Alternative to buying a house in Italy

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Alternative to buying a house in Italy

Post by stevegwmonkseaton on Wed Oct 01, 2014 10:28 am

Having plenty of time to ponder these days allows me to think back over the period both when looking for a house in Italy to 4 years later down the line - my how time flies!
I might be wrong, but I suspect there will not be too much coverage of “what I could have done different” and perhaps it’s a bit of daft thing to do, as really you simply never know what would have happened.  Anyway, I do suspect that a lot of people who could give an insight to this are people who have lived their dream and found it was not quite what they wanted and left Italy. No longer interested in it, its forums or other people on the same journey. A great shame as they likely have a great deal to add to the subject.
An alternative for us would have been to never buy in Italy, but to rent a house long term, long term because we would have wanted land to grow. This would have left us with a lot more cash in the bank, which even with today’s low interest would have went a long way to pay for both the rent in Italy and likely accommodation in the UK for visits. Also renting out any UK home would of course add even more to the above.    
Of course it matters how far you originate from, if you are still working, have kids/family to visit. But I’m sure it was an alternative for us, but it also could be a possibility for anyone stuck working in London, struggling to meet high mortgage payments, no kids and wanting a different life, especially if they can do their work from anywhere. Wonder what others think on the subject and/or those who are looking to buy a house in Italy - any thoughts about it? Smile

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Re: Alternative to buying a house in Italy

Post by ghiro on Wed Oct 01, 2014 6:34 pm

A very helpful post, as ever, from Steve.

I think there's a huge difference between buying a second home/holiday house (which we did) and moving lock stock and barrel to Italy full time.

In the former case you buy what enchants you - for better or for worse.

Moving full time is a much greater challenge, particularly if a job and children are involved.  What, on the surface, seems ideal may in reality turn out to be a nightmare. Sad 

So, if you're considering a permanent move to Italy, my advice would be to rent a property in the area where you're planning to live.  This gives you the opportunity to discover the local pros & cons.  Will you get snowed in during winter?  Are the local schools what you want for your children?  Is there good and reliable internet access?  Are the local amenities convenient and to your liking?  Are the locals welcoming and supportive?  Are there employment opportunities if you need them?

One thing to remember is that the Italian property market is nowhere near as volatile as in the UK.  Which means you can take your time to find both the location and the house of your dreams.
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Re: Alternative to buying a house in Italy

Post by Flip on Wed Oct 01, 2014 7:48 pm

I agree with Ghiro, if not fully committed and unsure of what area to live in rent first and move around until you find your "Italian Dream". We had a holiday home here and circumstances changed in the UK so we decided to live in our Holiday Home permanently. It worked out for us 7 years down the line, but we were happy with our area and situation here, yes we made compromises but that what life's about. But if unsure about what Italy can be for you don't fully commit to something you may regret in the future.
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Re: Alternative to buying a house in Italy

Post by Angela Fuller on Thu Oct 02, 2014 9:07 am

On reflection Steve, I should not have purchased our one and only house here, burnt all our bridges in the UK and landed myself with another mortgage...For 7 yrs I treked back and forth 10 times a year to work but that meant finding accomadation and running a car and the cost of travel, my income was soon eaten up.....OH moved here permanently 9yrs ago as retired so that was also a strain on our relationship.  2 yrs ago, when I hit 52yrs young I decided to give up the work UK thing and came to live here in my house with OH and my furry family....Only 1 yr left to pay the mortgage now and dont get me wrong, I am happy living in my house rather than rented accomadation, enjoying the life here, nature, neighbours and the slow pace....

However, if I had the choice again I would have rented...!
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Re: Alternative to buying a house in Italy

Post by stevegwmonkseaton on Thu Oct 02, 2014 1:25 pm

Well we did not burn all our bridges, but we did sell up the home in the UK we had lived in for 35 years and buy a much smaller place in a totally different (cheaper) part of the UK. That solution is also not without problems as you have two houses to run and potentially still need transport. Just little things like either having no garden or getting someone to maintain a garden(s) when you go off to Italy for months on end. For the transport we built in the solution to our requirements when buying again, it had to be accessible by public transport, good rail services and served with easy delivery of goods. We also looked to buy for our dotage, ok the gardens don’t fit, but think we will be in sheltered accommodation when we can’t manage a garden. As to our garden in the UK now, we were very lucky having 2 of our family living a couple hours away that loved the bungalow, like walking and visit often to stay when we are in Italy. The fact they also love gardening is the icing on the cake! They like it so much that I’m sure they have spent more time in it than us!!! It was nice to go back for a month in June/July and enjoy a wonderful laid out garden. Real plus points, and those that put us off renting it, are having clothes and other personal stuff that precludes us having to travel with other than hand luggage. It’s also a great luxury to be able to not have to decide how long we stay in the UK.
All said and done I believe, giving our time again, we would have done the same over and bought in Italy, simply because it’s in our psyche to do so.

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Re: Alternative to buying a house in Italy

Post by Angela Fuller on Thu Oct 02, 2014 2:34 pm

I suppose Steve, in our case it was all about money....we could not afford both, 2 houses, but if we could have we would have....everything boils down to money and how much you have of it.....I still say on reflection I would have rented as our financial situation now is such that we live week by week month by month....not very easy especially as winter coming....thank goodness for Lidls....
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Re: Alternative to buying a house in Italy

Post by stevegwmonkseaton on Thu Oct 02, 2014 9:20 pm

Someone on the Abruzzolutely said about “existing” V “living” in a post about being able to live on €1500/month with rent out of that! Very subjective the view of “living” this person has - as is living on a shoestring. We find living in Italy costs us half what it does in the UK and without that saving we would likely not be able to live as we do. But how do we live? Well very frugally according to the aforesaid mentioned person, but it’s the way we choose to exist and are very thankful for being in such a privileged position to do so.

