Hello, I'm new to this site but

linmuir Image
01/11/2019 - 06:16

Hello, I'm new to this site but joined because I've been very impressed by the answers to some of the questions posted on here.I'm considering buying a house in North East Tuscany. It's about 200sqm in size, with a good - not huge - garden and a terrace big enough to dine outside. It's on thee levels and I will be using the bottom level as an artist's studio. The kitchen and living room are already on the 1st floor, opening out onto the terrace with beautiful views. There are 4 attic bedrooms. The property will need substantial renovation, including a completel new roof. A contact over there has put me in touch with a reliable geometra who has costed up all the works to be done. I've lots of experience of developing property in the UK (only my own homes, I'm not a professional developer) so I have a good idea of UK planning regulations and I know that in Itally these can seem more complicated - I'm not too worried about that. I'm told the work will take about a year.I have two reservations about this property. One is that it is not a 'typical' 2nd home and I am concerned about potential re-sale for my daughter to deal with after I am gone. I don't know if I am imagining a 'typical' 2nd home so forgive me if I'm getting this wrong - but I imagine this would usually be a place in a tranquil but not cut off setting, at best a detached 'farmhouse' type property. The house I like is a large terraced house, and it will be slighly overlooked by one neighbour on one side. It is in a village that only has one restaurant, but which is only 3miles from a lovely town. Is there anything I need to bear in mind about buying a terraced house rather than a detached house set in land? Also, the house is on an SP road. The road itself is beautiful - it is tree lined, with magnificent views on a large stretch of the road opposite the house - on this stretch there are no houses, just benches and the views, then more houses begin further up into the village. The front of the house has a balcony which would look over these views. There is a bus route on this SP road. Because I will be spending a lot of time alone there, as a single woman, I would not feel safe being in more remote countryside and I don't like feeling cut off entirely. I like the idea of being connected to streets and roads but I am wondering if I am making a mistake with this SP road, however lovely it is. Compared to roads in the UK, I wouldn't even say it is anything like a 'B' road - more like a quiet 'main' road through a village. I've researched different kinds of Italian roads and I'm aware there are much larger roads on a scale above the SP roads, but I do feel sllightly worried when I look at satellite views of the area and this SP road and all the other SP roads are clearly demarked and visible - it gives the impression that this is potentially a motorway, which worries me - I think this is unlikely to happen, as there is a steep drop on the other side of the road, so any road expansion would be diffucult. Is there anything I should be checking or thinking about regarding living on this kind of road? It would not be my first choice, but I also don't want to go into a panic and rule it out entirely.Thanks so much in advance for any advice !Lin

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It would not be my choice to have a terraced house for a number of reasons. The location was one we and I believe many others see as ideal, however after looking around this ideal we decided was not what we wanted. The use of “we” tells you the circumstances were different and I can see your reasons. A number of things you mention would ring alarm bells for me in addition to those you are concerned about. A terrace where the roof needs replacing, forget your experience from the UK, you need to know fully what you are looking at in Italy. Are there neighbours? If so have you managed to talk to them? How long has the property been up for sale and the same for properties around the area? We bought over 8 years ago and had spent 2 looking beforehand, some properties we looked at are still up for sale.We ended up with a house about 100m off an SC road (Strade Comunali). It was quiet enough for us, but we had friends 500m up this road from us who were something like 20m from the same roadside. Visits to see them and sitting on the terrace made us think how lucky we were not being any closer to the road at our place. Even at ours at 5 in the morning a tractor noise could carry a long way. I believe you have SC, SP, SR, SS and above in ascending order, but it does not necessarily mean your SP could not be quieter than our lower SC. I would want to visit the place at different times of the day, particularly 8-9 in the morning and/or 4-6 in the afternoon. If you get to talk to any neighbours, then ask the question what is the traffic noise like.

