taxes, and insurance.

Always dreamed of sun-drenched days in Italy? This could be your chance.

Spiraling living costs, remote working, and a strong dollar all play a part in an interesting new home-buying trend. More and more Americans are considering living abroad, and Europe has caught their attention. According to Sotheby’s International Realty, countries like Portugal, Italy, and France are increasingly popular with U.S. home buyers.

Average home prices in the U.S. increased by 30% from 2020 to 2022, making it even harder for potential buyers to purchase their first home. Property prices have also increased in Europe in recent years. But there are still bargains to be had for those willing to live in a new country and learn a new language. Particularly in Italy, where you really can buy a house for a single euro.

Italy's 1 euro houses

Parts of rural Italy have a problem: Many homes have been abandoned because young people are leaving villages in favor of towns and cities. Some elderly Italians have bequeathed properties to local government authorities rather than relatives. In other cases, property owners no longer want to pay taxes on a dilapidated second home.

Rather than selling the properties at full price, the one euro price tag is an attempt to breathe new life into these rural areas. Authorities want to combat depopulation, preserve architectural heritage, and stimulate their economies -- but they can't afford the cost of refurbishments. Which is where the catch comes in. You can buy a property for 1 euro, but you need to pay for the legal and renovation costs.

All the 1 euro properties on the market need a lot of work. Rules vary by region, but generally home buyers will have one year (sometimes less) after they buy the property to submit a restoration plan. The work will usually need to be completed within three years of purchase. Home buyers also need to pay a guarantee they will carry out the works with a payment of between 1,000 and 10,000 euros. The money gets returned once the renovation is done. In some cases, you may also need to live in the property once it's completed.

Should you buy a 1 euro house?

Given that an average home in the U.S. will set you back $428,700, it's easy to understand the appeal of a 1 euro home (about $0.95 at time of writing). However, moving to rural Italy is not a decision to take lightly. Not only would you be in another country, you'd also be in a remote area that may not have strong wifi connections or many shops or amenities.

You'll also need to have money to carry out the refurbishment, which The Independent estimates at around 20,000-50,000 euros (roughly $19,000 - $48,000). This will be more challenging if you don't speak Italian and don't have any local connections.

Other factors to consider are visas and taxes. If you don't have Italian residency, you'll need to understand the visa requirements, particularly if you want to stay there long term. All American citizens are required to file a tax return in the U.S., even if they live abroad, but there are provisions in place to avoid double taxation.

If you're planning to work remotely, bear in mind the time difference and potential for slow (or even nonexistent) internet connections. Moving to another country is not the same as moving to a lower-cost state, especially if you might need to go to the occasional in-person meeting. Supervising -- or doing -- building work can also be a full-time job, so if you're a freelancer you may only be able to work reduced hours while you're remodeling your Italian idyll.

Finally, the U.S. dollar is extremely strong now, but that may not last forever. You may also need to factor in the cost of moving money abroad, health insurance, and trips home to visit family and friends. A credit card that doesn't charge foreign fees is a must.

There are low-cost housing opportunities in the U.S. too

Italy is not the only country that wants to stimulate its rural areas. In fact, there may be affordable ways to get on the property ladder closer to home. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development housing programs offer low income families and individuals loans and down payment assistance towards properties in certain areas. Check out our list of best USDA mortgage lenders for more info. You're less likely to find olive groves and pasta grannies, but it may be a more practical option.

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