Piedmont is not in an earthquake zone. The High-Risk areas of Italy are
How much does it cost to buy a house in Piedmont Italy?
Piedmont offers fantastic price opportunities compared to its more popular neighbors like Tuscany, Umbria, the Amalfi Coast, Liguria. Especially in the small towns, villages, and in the country where homes are very affordable.
In July 2018, we bought our 6,000sqft cascina with more than 10 acres of land, two wells, and outbuildings for the equivalent of US$190,000. I bought the house with a friend and we split the cost. When we bought it, it was livable but it needed a heating system, upgraded electrical, minor plumbing repairs, and for us -- lots of cosmetic work. For my half of the house – the downstairs section of 3,200 sqft, -- I spent $55,000 on renovations. We have not done any renovations yet to the exterior of the house. See a breakdown and description of these costs below.
In Piedmont, in the year 2021, you can buy:
What is the housing market like in Piedmont?
Since we started looking in 2016 and up to the current time – January 2021, it is a slow market and thus a buyer’s market in Piedmont. Some properties that were on the market when we were looking are still on the market today. While Covid has not really affected the Italian buyers who are able to travel and view properties, we do expect an uptick of foreign buyers here once travel restrictions are lifted.
What kind of houses does HFNI specialize in finding?
We specialize in finding pre-1920’s, classically Italian houses, which are abundant here in Piedmont. These are characterized by having stone, brick, and or plaster walls, tile roofs, shuttered windows, stone flooring, domed ceilings, frescoes, barrel arches, etc.
The most common of these period houses are:
These were obviously built for farming and for raising livestock, with cropland, barns, hayloft and outbuildings. Many of these are very big as they were designed to house several generations of families.
Generally a bit more elegant than farmhouses, many cascinas were used for growing grapes and making wine. They often have cavernous brick wine cellars beneath the house and many still have the wine presses, the giant oak storage barrels and other wine making equipment. These are also often very large houses designed for multi family living.
Stand alone houses often used as second homes or summer houses for city dwellers. These often have a courtyard and or garden area and are situated in a more private setting.
These are formal, stand-alone houses with courtyards and high-design gardens. In Piedmont, the Liberty style villa is common, characterized by multi faceted facades, columns, pointed window roofs, towers and grand approaches.
These are grand builidings, generally rectangular in shape and of two or three stories with symmetrical rows of windows. Many have portico walkways overlooking formal courtyards, some with a Mediterranean style.
There are many castles dotting the Piedmont hilltops and countryside, some have been turned in to private residences. Features include lookout towers, watchman walkways, turret holes, cannon mounts, carriage entrances and some have drawbridges and moats.
When should I start looking?
We advise our clients to start looking about six to nine months before they are hoping to buy or move.
If you do not have a house finder, you should probably start several years before you want to buy. We looked for three years and spent more than $30,000 making nine trips to Italy before we found our house.
Can I get a loan to buy a house in Italy?
Yes, even as a non-resident. But you will need to get the loan through an Italian bank and the house has to be listed as “habitable” and generally in good condition. Italian banks will loan up to 70% of the price depending on your financial situation. As with everything in Italy, there is a lot of paperwork, requirements and restrictions and the borrowing steps can move slowly. If you can pay cash, the process is a whole lot easier.
Do I need to hire a lawyer when buying a house in Italy.
The simple answer is no, you do not need a lawyer. Some people are more comfortable hiring a lawyer, some are not.
Do I have to be present in Italy to buy a house.
No, you can appoint a Power of Attorney to represent you at the signing of the deed of sale, which must take place in Italy.
Do I need to move to Italy to own a house there?
No. Americans can absolutely buy a property in Italy without moving here.
What are the taxes and fees I have to pay upon purchasing a house?
Below is an example that well represents the fees and commissions for most of the sales we have done to date. The first model is for non-residents and the second model is for residents of Italy. You are a "Resident" of Italy if you have your Permesso di Soggiorno, Permanent Residency or Citizenship. You do not become a "Resident" when you buy a house. Model based on exchange rates @Nov 2019.
What are annual property taxes?
Houses – For non-residents and for luxury and second homes, property taxes vary by locale but generally range from .75% to 1% of the cadastrale value of the house. The cadastrale value of the house is determined by the municipality and based on several factors including size, location, year of construction, and type of property. The cadastrale value is usually lower than the sale price of the home. So if you bought a $250,000 home, and the cadastrale value was set at $200,000, your property taxes could be $2,000 per year.