Hi SteveThanks for the quick reply, I appreciate it. Could you tell me what the other things are about a terraced house that would 'ring alarm bells' for you? I'm keen to get as much information as I can.I don't (yet) speak Italian, so I wouldn't be able to chat to Italian neighbours at the moment. I have visited the house at around 5pm in the afternoon and, as far as I could tell from the terrace it was perfectly quiet at that time.The village where the house is has just over 300 inhabitants. I am looking - as most people are, I think - for a property that can be slighly private but definitely not cut off from civilisation. My friend over there who is Italian lives in a farmhouse in the countryside and it's nice to visit but is definitely not for mee - I would feel far too isolated. I have seen no detached houses that I could afford which are in or around the town. I know the house next door is up for sale too - I think mainly because the owner is a very old lady living by herself. It has been on the market for about a year, the same as the house I am interested in. I negotiated a good price for it - just over half the advertised price, but I had already been told that building work can be very expensive in Italy. With the renovations involved, the overall cost to bring it up to good condition would be slightly over the original asking price. The house is actually on the SP road itself - there is no front garden, just pavement - my friend has said it will be a quiet street but also admits she has never been to this village !!

Thank you, yes I think the general sense I am getting from these responses is that it is very important that I try to talk to neighbours. As I don't speak Italian that will be difficult, but I will take my Italian friend with me and try to get some conversations going. It's great to have your input with this, I will be very careful with how I proceed and take time to look at some other properties too. Thank you.

I’m sure there are others here more qualified to advise on the vagaries of getting permissions to do work on a detached house let alone one in the middle of two other houses. Has the means/method to do the building work been discussed e.g. scaffolding on the road? Does it have direct access to the back of the house? My main concern would be the cost.On the question of your potential neighbours, would it be possible to drag your friend around to talk to them with you? They can potentially provide you with a lot of information. Okay they may dislike the seller, so some caution required. But my other worry would be what the neighbours are like and do they want a foreigner living next door to them! We have found most are lovely, but you never know.

Thank you, yes you are right, I will 'drag' my Italian friend with me to see if she can talk to the neighbours and locals. There is definitely access to the back of the property - it's via a small lane that runs along the back of the row of about five houses, and double gates into the garden. I have discussed the scaffolding with the geometra but I didn't know I'd need a licence to put scaffolding onto the street. I will ask him about it. Neighbours is a bit of a concern - I definitely want friendly neighbours, but as this particular stretch of the road only has houses on one side, and the one on the right is also up for sale, I have been slighly concerned about being a bit isolated, especially as there is no cafe in the village, just the one restaurant; it doesn't seem like the best place to just 'bump into' people. In the town itself, absolutely everyone I came into contact with was so pleasant and friendly, but I haven't yet met people in the village itself. I will definitely follow up your advise, thank you.

We recently bought a house as a second home in a very small village in Northern Italy. We are just learning Italian but have become friends with a number of local people - mostly through our need for trades people, shopkeepers and restaurant owners. We seem a bit of a novelty as there are not other Brits in the area. Although we’ve only owned the house for a few months and even though it’s the winter we have had a steady flower of visitors from the UK. Our daughter loves the place too and us brilliant bring a group of girlfriends our in the summer. I would suggest you need to ensure there is enough to do in the local area- we wanted to be close to a town and the beach both of which are 20 minutes away. Maybe look at a few other areas as you do seem to have doubts. Good luck. 

We have owned a property in NE Tuscany for nearly 20 years now (North of Sansepolcro). Where are you looking? There are hundreds of properties available at very low prices so I would take your time until you are sure you have found the right one. We also know a number of trustworthy architects / geometri / builders and would be pleased to help if you need it. 

Hi MauriceI'm looking in and around the Casciana Terme area, also Chianni. It would be a 'lifetime' purchase - ie. I wouldn't be looking to sell it again but I also don't want to dump my daughter with a problem after I've gone. My work situation in the UK means I often have long periods when I am either not working or I can work from home / remotely. I would intend to keep a small property in the UK and use the Italian property as a '2nd home', but would probably consider this more as my primary base, especially because I want to have a studio there. The geometra I have at the moment carried out a full survey for me and told me about the licences I would need. He is an older genteman who was recommended to me by an Italian friend who has lived in the region all her life. Her mother knew this geometra as he had done work for them. My general impression is that he is being honest in his answers. At this stage, all I asked him to do was survey the property and to cost up the price of making it habitable, without making any major changes to the structure, so he has not advised me about what may or may not be possible in terms of changes, because I have not asked really. I myself estimated what it would cost to do the same building and renovation works in the UK, and his prices came up almost exactly the same as they would over here.I have been looking for several years now, for a 2nd home. I really loved this house as soon as I saw it inside - the views are incredible and it was great to find a back garden with rear access (you drive in via a short lane at the back of the row of houses) and a terrace and attic rooms with high ceilings. But my concerns, as stated before, are that it is immediately on the road and is a terrace in a small village that doesn't have a shop, just one restaurant. It's very close to Casciana Terme though.My friend has said Chianni is lovely, so maybe I should extend my search more thoroughly to there. Any advice is really welcome, thank you for posting. Lin

