Your property search experience

Pat H
05/31/2009 - 03:15

Your property search experienceA friend has asked my advice on searching and I wondered what other ideas I could pass on.If you could re-do your search for an Italian property, what would you do differently or what advice would you give?How would you narrow down and save time and money and perhaps get a better result? 


 Narrow down the search before you go by doing lots and lots of research in advance. Get a map, work out how far you want to be from an airport, the coast, a village or town, the mountains/ski areas etc etc. Also consider earthquake zones, temperatures etc. How hot can you take it? Do you want to be in a relatively 'undiscovered' area or have lots of Brits around? By answering all these questions, they will already be able to pinpoint quite a precise area. Only then should they start window shopping or getting in touch with estate agents. Stick to your budget unless it is flexible (but don't let the estate agents know it's flexible!). Be critical - it's easy to get caught up with the romance of it all but be realistic about costs. And be sure to find out about all the legal costs in advance - some of these took us by surprise and should have been worked into our original budget.  

 After following the excellent advice given by Fox and having narrowed the area, visit the place both in summer and in winter, to ascertain the availability of services, possible isolation, etc. All areas look terrific during the high season, but you have to see them during the low season as well, particularly if you intend to reside there.Before buying a place check first how much it is going to cost you to heat the home in winter as many people are surprised by the high cost of energy in Italy. The house has to be cost efficient and for this you will need double glazing, a good heating system and proper insulation. Winters can be cold in Italy. We checked all that and we haven't had nasty surprises.

We now live on the West Coast of Calabria having moved here in October last year. We have been looking all over the Med for years and had quite strict criteria in that my wife wanted a sea view and I wanted a mountain view. I attached weather forecasts of various southern Italian towns and cities to my front page (from Google), and also looked at comparative weather charts, wind flows, etc, etc. I searched all over Google Earth and Microsoft to check for water supplies, how green it was, etc and there is also a wealth of information on the net about population sizes of sea-side towns, how much they "swell" in the summer and what sort of facilities are available. I narrowed our search down to about 75 kilometres and we found the place where we now live very easily. The main thing is that we have no regrets at all.If I were to do it again I would have done more to check how much property prices vary between Immobiliares within the same town. We got a very good price but that was more luck than judgement as far as the Immobiliare was concerned.  One of the properties we saw, which we liked, seemed a reasonable 100K for a large palazzo in our Centro Storico but we then found that the owner only wanted 80K for it and was unaware what the Immobiliare was selling it for. Having viewed through the Immobiliare I would check and meet with the actual owners and make my offer to them directly, we will certainly do that now if we but another renovation project. Don't let the Immobiliare rush you would be my main piece of advice and certainly don't be put off by the "don't you trust me, my word is my bond, my clients are my life" nonsense. (Same as UK Estate Agents really).

 My advice is be flexible.I initially dismissed the last two homes we bought because they didn't match certain criteria, then when I decided to take a look anyway, fell in love on the spot and never regretted the decision. For the first purchase I had been searching for 5 years.I've seen the same happen to many other people too. A viewing is never "wasted" - each time you decide you don't like a property, for whatever reason, you are one step closer to your perfect place. Try to see as many properties as you can, without deliberately wasting the agent's time (remember that agents provide their services and assistance for viewings free of charge, with no guarantee of their recouping their costs, so be sensitive to this. I know agents who spent up to a week with foreign buyers, driving them around 8 hours a day - the expense in time and petrol was considerable - only for the buyers, armed with all the knowledge they had gained with the agent in question, to then go to the agent next door to buy something they had seen in the window. It happens, nothing wrong with it but just be sensitive to it).View properties with as many agents as you have time for, but if one agent suggests a property you have already seen with another agent, do not, DO NOT view it again with the different agent. Tell the agent immediately you already saw it with another agent and don't pay any attention if the second agent says "oh but I've got the exclusive now" or "the other agent doesn't have an exclusive so it's no problem". It is a problem and will be a big one if you go on to buy that property, regardless of if there is an exclusive and who has it. If the agent is a registered, legal agent, they may be legally entitled to their commission and/or expenses if they introduced you to the property, even if you go on to buy the property with a different agent. Even if the second agent is advertising at a lower price and this makes it more likely for you as a purchase, go back to the first agent and tell him you want to view it again and have seen it at a lower price elsewhere so any future negotiations will be based on that lower advertised price.If you find an agent you like and trust, try to establish a solid relationship with them, help them understand your needs. If the agent is willing to spend time getting to know you and ferrying you around, stick with them and be loyal to them. Even if they don't have the property you like, they will be able to approach other agents for access to their listings (at no extra cost to you, the agents will share the commission between them) so you get the service you want and the property you want.Once the agent knows you well, and suggests an unlikely property that might be out of your price range, go and have a look anyway. Even if the property is not for you, it will add to your knowledge of the local market and what you can get for your euro. Or you might be surprised and fall in love with it and spend the rest of your days grateful for having given it a shot and taken that half an hour to go and have a look. Hope it helps!