For residents, there are no annual property taxes on their primary residence.
Land – Land is taxed at 12% of declared value but the declared value of land outside of the urban areas of Piedmont is extremely low, sometimes less than one Euro per m2. The exception to this is land deemed heritage or “valuable” such as vineyards, olive groves or nut trees. We have 5 hectares of land and we pay the current equivalent of $290 total per year in property tax on the land.
How long does the house buying process take?
Once you have found the house and your bid is accepted, the minimum amount of time is 6-8 weeks if there are NO OBSTACLES. The major obstacle is when the house does not match the plans on file with the comune. And 90% of older houses do not match the plans on file with the comune. Another delay could be proving ownership. These delays could add two to three months to the buying process.
What if I want to buy a property and rent it out for part of the year.
Of course this is absolutely possible and quite easy to do on any of the online rental services. The summer months bring robust tourism throughout Piedmont, even in the smaller villages and countryside.
Once I find the house I want to buy, what is the buying process?
Bidding – As with anywhere, the bidding process is dependent on whether it’s a buyer’s or a seller’s market as well as the urgency of the seller. In Piedmont, a not yet famous area Italy, it’s definitely a buyers market. Houses move slowly here, To submit a bid, you give an informal verbal or written offer to the agent or owner. This informal offer is accepted or negotiated, or rejected.
Sale Contract -- Once the offer is accepted, the sales agent prepares the sales contract known as the compromesso. This is a legally binding contract that commits both parties to the terms and conditions agreed to. It stipulates the main details of the transaction and specifies a future date whereby both parties agree to meet for the signing of the deed of sale. At this stage, a deposit of at least 10 percent must be made. This deposit is non-refundable for the buyer and double refundable if the seller pulls out or if there are title problems that prohibit the sale.
Notaio -- The buyer then engages a Notaio, a real estate transaction lawyer who conducts the title clearance, writes and registers the deeds and performs and other legal formalities. The Notaio works for both parties but specifically protects the position and title accuracy of the buyer.
Inspections – Unless you are buying with a loan from an Italian bank, there are no house inspections required in Italy.
However, we strongly advise clients to hire a Geometra before making an offer to provide a professional opinion on the condition of the house, costs for renovations, adherence to documents on file with the local planning commission. Also to research the house and location at the comune for undesirables such as landslide dangers, fault lines, etc. More on Geometras below
Signing of the Deed of Sale – This is done at the notaio’s office with both parties present – the buyer can grant another party Power of Attorney to attend in their stead. At this meeting, the notaio reads the deed, every word, in Italian. By this point all monies due between buyer and seller and notaio would have been paid. After the reading, all parties sign the deed, the notaio adds their seal, and the buyer is the new owner.
Do I need to hire a Geometra? What do they do?
A geometra is a surveyor, inspector, contractor and junior architect rolled into one. The main reasons to hire a geometra before you buy are:
1) to get an upfront professional opinion on the conformity of the house to the plans on file with local officials
2) to get an opinion on the structure and soundness of the house before you make an offer
3) to get an estimate of the costs to repair or renovate
4) to get an estimate of the costs to bring the house up to code.
A geometra can also be the person who is your contractor for work done after the purchase. If you are doing plan or structural changes or renovations, by all means, hire a geometra or an architect. If you try and do anything without submitting proper plans the city or commune will catch up to you and will make your life difficult.
The costs and process that I describe below are based on my renovation, using exchange rates at that time (August-November 2018). I did not do any structural changes. As such I did not hire a geometra or architect. The only work that required plans was the electrical work.
I break my reno costs down by per room average. The six rooms I renovated average 215sqf.
Please know that I would consider my renovation cost per M2 or sqft to be at the low end of the scale. Mine was a frugal, basic renovation. I did as much of the work myself as I could. I did not do any structural changes. I did not weatherproof the house, I did not add insulating elements to the house. I did not add a house wide heating "system", I installed heating elements to create warm zones. I did not move plumbing. But I was able to turn a "habitable" house into a liveable and enjoyable house.
I bought the house with a friend and we each occupy about 3,200 sqft. For my portion of the house, the downstairs portion, I spent the equivalent of US$55,000 renovating seven rooms, or about US$17.34 per sqft.