In reply to by linmuir

Hi, Lin,I understood you were looking in North East Tuscany but it seems to be west so I can't really help. In the far east of Tuscany property can be very cheap and there is an abundance for sale. It may be the same where you are and I'd encourage you to talk to people in bars, builders etc to also find those which are not being marketed through agents.

In reply to by Maurice

Hi MauriceSorry, I should have been clearer about my search. When I first started, I was looking at lots of different parts of Italy and the North East was very attractive, due to the range of properties and prices. I did lose a bit of confidence though as I am on my own and don't know anyone in the North East. My Italian friend has been able to help me with searching in Casciana Terme and so I have gravitated there, mainly because she is there. I'm still very open to ideas for areas to research though - I have more time now than I did before, and haven't decided about Casciana Terme yet.Is there anywhere in the North East that you would strongly recommend?Thanks,Lin 

In reply to by linmuir

I would be reluctant to recommend anywhere as everyone is different. We love where we are in the Apennines as it is off the beaten track, very beautiful, not too hot in the summer, the people are lovely and more. But it wouldn't necessarily be to everyone's taste. If you already have friends in that area and you like it then that my be enough, but do not rush in to anything. Keep asking around in various towns, villages around and I'm sure you'll find somewhere suitable.

Ill add my ha'penny worth.   An SP is a strada provinciale - it only means that the it is the province which is responsible for its upkeep and not the comune ( strada comunale) -  Given the dubious legal existence of the provinces at the moment, this could mean that there is noone to do maintenance and the like.   In my experience SP's have more heavy traffic than a strada comunale because they go somewhere.As to location location location .- a house directly on a road with no front garden is always a risk for resale. - It wouldnt bother Italian buyers, but if your market is other foreigners then  a terraced house directly on a road will be shunned by many.   You ask, which means you are aware of the fact, if you might have resale problems.   The geometra will have costed a new roof - but not your neighbours roofs - yours may be watertight and lovely, but if your neighbours isnt you will have problems on your dividing walls.   You will need scaffolding on 'suolo pubblico' as you have no front garden and this will be paid for.  One last thing - its on a bus route now, but if things change and you lose the bus service, what will you do then?  Good luck 

Thank you for your post. I agree about the issue with the house being directly on the pavement - with that said, it's a very charming frontage, with the balcony overlooking the fantastic views across the Pisan mountains - that's why I thought maybe the lovely, characteristic look of the house at the front makes up for the lack of front garden, but I do still have doubts. For myself, I don't mind this issue, but don't want to land my daughter with the problem of re-sale after I've gone and if she doesn't want to keep the property. At the back of the property there is enough space to park a car in the garden - the garden is not huge, but has double gates at the side to let a car in, and there is a short lane that runs along the back of the rown of about 5 houses. So, I would expect to drive into the town most of the time, or maybe get a bike eventually. The route for the bus is on the road that the house is on - I do see your point about thinking ahead in case the bus route goes, but as it serves several towns and villages surrounding, I think it is unlikely..?Yes, the issue about adjoining roofs is definitely something that I think the geometra should have flagged up. I will bring this up with him, but I can now see why most would want a detached home. Thank you for the post.

Hi linmuir,

Obviously its hard to give you advise on your choice, as we are all looking from a different perspective.

When you say terraced- I'm going to assume you are connected on both sides (like as in UK terraced) with neighbours.

