Dear All, we (scotisch/german) are

stefan Image
12/16/2015 - 03:42

Dear All, we (scottish/german) are looking into buying an old piemont farmhouse and have one house/cascinale on the radar. looking at the plans the estateagent send me, I can see that all the room wich where lived in (kitchen, dining, sitting ans bedrooms) are all 2,40 to 2,50 meters high. Does this mean we would not be able to use those rooms because they are below the minimum of 2,7m?the estatagent wrote: "the rule of 2.70 m in height only applies to new construction . For buildings constructed before 1967, this rule not exist."has anybody got any info or experience on that issue?thanks  stefan  



A house is a house is a house.  If it were built before the bulding laws were passed, it doesnt mean it isnt a house any more.  The estate agent is largely right.   If the rooms have natural light, ventilation but are lower than the new requirements, they are still rooms - and any way nobbody can stop you sleeping in a cupboard if you want to - you just cant sell it as a double bedroom if its a hole under the stairs.  Dont worry you're fine.

Modicasa is correct.However, I was informed that if you 'modify' an old building and want to convert rooms that were not habitable [such as cellars, store rooms etc] into habitable rooms, they will need to meet current requirements - unless your Comune will allow otherwise

alan - thanks for your answer too. so it´ll be fine. the cascinale in question has 4 habitable rooms with 2,40 height - but then also the fienile... with 4-5meters height. at some stage we probably want to convert those rooms - so hight wont be a problem there. 

Alan H - a different question though - yes-  if you are converting 'non rooms' into rooms, then even though the house is old, it must still meet requirements.  Room rooms (if you get my drift) are always ok.  Height is one thing, natural light and window size is the other main thing.  Evevrything else is negotiable.  Being Italy its alla game of words.  As far as renting goes, there will be no problem, unless you are hoping to list your house with the 'official' holiday homes at teh AAPIT in which case the list of things you must have is never ending.  But very few people bother nowadays as it is no longer required.    

so I guess from the questions of room-height it seems to be ok.maybe somebody can also give me their advice or interpretation on this: the estate agent wrote to me, saying: "...Kitchen , living room, two bedrooms and a bathroom are ok (habitable) ; former barn , local clearing and warehouses are to be restored .The roof it's ok but is better to renovated."Does this translate into: the roof has to be replaced? 

"....if your funds run to it...."there might be the problem. a 200qm new roof. I suppose we would have to get somebody to have a good look at the beams, wood and all that. Since we would mostly only be using the house as a holidayplace (in the next years) during the 3 warmer seasons insulation might not urgent. but of course you are right: no point of doing the roof and not getting the insulation done at the same time.

""....if your funds run to it...."there might be the problem. a 200qm new roof."This year I renewed the roof on my holiday home - so perhaps can offer some advice.1.  Do you need to do it?  Personally, as long as there are no leaks, I wouldn't bother.  My place had only a lathe and tile roof, that had lasted well, but finally gave up the ghost this year2.  Insulation.  Best applied when having a new roof [Not sure you would be allowed by your Comune {you'll need their permission for a new roof} not to include insulation].  However, we lasted very well in our holiday home [at 600m above sea level] in all weathers with log fires and central heating.  Another thing to check is what your ceiling is made of.  Ours were 100+mm of concrete, which helped insulate the rooms.  Some people just lay insulation board on top of the concrete as a cheap way of insulating iuntil anew roof is required.3.  Cost.  The basic cost for a new roof [excluding the main beams that were retained] was Euros85/m2 of roof.  However, adding in VAT [Lower Rate] and scaffolding, insurances etc etc., the cost worked out at about Euros135/m2.  This was for boarding out the roof completely, insulation boarding above, covering it with weatherproof fabric, lathes and new tiles.  Carried out by a local builder [always use one, it keeps the locals happy] and took about 2 weeks. Hope this helps Alan

great and very usefull information - thanks a lot!personaly I belive in not fixing something thats isn´t brocken too.Who would we best ask to ckeck the state of the roof - does the geometer do this?the estate-agent is a geometer as well (I think) but he might be a bit biased.