I am a frugal person but I believe in using quality materials and I renovated my house using either original elements or materials that can be gotten new, that are the same as those that would have been used when the house was built (circa 1900). For instance, stone, terra cotta, brick, and cementini elements for floors and walls -- new or reclaimed, reclaimed wood for the floors.
There is no drywall in my house, all of the walls are stone or brick, some are exposed stone and some have a plaster coat. All of the doors are original hardwood. All of the windows are wood – most are original but a few had to be replaced.
So the costs that I outline are the basic costs for renovating a house using original or new elements and standards that would have been used in 1900.
I did some of the work myself - those tasks that I was able to do – I laid the reclaimed wood flooring, I installed a cementini kitchen backsplash, I prepped walls for the plasterers, I dug some of the floor trenches for electrical wiring.
My reno included the following:
Walls and Ceilings – All of the walls and all of the ceilings in my rooms needed repair and finishing. I hired a muratore (mason worker, stone worker, walls, ceilings, and more) to redo the walls and ceilings in six large rooms. Half of those rooms were plastered and this required repairing cracks and holes, patching, and re-plastering. The other half were stone walls, once used as stables, now covered in cement. For these, I had my muratore chip off and sandblast the cement to reveal the original stone and brick walls underneath.
The total I spent on walls and ceilings for six rooms was US$9,246 or $1,541 per room.
Floors – When we bought the house, most of my floors were 1970’s ceramic tile. I redid three floors, each with an average size of 215sqft (20m2) per room. In two of the rooms I laid the reclaimed wood myself and for the third room, I hired a muratore to lay reclaimed terra cotta tiles. Reclaimed flooring starts at about €45 per square meter (m2) or about $4.93 per sqft. You can buy new terra floor cotta tiles, made probably exactly the same way as they were 100 years ago and with the same materials, for €25/m2 or about $2.74/sqft.
The total I spent on flooring, materials, and some installation was $4,623 or US$1,541 per 215sqft room.
Heating –Many of the old houses that you can buy in Italy have been continually lived in and as such, they already have heating systems. Our house was not lived in for 30 years and prior to that had been used as a summer home for many years. The only heating sources that existed were open fireplaces. The ceilings are about ten feet high. Most of the doors and windows are original, meaning they are not the most efficient for heat retention. As the house is quite large and had never been plumbed for steam heat, I decided to create warm zones instead of installing a centralized system or trying to have a solution to heat my whole section. I hired a muratore to install two enclosed wood burning fireplaces and one pellet stove. For all of these, I was able to use existing and functional chimneys.
The total I spent on heating was US$13,500 for six rooms or US$2,257 per room.
Electrical – The electrical system in the house was ancient, one source line servicing everything, extension cord lighting from room to room, and nothing was grounded.
I hired an electrician to redo all of my electrical and paid US$9,300 for six rooms or US$1,556 per room.
Plumbing – There are not that many water sources in my portion of the house, the kitchen, bathroom, and a few hose taps outside. My drain from the kitchen to the main line 30 feet outside was completely clogged with tree roots. I hired a plumber to dig up and replace the drain pipe and to install a new kitchen sink.
The total I paid for this plumbing was US$1,783. I do not include any bathroom plumbing here as the bathroom is its own category.
Bathroom – I redid my bathroom entirely by hiring a plumber to move my sink and my toilet and re-plumb and expand my shower. I hired a muratore to tile the walls some of the walls with local stone, to re-plaster and to lay reclaimed stone flooring that I bought.
My bathroom reno cost US$6,325.
Is it easy to find workers to renovate a house?
If you already know people who live here, it is much easier to find contractors and other professionals through recommendations. If not, ask your sales agent or notaio for recommendations when you buy your house, or ask a neighbor, or the owner of the local café for recommendations.
If you are doing a big job, or one that requires several contractors – electrician, plumber, heating, muratore, we would recommend you hire a geometra to oversee the work and the workers. We always advise that you or someone you trust be here, in Italy, while work is being done on your house.