House on 3 levels:

You need to check that it is currently registered as a dwelling as per the current layout. ie. Bedrooms on top floor etc and all is in accordance with current regulations. Like in the UK, existing properties can avoid some of the new regulations. Therefore clarify with the Geometra thats its OK with your intentions. Eg studio on ground floor- he/she may say lets call this a 'cantina' or a storage area rather than a studio to avoid any further Legislative requirements. Another eg. Bedroom ceiling heights in some areas require a minimum 2.7m. In your attic it may be less, but in doing the renovation this may impact the council approval as the 'existing' will be changed. I'm not trying to put you off- just make it clear with the Geometra that you will not be creating more work than necessary = more money!

A bit of due diligence: check all the exterior walls( on the inside) for damp, mould, condensation. Also in attic check perimeter and under roof for any signs.. Bottom floor I am assuming is as per the neighbours. ie they both have habitable rooms (not using them as storage for wood or as garages)

Heating: is it wood fired / pellet / gas or both.

Gas supply for cooking. Town gas or LPG

Electrical: have you any specific requirements for powered equipment to studio/home- In italy you get 3.3kw unlike 10 in Uk. But should be Ok for one person. Just won't be able to do washing and use dyson at same time. Otherwise you can ask supplier for more but it will cost and you may need to get your consumer unit overhauled.

You may have already factored in all the above with the geometra but just I listed just in case. One other thing is access rights etc- just clarify with the geometra that there will be no issues with scaffolding and building works etc- (a bit like party wall issuesin uk.) with neighbours.

SP roads- are usually the responsibility of the province therefore they are obligated to keep it clean and clear of snow etc and it most cases the first 4 meters of land from the bitumen belongs to the government anyway- just in case they need to widen or put in layby etc.

Reselling in future: I would never look at property in small town Italy as a financial investment (more of a lifestyle investment). The UK housing market is insane and it amazes me that its become a sustianable way of making money.

Without knowing all the specifics its hard to give you answers for 'decision making'. My advise is speak to locals- go to the bar nearest the local comune, use a 'local' geometra, speak to neighbours.

Hope this helps

In reply to by italyprogetti

Thank you for your detailed post, this is most enlighening. I can see I need to go into some more detail with he geometra and / or check the details of the costings he has already supplied to me. Can I just ask you please, when you say that the first 4 metres of land beyond the bitumen in the road belongs to the government - would this include the front portion of the actual house itself..? ie. could they knock down these houses if they wanted to widen the road? I think this is highly unlikely, but I can see how it is in the very back of my mind and could be at the forefront of someone else's mind!The property I am looking for is for life. I don't want to move again in Italy. I just don't want to give my daughter a problem with re-sale after I've gone; although she may well decide to keep hold of any property that I do leave. After struggling for years in London to try to have even decent living conditions, I really want a place I can make mine, and pour everything into without having to really think ahead about re-sale, but I cannot behave irresponsibly and have to think of what my daughter will be left with. She has already said I'm being ridiculous and she just wants me to be happy and doesn't care what she inherits, but I want to leave her something lovely in every sense and that she knows I've loved living in. I guess a terratteto may not be ideal - but people can and do live happily in them, surely..?

 Ciao linmuir ,Unlike most of those who answered you, I am Italian, and I deal with banks and real estate purchasesSo I tend to see the bureaucratic implications of your purchase, rather than the poetic sideAs Italian, I strongly advise against buying a house whether it is part of a group, or connected to other houses, and especially with direct access to the SP, you will have endless bureaucratic problems and building permits in the restoration.Regarding the current situation of habitability of the house, this is definitely your last problem, having to carry out a structural restoration, and of installations, the surveyor or architect who will submit the building requests to the municipality, will have no problem at all change the destination of the rooms, from warehouse, closet, to housing.Rather, if your problem is a possible resale, I suggest you look for a house surrounded by a small garden, perhaps of fairly recent construction, which has at least the structural part, roofs, attics and external walls, in good condition , considers that redoing an interior ceiling, costs much less than the reconstruction of a roof, say around 30%.Last note, if they told you that the restore is 100 - you consider 150 - when working on old houses, you always know the starting point, and NEVER, the arrival one .Maybe, removing a plaster, you will find an ancient arch ... HOO as it is beautiful, maybe you can open on the next room? ... here, from now on all your spending project ... will start to growI wish a happy life in Italy