Hi Stefan,I am just seeing your conversation now. I am Irish and live with my Italian wife in Milan. We are both architects and some years ago we renovated a very old house for ourselves in a place called Calamandrana - very close to Nizza Monferrato. We go there often and really like the area – famous for its wine and food.I can also confirm that Modicasa and  Alan h have been feeding you good information.The key document is the cadaster or catasto in Italian. It is a Land Register of the property showing the extent, value, and ownership of the property for taxation, (introduced many centuries ago in the 1400’s). This document comprises of written information and also annotated plans, and is crucial to the buying and selling process, probably your estate agent has sent you the catasto plans already. Anyway once a room is described as habitable in this register, it officially is habitable for all purposes.By the way, Italy is full of ancient buildings used as hotel and guest accommodation that have rooms with less than 2.7 head room. As mentioned by your estate agent the 1967 regulation was introduced to guarantee minimum spatial, natural ventilation and daylighting standards for health and hygiene reasons for new constructions.The roof has probably been identified as an element to refurbish sooner rather than later, because if the roof is old there is more of a risk that the entire house and its contents are at risk of rain damage, whereas if the roof is sound the whole house is safe.  When one refurbishes a roof it is best done over an empty house, as there is a risk that in the days or weeks that the roof is temporarily removed storm damage can occur – but as Alan H points out it is also possible to re-roof an inhabited house, but it is hardily convenient.When you refurbish the stable and warehouse you need to request a Planning change of use from  Stable / Warehouse to Habitable accommodation – you need to demonstrate the minimum height and that the window sizes permit the required natural ventilation and daylighting. There may be “Oneri di Urbanizzazone ” charges to pay to the Local Authority, which are Planning and Infrastructure costs.Anyway if you are in the area of Nizza Monferrato soon let us know and we could possibly meet up. We will be there over the New Year period. All the best Conor

In reply to by Ronco

Hi Conor, we were trying to see the house in question between the years - but finding enough time at the moment isn´t easy. and the agents office is closed first week of January. When are you going to be in the area?thanks for your kind offerstefan

In reply to by stefan

Hi Stefan,Me and my family (two small kids) will be in our Calamandrana House from 28th December 2015 until the 2nd / 3rd January 2016.We live in Milan and it is not far to travel to the house so we are often there at weekends.Let us know when you are able to come to visit area and the house. It would be nice to meet you and a pleasure to introduce our favourite aspects of the area - however I undestand that you are only at preliminary stages and have not comitted to the house yet.  All the best, Conor

Checking the roof.If you ask a builder/architect or geometra, they'll almost certainly always say the roof needs renewing.  However, the acid test, as far as I am concerned, is "Does it leak?".Preferably when it is raining, get up into the loft space [there should be a trapdoor somewhere] and look for signs of water getting in. 

  • If none is, don't worry  - but check again every few months.
  • If its a cracked or broken tile - just replace it - if there is only laths and tiles, you can replace tiles from inside the loft. [No spare? - temporary repair is tape broken tile together, put in a plastic bag, and slide back into place
  • If its running down chimneys etc - you flashing is not working - you can get this replaced, but its time to think about a full renewal - ask a builder for a quote just to renew flashings
  • If there is major structural failure up there - beams sagging, several lathes/tiles missing etc - get a new roof.  Have it done in teh Summer [June/July is usally good for weather.]

Old roofs do last a long time - take our time in deciding what to do.  If all else fails, talk to a localbuilder or geometra. [I avoid architects - I don't trust them] Good Luck

Hi All, I have just read Alan h's comment. I would like to avoid descending into "kids playground slanging match".But I must say that as an Architect I obviously find Alan's comment about not trusting architects very offensive, unqualified  and imbalanced.Peace and Love.

"But I must say that as an Architect I obviously find Alan's comment about not trusting architects very offensive, unqualified and imbalanced" Sorry, no offence intended - it comes from being a Chartered Civil Engineer, who's University Lecturers [many many years ago, in the last Millenium] were quite disparaging about the engineering abilities of Architects. - I'm sure its all changed now .................I tend to use Architects when I'm looking for something that looks good, but for practicability, I prefer Geometras [in Italy] and builders.  Indeed, when I did a major refurb/extension for my UK home [18th Century stone cottage], I employed an Architect to design it and get Planning approvals and then I self built and, with the tradesmen, changed most internal details, materials and finishes etc, but retained the Architect designed exterior - so I got beauty and practicabilityHorses for Courses really

I think this is the way we are going to tackle the roof too - if we end up bying this house. ".... [I avoid architects - I don't trust them]...." well - I am an architecture photographer - if I would avoid architects, I wouldn´t be able to buy a house in the first place ;-)thanks again to all of you for your very helpfull and most appreciated commentsstefan  

