Panzano in Chianti, Tuscany [Photo credits to Cinnamon Bun on Flickr]
Value for money in Tuscany and neighbouring Umbria seems more problematic than in most residential overseas property markets. Favoured by climate, landscape and history, these regions of Italy are well and truly discovered. So ready-for-occupation/letting properties are not cheap and nor is the process of buying in skills and materials to renovate properties. There is little new building going on as this type of property doesn’t have the allure of authentic Tuscany (but see this new build apartment in Tuscany).
Apart from possessing the skills needed for renovation, the only other way to increase what you get for your euros is to look beyond the core region around Florence and Siena. However, the tide of expat property investors has steadily been pushing out the boundaries of Tuscany’s second home market. So that, whereas bargains could be found in the hinterland of Lucca, in the west, or Grosseto, in the south, in 2005, this year the Lunigiana district is becoming the focus of attention. From here, Florence is almost as distant as Milan.
Estimates of property price rises in Tuscany suggest that the rate of increase has slowed from the 2000-2002 period to about 5% a year in recent years. However, Savills recent ‘Second Homes Abroad’ report gave last five year prices rises for Italy as a whole as 18 to 22%. The same report shows that rental yields for Italy are among the lowest for the whole of Europe and the volume of second home purchases by Britons is far lower than in France or Spain.
With local estate agents themselves currently questioning the scope for price rises in Tuscany, the subject of renovation becomes all the more critical. Buyers not only need to tap reliable building trade skills but to be fully aware of planning regulations. In this area the national framework gives considerable autonomy to individual town councils in interpretation of planning laws.
The basic ground rules include ensuring that your real estate agent is registered with the local chamber of commerce. The professional association for estate agents is FIMAA (Federazione Italiana Mediatori Agenti d’Affari ).The best site for guidance on these matters we found was Tosca Bella (www.toscabella.com/index.html ) but suggestions of more or better sources of information would be most welcome. The restoration and renovation tab on the Tosca Bella site will give you a summary of what you are letting yourself in for (and if you need a reminder of what ‘derelict’ can really mean, visit studiocarlini.com. Tosca Bella is part of Realpoint Property, who also give property advice for other Italian regions.
Given the risks of renovation schemes, the scope for restorations and extensions carried out by developers seems to be extensive. Buying properties like this will reduce the time and effort required for the investment even if the property may lack the distinction of an individually restored historic home. There are also opportunities to acquire partially renovated properties; Google searches on this phrase or ‘partly restored’ will give you a flavour of what’s available but could be misleading in individual instances.