In reply to by Ugo

Thank you Ugo, for your careful post. I really, really appreciate this advice so much. It makes complete sense and has confirmed that some of the doubts I had already actually have very serious implications. I will change my search criteria, given what you say, and will not be purchasing this house now. I will be looking for a detached property.Thank you so much!Lin

Hello,I have never bought a house in Italy, although I have lived and rented here 11 years (paying my taxes!). One of the major reasons I did not buy is because it can be quite difficult to resell a house if you no longer want to live in it.  So if you are concerned that you or your daughter be able to sell the house quickly, to convert it to cash, just be aware that it is very typical for even lovely, modernized houses to remain on the market for 3 or 4 years and longer -- unless perhaps you choose a highly desirable active tourist area or an Italian city with lots of jobs to offer.  When I first moved to Italy, I did intend to buy, but after seeing many freshly renovated and furnished rentals in charming areas, I decided to rent instead. with 4 year contracts that I keep renewing.  The "upsides" have delighted me:  my landlord arranges for all repairs and supervises them (even though I pay for them). He speaks on the phone to all the utlity people to arrange for hookups/billings for heat, phone, cable, internet.  My landlord does all the landscaping chores on the property.  Fortunately the furniture that came with the apartment was a tasteful mix of vintage and cheap new things, and it didn't take me long to realize that furniture shopping and delivery would have been a very time-consuming chore for me had I been starting from scratch with a bare space. I was happy to stick to hanging artwork and buying a few houseplants. Overtime, I've changed some curtains, lamps and bought different dining chairs.  Finally, my landlord likes to speak English, and has been extraordinarily helpful to me in so many ways having nothing to do with the property.  One can't count on that (some landlords are absentee) but my landlord has untangled many an Italian knot for me that spared me loads of angst or irritation or wasted time.Although I love the Italian countryside, I feel personally much better off in a town with food shops, a small supermarket and a weekly market  I can no longer imagine living anwyhere in Italy without a train station  (perhaps difficult in some dream areas of Toscana).  While I leased a car for my first few months in Itay, and had a parking space for it, I soon learned that when I used the car to go to other towns, finding a place to park it there was quite an aggravation, especially on a market day.  Plus, living in a town with a train station has meant I have seen a lot more of Italy's museums and churches than I think I would have had I thought about driving to all those destinations (especially Italian cities, where I hate to drive). It's been a lot cheaper not to  own and maintain a car, have insurance (complicated in Italy as well). But I confess I will sometimes rent a car to take a trip, and i will take local taxi rides. My regular taxi driver also does a lot to help me -- carrying heavy things, letting me use his office address as a package delivery address, waiting for me when I take my cat to the vet -- so grateful)If this is a once in a lifetime move and you hope to not move again, access to transportation other than driving yourself + a small network of local helpers who understand English is a real asset.  While the town where I rent has less than 7,000 (one third in the historic center, the rest on the periphery), I can walk to the pharmacy, food stores, post office, bank, train station, bus stop, the local doctor, all that I need, plus there is a weekly market for household goods and practical clothing, and we have a couple of nice places to eat. The walls of my Italian  building are so thick I do not hear my neighbors,  I haven't missed having a detached house, and have plenty of privacy.  I feel very safe here because everyone knows who I am and I know they would help me in any emergency.  (I once dropped my wallet and it got home before I did. It seems everybody knows where l'Americana lives, and of course they know my landlord, etc.)Good luck with your search! I have been really very happy living in a small town in Italy all these years.  I had to make many adjustments from suburban and urban life, but I prefer I adjust than for italy to change.  That's a bit of a controversial statement, because of course Italians themselves have many ideas for their future and aren't obliged to maintain their country as a museum for me, but it is also true and not romantic to say that many aspects of Italian life are far superior to the other industrialized nations. Italy is very clean, very safe, with very good food, in so many places so very beautiful to look at, and with a very generous, caring people by and large. I know from experience this Italian culture is quite an accomplishment others have not managed to figure out how to have.