Stefan, What part of Piemonte are you looking to buy in? My holiday place is on the Northern edge Piemonte in the Lake Orta area, and I can heartily recommend the area - Lakes and Mountains, what could be better? Alan 

In reply to by alan h

Hi Alan,we spend one holiday in the Cannobio Area (Gurro...) Years ago - I liked it - my wife couldnt deal with the winding roads up in the hills  - (at the corners she had to get out of the land rover and walk beside it :-)Nearer to the lake(s) might be Ok for her though!Probably one of the reasons she like the Monferrato area - only very little and comfortable hills!We have spend most of our holidays in various Parts of Italy - particuarly Sicilia. But for a Holidayhouse we prefer somewhere one can also drive to in a day (Its about 8 hours for us from Frankfurt) - in case Ryanair changes Airports.Also a medium to middle size town/city in an hours drive ist vital for wife+doughters (shops, markets...). So Monferrato with Alba, Asti and, further away, Torino and Milano ticks a lot of boxes. Plus its (still) relatively affordable und not stefan  

When buying our house in Piemonte (we live in Merana, just on the border with Liguria), we had the same questions as we wanted to start an agriturismo with holiday apartments in rooms with ceilings not heigher then 2m40, and as you allready have concluded from what is said above, we didn't have any troubles with it as it is an old building. Even rooms that weren't officially rooms but storage spaces with these heights were converted into rental apartments and ufficially rented out.

There are indeed a lot of rules, especially if you want to renovate to ufficially rent out your place, but a good geometra or architect can inform you about those. And if needed we can always help you on your way with adresses of geometra, architects and builders.

thanks Nicolas,good to hear!in your oppinion - how easy is it to rent appartments out in Piemont?we are not wanting to do it "professionaly" - but just to keep the house lifed in when we are not there - and hopefully some of the money might help to offset against the running costs (tax...).stefan 

It depends. If you make a website and then wait for guests to find you : difficult !
But, if you have a good plan, you believe in your project and you manage to share it with the world through different channels (on line and off line) it's a different story. There is still growth potential for tourism in Piemonte.

As consultants we're following several clients who are renovating (or have renovated) properties for rental and as we are renting out apartments too we're able to help them decide on target groups, kind of rental accomodation, type of extra services to provide ...

If you just think : let's buy a house we like and let's make something of it we like ... that is probably not enough. You need at least an idea of who you want to attract and how you will manage it. Because, we're not overrun yet by tourist accomodations, but you will not be the only one, so you need to stand out or at least provide something attractive to potential guests.

Hi stefan 5 years ago my husband and I bought a rather large run down farmhouse in a small village outside Nizza. I will  start by saying we must have been crazy as we gave up our comfortable lifestyle in the Uk to move here and set about renovating . We spoke little Italian even though my husband( who by the way is scottish) has Italian parents.Unfortunately due to the credit crunch we failed to raise the sort of funds on selling our business of which we had hoped. So we had a huge task before us on a small budget. we also had absolutely no building experience. It has been a long journey but it has been the best time of our lives and we have no regrets, we have lived in our farmhouse throughout the building stages and are a mine of information. We had very few english speaking people in this area to help us and basically we learnt most things by experience. I have to say one of the biggest pieces of advice I can give is speak the language it opens all the doors.We would like to help you. We have a little expat group which we have set up, we meet in bars and exchange info etc. I am sure you would find this interesting it is multinational. As long as they can converse in English.  I do have a blog site but it is in early beginnings as I am having a few problems with wordpress. I have hundreds of stories to share .The other bit of advice I have is look around there are plenty of houses for sale I know of quite a few good buys. We looked at 26 but bought no 24. It is amazing how your want list changes with viewing. Also watch out for any on the top of a hill or close to a hill it is an area prone to land slides when we get rain of course, which at the moment is in short supply. I am unsure how you can get in touch on this site - maybe my blog site the way we have no other vested interest than to help another expat work through the minefield.  Good luck Julia 

In reply to by julia G.

Hi Julia,I am originally from Belfast and now live in Milan and 10 years ago refurbished a Cascina in San Vito, Calamandrana, not far from Nizza,  have been coming to the house at weekends and July - I had no idea that there is an expat community in the area - how can I meet up with you? All the best, Conor

In reply to by julia G.