Hi SanGI am new to this forum but was very interested to see that you have done an enormous amount of research and have ended up in western Calabria.  I too have spent a good deal of the past ten years researching Cyprus, South of France and now Italy, learning valuable, and sometimes costly, lessons along the way, and it has been an interesting and exciting as well as at times heartbreaking adventure!  I have just spent a week at Capo Vaticano and have taken to the area.  I am now scouring forums and estate agents listings and doing my research. May I take the liberty of asking where you have ended up.  I have a contact now in San Lucido which looks very nice and Longobardi being quieter appeals to me.  Are you anywhere near that neighbourhood?  I saw a report about the cleanliness of Italy's beaches on another thread and was a bit disappointed to see that Calabria ranked amongst the lowest provinces.  From what I can see the water is pretty universally crystalline and unpolluted - apart from Naples.I would really like to have a property in a centro storico with a terrace overlooking the sea and surrounded by Italians.   Do you, from experience, have recommendations as to agents that specialise in older properties and contacts with good builders / suppliers.I would be very grateful for any info you can give.Kind regardsGiulia

I'd second all of the excellent advice given above.It's not clear whether your friend wants to move permanently or just have a holiday home. One consideration to bear in mind is whether or not they want a property that includes land. A bit of green area is a nice idea but if it's just a holiday home they're after then maybe they don't need the bother of having to maintain the area themselves or getting someone to do it. Also I think someone mentioned before about having to harvest trees such as fig trees on the land becuse if you they're not harvested they can rot on the tree and cause smell and attract insects. Just another little consideration!Also if you want a swimming pool be conscious of the fact that there is work involved in looking after that too.For holiday use too I'd say easy access is a major issue. In my view, you really need to be within a couple of hours of a major airport where there is no likelihood of a low-cost carrier pulling out and leaving you stranded. Also being on a bus route or a train line is an added advantage. 

Hi everyoneNew to this site but my hubby and I bought our lovely house near Tavernelle in Umbria over 3 years ago and are moving permanently in less than 2 - can't wait.  Like many we did loads of research on areas and properties (mostly through me trawling through the internet every night for months before our buying trip and my husbands knowledge of the area through many previous rental periods in Umbria) and "narrowed" it down to 12 properties in a 3 week trip.  We sorted our finance before we went (bought outright) and stuck to a limit (actually bought 3 houses in one and two pieces of land for 2/3 of our budget but we were so so lucky!!).  Our best acquisition was our agent.  He worked for the estate agent for two of the properties we looked at (and showed us a couple more) but he is also qualified as one of those 1/2 accountant 1/2 solicitor people they seem to have out here (where two careers are merged into one - our electrician is also our plumber!!) and not only enabled the sale to go through very smoothly but also came with us to the final signing over with the family and acted as our translator and temporary Power of Attorney, helped us to open a bank account, enabled us to get our residency (2nd attempt but we have to laugh now at the thought we would get it first time - that's another story) then swapped our bank account for a residents one with better rates, sorted out our electricity supply to be increased to stop it blowing the fusebox every time I turned on my english kettle or iron, pays our bills while we are away, does our tax forms etc every year and basically trouble shoots if there is anything we need to ask or need doing.  I know we pay him (and probably at accountant/avocato rate for more minor things but it was the best contact we had

Good advice Cedric and pleased for you that things seem to be working out well. Your local person seems a good find. Its definitely worth it in my opinion, especially if you are only using your house for holidays, to try to seek out someone local with a good grasp in financial matters to make sure that everything is kept up to date. I know of two families that had nasty shocks over backdated bills (going back almost four years)  that they were not aware off. One for almost €10,000. (combination of condomium, comune, rubbish tax, F24 payments etc).As for your British iron and kettle. Much better to buy these in Italy (both pretty cheap) as generally they will have lower wattage than their UK equivalents so might take a bit longer to boil the water for your cuppa but less chance of blowing your power.

Just another suggestion, put your kettle on the gas hob, but hang onto your English iron, friends complain italian ones dont get hot enough (bit like their weird toasters so hang on to that too). Its just a matter of learning not to have too much electrical stuff in use at the same time, and soon becomes habit.A