Many people think of Italy as an eternally warm and sunny place, Most of Italy lies in a temperate zone with four seasons. On the northern border exists the Alps and the Dolomites where the winters are quite cold and snowy. The average year-round temperatures get warmer the farther south you go and you find the warmest average temps in Sicily. Since I have been living in Piedmont, in the Milan- Turn – Genoa latitude, it rarely gets below freezing during the day in the winter. The summers can get hot and the spring and fall are mild. We, like most people in Piedmont, do not have air conditioning. The stone houses stay deliciously cool in the summer even on the hottest days. But they also stay cool in the winter!
If you buy in the country – how far is it to the nearest town or market or hospital or amenities?
We live “in the country”. But I could walk down my hill and be at a café in the center of my town in 10 minutes. In a car, I could drive to any one of seven hilltop towns -- with banks, pharmacies, gas stations, cafes, restaurants, etc., -- within 10 minutes. There are small grocery stores 5 minutes by car and a very good large grocery store 10 minutes by car. In 20 minutes, I could be in a very cute, quaint small city, and in 30 minutes I can be in a large city with excellent train service anywhere I want to go. There are several very good hospitals within a 20-30 minute drive.
This is what it is like living almost anywhere in Piedmont. In some of the more mountainous regions – in the Apennines to the South and the Dolomites to the North, some “in the country” residences might be more remote.
If I live in Italy, how much do I have to pay in income taxes?
As in the U.S., every person and every tax bracket is different and this is definitely a question for an accountant.. If you are a citizen of the U.S. and a resident in Italy, you must pay taxes to both countries. But you do not pay double the amount. Generally, with dual taxation breaks from both countries, the yearly taxes you pay to both countries combined equals the same amount you would only have paid in the U.S.
If I own a house in Italy, am I a “Resident of Italy”?
You are a “Resident of Italy” when you have received a long-term visa, moved here, applied for and received your Permesso di Soggiorno, Permanent Residency (which you can apply for after having your Permesso di Soggiorno for five continuous years) or Citizenship (which you can apply for after having your Permanent Residency for five continuous years). We have outlined this process in detail in our YouTube video How To Move To Italy - A Definitive Guide.
If you own a house here or have a long-term rental agreement but you do not live here full time and you have not gone through the Resident of Italy process above, you are not a Resident of Italy. You have an address in Italy, you have a “residence” in Italy but you are not a “Resident” of Italy. Do not confuse these when you hear of advantages of being a Resident of Italy, such as reduced sales tax on buying a property, no annual sales tax on a primary residence, healthcare opportunities, etc.
What about Health Care In Italy?
Healthcare in Italy is nationalized and consistently ranks as one of the top healthcare systems in the World. It is governed by the National Health Service and run by the Servizio Sanitario Nazionale on the local level. It includes both public and private care providers.
For a non-resident – that is someone who does not have a Permesso di Soggiorno or Permanent Residency or Citizenship, you would have to get private health insurance. There are myriad agencies offering private health insurance to ex-pats in Italy. These companies are easy to find, research and compare online. Many ex-pats choose to buy a private coverage policy before they move and to keep that policy after they move, either forever or until they can get into the national healthcare system (with residency) and feel comfortable with the coverage that system offers.
Most citizens of Italy get general free care through the National Health Service. A citizen can also and at anytime choose a private doctor or service that they would pay for directly.
A Resident of Italy -- someone who has been granted Permesso di Soggiorno or Permanent Residency -- can enroll in the national system or use private providers.
For Residents, there is an annual fee to enroll in the national system, which is based on income. I don’t know anyone who pays more than $350 per month for the National Healthcare Service.
How much crime is there in Piedmont Italy?
Where I live and travel everyday, in and around the towns and villages, crime is not an issue. Sure, I lock my car doors and my house doors but it is not a factor that I worry about. In the three-plus years that I have lived here, I have heard of one attempted house break-in. The guns that people own are used for hunting, not shooting people. Even in the cities in Piedmont, you don't read or hear about much person-to-person violence.
The mafia does not exist in the North and is, in fact dwindling in the South with fewer than 100 crimes associated to organized crime per year.
Here are my average fixed monthly costs of living in Piedmont and how they compare to my costs living in Long Beach in the U.S.
I was able to liquidate my assets in the U.S. and use the money to buy my house in Italy. This reduced my monthly housing cost to almost nothing.
I am a resident of Italy, which means I pay no property taxes on my house (my primary residence), very low property taxes on my land and I pay a very modest amount for health coverage. If you are not a resident, add in property taxes (see above) and health coverage, which you would need to get from a private insurer.
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