Hallo Julia,thank you very much for your comment. And I realy enjoyed reading the start of your blog and look foreward to the other stories. I can already see some similarities. Its my wife thats scottish and I have spend a lot of my youth in Wales. By the way: your farmhouse look absolutely lovely -  pretty much how I picture my ideal choice of house and situation (perhaps for us a wee bit smaller since it would only be our holiday house for the coming years) . and good to hear that there is a little international community in the area. I know that the the abilty to speak italian is - of course - of vital importance - but our´s isn´t there just yet. by for now - have to make the dinner, but I will write more later on.all the beststefan   

In reply to by julia G.

Hi Julia,I hope you (and everybody else here!!!) have had a merry christmas and a good start into the new year!The house we have been looking into (with the very kind help of Conor, who localy checked the house out for us) doesn´t appear to be as perfect, as we hoped (lots of work, obstructed view, ownership difficulties...) and since you said you know of some good property, I was wondering If you could somehow point me in the right direction. are they viewable online?thanks and best whishes for the new yearstefan

In reply to by stefan

Hi Stefan,

If you need some professional help in finding a property in Piemonte, we would be very happy to help you find it. We’re not a typical Italian real estate agency because we always work for the buyer alone and not both parties. The houses you see on our website ( are offered for sale by other agencies with which we regularly collaborate, but in case you want to buy one of these we work as following :
Instead of asking 3 – 4% commission to each party (seller and buyer), we only ask the buyer an hourly rate for the work we do as real estate consultant (starting from the first contact where you decide if you want to work with us or not) + a bonus when we realise a discount on the price (for example : if you buy a house for 360 000 euro instead of the 400 000 euro that were asked, you win 40 000 euros and we get 10% of this, which is 4 000 euro.).

For us, our method seems more logical as you will have the security we’re as motivated as you are to get the price as low as possible. And it is also more motivating to work for clients that are really serious because they pay us from the beginning, so for them our method is only interesting if they end up buying a house, otherwise they have thrown their money away for nothing.

Mail us for more information :

In reply to by stefan

Hi StefanThankyou for the best wishes , yes there are many properties for sale here and we can certainly point you in the right directions. My advice is to come over and stay around Nizza, there are many agents and  private vendors here  and many of the geometras and builders know of properties for sale.. If you would like to contact me through my blog site and send a message then i will have your e-mail address and be able to send you more useful information.How about this for a coincedence a couple of days after our last message we went to a pizzeria in Nizza with a couple of friends when lo and behold we met Conor and his family who were sitting at the next table. He recognised me from my blog.I am still struggling to get wordpress working I can't download photos or documents. Once i have overcome this problem I will be posting numerous stories about our adventure. - you have chosen a very beautiful and untouched part of Italy. Cheers Stefan

Hi ConorI can't  boast to have an expat community here in fact we are a very small group there are three permanent couples and 4 with holiday homes but we are forever expanding and happy to meet new faces.The guys meet at Mombercelli - Bar Roma on a wednesday evening from 6.00pm - 7.30 pm .It is just a social apperitivo to exchange info, etc.Nobody is Irish but we do know of an Irish couple who live nearby but unfortunately we have not met up with them yet. One of the group does go cycling with them.I note that you are from calamandrana - is that Alto because a few yers ago we dined in a rather unusual little restaurant on the top square the people were lovely cooked several courses from a kitchen the size of a pantry - all for 15 euros per person ( with wine included) - we have returned many times but never find it to be open. Are you in that area and if so does it still exist.We live in Belveglio,  certainly we would be happy to meet up and are often in Nizza. Regards julia  

In reply to by julia G.

Hi Julia, This Wednesday we will be in Calamandrana, I will try and make it to Bar Roma. We are in Frazione San Vito which is down the hill a bit from Calamandrana Alto going away from Calamandrana Basso. The restaurant is great and er go often, it is run as a Circolo in the sense that whoever eats there is theoretically a member of the Circolo which probably gets round ASL and other problems. It is “il  Circolo Arci Il Batacchio” and is run by Sig.ra Maria Araspi cell:3283286669. You need to phone to make an appointment and she will cook whatever you request (within reason i.e. from the trad. Monferrato menu) By for now hope to see you on Wed. evening. All the best Conor

In reply to by Ronco

Hi conorThanks for the reply you have answered all about the restaurant that is really good news for us.Ian my husband ( locally known as Gianni) will see you on wednesday evening I do hope if you can make it.regards Julia