Words by Carla Passino

House prices in Rome have seen a small decline during the first quarter of 2009. According to the latest report by Italian estate agent conglomerate Tecnocasa, housing values in the Italian capital went down by 2.8%. This reduction follows on last year’s drop, which saw the market go down by an average 5.8% over 2007.

As it often happens in Italy, though, the city centre held its values better than the rest of Rome, with an overall dip of just 0.1%. Demand for top locations remains extremely lively, coming from both families and investors.

The most sought after areas include the pricey Piazza di Spagna and Piazza Navona, where properties easily reach into the €15,000-€20,000 per square metre region. Then come Piazza Farnese, Campo dei Fiori and the streets and alleys around Piazza Navona, which have a slightly wider supply of properties. However, even top end buyers are driving a hard bargain - so prices in prime areas outside Piazza di Spagna and Piazza Navona rarely shoot beyond €9,000 per square metre.

Riverside flats on lungotevere Sant’Angelo and lungotevere Prati are extremely sought after too, and views across the Tiber carry a hefty premium - they command up to €10,000 per square metre against an area average of €7,000-8,500.

Also popular with families are the slightly cheaper homes around Via Nazionale, Porta Pia and Via XX Settembre, which cost in the region of €6,000-6,500 per square metre. Investors by contrast prefer the once affordable of Testaccio, where early 20th century palazzos and former council houses, now in private ownership and carefully restored, go for €5,000 to €7,000 per square metre.

By contrast, the greatest reductions in prices took place in the Cassia-Torrevecchia area - a whopping 5.3%, partly caused by a surge in supply of newly built flats and cottages—and in the San Giovanni Roma Est neighbourhood, where values decreased 3.6% chiefly because many of the immigrants who traditionally buy here could no longer get access to mortgages.