Searching for ruin in Le Marche - need better agents!

brancusi Image
05/21/2009 - 05:59

Ciao Tutti!We're searching for a ruined farmhouse to restore in Le Marche and are getting a bit frustrated with UK agents who seem to talk a good talk at first, but then complain that they are unable to find anything matching our criteria or that it's not worth their while to send photos and details and we should just see what they can show us when we are there. Now I'm absolutely not going to do another viewing trip where we don't know EXACTLY what we are going to see in advance - the last one was a fiasco and we spent a day being shown the most overpriced heaps of bricks you can imagine ... All we want to do is spend 3-4 days viewing perhaps 1 or 2 dozen ruined farmhouses in the Ascoli Piceno province. We keep being told there are thousands of them, but when it comes to the crunch, none of the UK agents seem to be very forthcoming with actual properties. Yet, when we search on some Italian sites, rather than English language ones, it takes me 10 minutes to find over a dozen places I would certainly want to view within our budget  (asking price below 80K Euro).So what's up? Don't agents want to sell the cheaper properties to foreign buyers or are some of the agents just a bit lazy. I'd have thought that in the current climate they would all be bending over backwards to try to be as helpful as possible but it seems quite the opposite - or maybe we've just been unlucky with our choice of agents so far?We're planning on being over in a couple of weeks and at present don't have enough offered to us from the uk agents to make the trip worthwhile and might have to cancel it ... this is very frustrating since we have cash available for a purhcase now :-(Anyone know what the issue is? Does anyone have any advice??GrazieBrancusi 



Hello I know exactly what you mean. In the past I made several trips out there and wasted a lot of time and energy with some agents. Do you speak italian? What exactly are you looking for? I may have some suggestions. Ascoli Piceno is a big province with a LOT of variety. I was during March out on a trip which was organized by a "property search company" and I found this to be a lot more efficient way of doing things.  Is it ok to post company names  here? otherwise I will pm you  

As a licensed Italian agent working for the Italian division of a UK company, the best advice I can offer you is: be very careful. Unfortunately a lot of the UK agents in Italy are real cowboys with a rope 'em in mentality. They often don't have mandates on the properties they advertise on their sites, and equally as often are abusivi, meaning unlicensed. They rely on solicitors to handle the transactions (which the clients pay extra for) and are in fact, not even legally entitled to a commission. They also often charge more than the accepted standard commission rate of 3%. They work by doing exactly what you've described - get people over and show them whatever they can turn up at the time.Now, this is not to say that by contrast all Italian agents are angels - they most definitely are not! There are Italian abusivi and sharks as well.Property finding companies are in a legal grey area - if they are only referring to properties and charging fixed prices (hourly, daily, per service, etc.) and not success based commissions, if they don't perform intermediation, and if they are a registered Italian company charging VAT, you can generally feel pretty confident.The very best way to go is to get personal recommendations for good agents in the area you are looking. Don't discount local Italian agents without websites - they may be old fashioned yet also the "kings of their patches", which is what you want. Solicitors, architects and geometra (surveyors) are also permitted to act as intermediaries. So, a good strategy is to find a town that you like and start asking around at bars, restaurants, stores, etc. who are the good agents, avvocati, architetti in the area. Strike up conversations with other expats you see around and ask them if they have recommendations.You can also rely on the integrity of large UK firms with Italian branches or representatives (KF, Christies, Cluttons, etc.) but I obviously can't tell you if they'll have what you're looking for on their books. Generally speaking though, you can work with them as you would back home.Some other things to look out for are:

  1. is the title to the property free and clear?
  2. are there any ongoing planning and licensing issues?
  3. does the property abut any direct farmers?
  4. does the agent (or solicitor, etc.) have any financial interest in the property?
  5. is the agent (or anybody) pushing you to pay part of the sales price in cash - declaring a lower sales price on the deed?
  6. is the agent refusing to give you a viewing schedule in advance of your trip? (a good indication that they don't have mandates, but are just fishing for clients and hope to present "a live one" to an owner they've heard wants to sell)

Feel free to email me with any specific questions. I don't work in Le Marche, but I might be able to come up with a few names of reputable agents over there. Good luck!

Good reply Elicat.I would like to add though that as soon as you start asking in bars or shops, all sorts of people will come out of the woodwork, there will be suggestions of many many houses. There is a large distrust of estate agents in general so sellers will try to do without. Yes both sides can save the 3% fee but a good estate agent will ensure that the house/ruin is sellable and will try to get the sale through smoothly. I'll post my own non estate agent purvhase experience at the weekend.  

Another factor that you should take into account is how much it is going to cost you to restore the ruin. And you will need accurate estimates to ascertain whether the restored farmhouse is going to become a white elephant because of the amount of money the restoration will end up costing. 

I can recommend Avio Fioravanti they are very thorough and provide lots of services that other agents seem to charge for. They have an English translator they bring in for viewings but if you email them in English, they will respond in English. Over the phone is a little more difficult as their translator doesn't work fulltime.Don't suppose you fancy an old convent? See here

Thanks all!We spent a few days getting in touch with more agents and have at last been impressed with one who has come up with a viewing list of plenty of property - any of which quite frankly looks suitable at first glance! We've booked the flights and hopefully will find somethig this time ... we've been looking for a couple of years now in other areas and at last I feel we're looking in the right place for our budget.Thanks especially to Elicat - I've been drawing up a list of questions and the one about any financial interest for the agent (or solicitor) isn't one I had thought of...Will report back if we find something...b  

Hi Brancusi,I would be interested in the name of the agent who you are impressed with as several years ago we went around with about six agents in southern Marche and we were not pleased with what we were shown for the most part.  Please feel free to pm me.Thanks!Lisa   

I just remembered that I know of an Italian solicitor who speaks excellent English and handles a lot of property transactions in Le Marche. He's called Fabio Pucciarelli and is googleable... has a site and everything if I recall correctly. Some ex-colleagues use him a lot, and from what I observed while working with them he seems good.In bocca al lupo!

 Lots of good advice. Based on our hunt for a ruin and our subsequent project we have put together a few tips for would be property buyers & renovaters in Le Marche on this page main advice that I would give you is to properly estimate the cost of the rebuild of any ruin that you may buy and compare this to renovated properties for sale. Many properties bought and renovated for less money in years gone by are now for sale for less than it would cost you to restore a ruin. Having said that, builders are now more flexible on pricing and the lack of work gives you the trump card. The choice of a geometra/architect is also key as the the vast majority of property restorers in Le Marche will tell you tales of woe, mainly concerning cost and time overruns and you should think carefully about separating out the building design from the actual project management. Also make sure that you obtain quotes from a number of geometras and talk to their past clients about service.