Carla Passino

After the South, the North. The property market in and around Bergamo looks promising, according to estate agents association FIAIP. The news come hot on the heels of last week’s report from an Apulian estate agent, Immobiliare Rubino, that the market was picking up again in Puglia, and sends an encouraging signal to the rest of Italy.
The FIAIP study found that property demand in Bergamo, one of Lombardy’s prettiest and most affluent cities, is once again on the rise.
“The first few months of 2009 are seeing some signs of demand recovering, compared to last year,” states the report.
To an extent, this renaissance is linked to the global economic crisis. According to the FIAIP researchers, it’s precisely this uncertain climate that is reviving interest in property investment as an element of stability.
However, buyers remain very selective and some market segments are performing better than others.
“In 2008, we saw a decline in residential sales of 17% in town and 20% in the province, with an average price drop of 7%,” says Giuliano Olivati of FIAIP. “Now we are seeing demand recovering with a leopard’s skin pattern—values are holding well in the best areas (city centre and foothills), while the farthest outskirts, which have old, lower quality stock, are seeing noticeable drops.”
Among the areas that are doing best are the Vittorio Emanuele, Poste centrali, Conca d’Oro and Santa Lucia neighbourhoods in Bergamo Bassa (the newer part of town), the most prestigious streets of the medieval Città Alta, and the foothill nighbourhoods of Longuelo, Val d’Astino, Valtesse, San Colombano e Finardi.
The market is also lively in the stretch of mountainside between Castione and Bratto, in the postcard-pretty Seriana valley—the area is popular both with mainstream resident and second home buyers looking for skiing in winter and the great outdoors in summer—and in the spa resort of San Pellegrino, where an urban regeneration scheme is set to breathe new life into the town. The prospects of good future returns are attracting investors here and have pushed average values up by 30% in the last two years.
With the possible exception of San Pellegrino, however, the FIAIP researchers advocate a small reduction of prices across the Bergamo province, which, together with more easily available credit, could really kickstart the market.
“With the proviso that every sale is different, we have noticed that, with a small price reduction in the range of 5% to 10%, you can give the market another shake and ensure that owners see buyers ready to purchase,” states the report. “We have to bear in mind that between 1998 and 2007, prices went up significantly, doubling and, in some cases, reaching up to 120%-130% of the initial values. Therefore, a discount wouldn’t represent a loss over a few years ago, but simply an incentive to buyers.” Especially, adds Roberto Tassetti of FIAIP, because “demand may not be at its highest levels but it is certainly motivated and determined. Whenever owners are willing to offer a discount, it is easier to clinch the deal.”