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Re: Alternative to buying a house in Italy

Post by Angela Fuller on Fri Oct 03, 2014 7:08 am

The only cheap things I find here are wine, spirits and water.  meat, fish and cheese are expensive, food and groceries in general, none of this buy one get one free here...Electricity costs similar to uk but gas if not on town gas expensive even with reduction....no way could I afford to run the CH system....I did when first over here and ran out of gas after 5 weeks.....cost 500 euros.  Running a car here also v expensive, insurance ridiulous....so, I personally do not find I have halved my cost of living coming to live in Italy....maybe I am doing something wrong ?
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Re: Alternative to buying a house in Italy

Post by Admin on Fri Oct 03, 2014 8:46 am

I think it's an interesting discussion because people thinking of making the leap often do not know how cheap renting on a long-term contract (ie 8 years) can be. Often it might work out cheaper than the cost of your Italian property over your lifetime. whilst you are renting it it is yours to do with as you wish, within reason. You can decorate it, renovate it etc. I have seen quite often that tenants who have rented for a long time are given first refusal when the vendor wants to sell along with a reasonable discount.
There are now new contracts where you can 'rent to buy' so basically your rent counts towards the purchase price and the price is agreed in writing. If you choose not to exercise the option then the vendor keeps your rent and is free to sell it but if you do choose to buy then you have your rent deducted and buy at the original price. I think these contracts have developed due to the fact the banks just are not lending money.
As for living costs - I agree with Angie. Italy is not a chap country and I would say on a par with UK living costs with the notable exception of Council Tax although the way we are going I am sure that will catch up!
I would never heat with gas though as it is far too expensive and only going to go up. The best bet is wood IMHO.
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Re: Alternative to buying a house in Italy

Post by stevegwmonkseaton on Fri Oct 03, 2014 9:24 am

Thanks Admin, that is so interesting to hear about the rent to buy and something I think people visiting this forum looking to buy would find very helpful. As to living costs, it obviously does depend on how you live. We eat masses of fruit and veg, especially tomatoes and we are fussy on the quality! I could be of Scots or a Yorkshire origin, but am neither, as I do keep an eye to everything we spend and prices. Think it stems from the fact we married very young (17 & 18) and when we started out had very little... I know our supermarket bills for the UK for entire time we are here simply from the fact we shop on-line and pay by credit card, bill for the card being electronic. No surprise that we do everything electronic in fact, Itay is a little different as we do the opposite there to some degree i.e. shop locally using a car (none in the UK), pay everything cash. In Italy we actually buy very little, especially during the summer as we grow so much. I wonder how much time Angela and Admin have lived in the UK of late? For family reasons we have spent 3-6 months a year back in the UK in all but 1 of the 5 years we have been in Italy. We shop in the UK on a weekly basis as we do in Italy, cost per week roughly on average was a third less only a year ago. It may be we live a little different these days as we now have a better idea as to the actual costs in Italy and know our estimates were more or less correct. Have to add here that some costs were way above, but others were much less than we estimated they would be. I would whole heartedly agree with Admin that Council tax is way cheaper and wood the best form of heating, although we have found the sansa (olive waste) cheaper to buy. The cost of a sansa/bio boiler might be another matter, ours was already there...
I'll have a look at the electric, water and gas costs, but perhaps a separate topic for this might be in order... Smile

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Re: Alternative to buying a house in Italy

Post by Angela Fuller on Fri Oct 03, 2014 9:47 am

I have only not lived n the UK for the last 2 yrs Steve and before that spent 8 months a year working there.  I never shopped on-line as I always lived in a very rural situation and only me to feed.....I tended to go to the top end supermarkets after work when choice meats / fish were reduced in price by half so my food bill was cheap compared to here....After my gas experience we fitted a wood burning stufa / cooker and due to the open aspect of the house it heats the whole house...we have a mezzanine floor upstairs and the flue from the cooker, 6 metres tall runs up the inside of the wall. I grow some veg but prefer to grow flowers....Council tax is something I havn't paid for the 9 yrs we have been here as when in UK it was included in rent but my distant memories of it was that it was enormous.....Let to buy is an interesting thought.....


Last edited by Angela Fuller on Fri Oct 03, 2014 10:47 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Forget to say about Let to Buy.......)
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Re: Alternative to buying a house in Italy

Post by Admin on Fri Oct 03, 2014 10:10 am

Well, I've just come back from a week in the UK (not the same as living admittedly) but everything we bought was MUCH cheaper there. It was only food, clothes, fuel and takeaways but still. Other than housing costs which are very expensive and insurance, I don't know what other costs you would have. Taxes are lower in the UK and the health service is free at point of use. There is no minimum NI contribution to pay.
Maybe it's different if you're a pensioner but our living costs are definitely higher here. We still love it but not for the cost of living.
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Re: Alternative to buying a house in Italy

Post by Angela Fuller on Fri Oct 03, 2014 10:54 am

Well said Admin....I found living in the UK cheaper for all the same reasons and everything so simple.....sent a bill when you owe someone, no minimum NI, encouraged not discouraged to start up a small biz....etc etc...here, if not a pensioner you have to pay, pay, pay.........
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Re: Alternative to buying a house in Italy

Post by stevegwmonkseaton on Fri Oct 03, 2014 11:15 am

Like I said I really believe it's down to your preferences in the way you live. Obviously if you are working it also makes a huge difference, however if you do the same thing in both countries, then it's like for like. Clothes we have found a little cheaper in the UK, only other thing that we find vastly different is walnuts of all things... Half the price in the UK to Italy, we eat loads of them, suffice to say our single tree is nowhere near enough. So cases from the UK are stuffed with walnuts and clothes... Coming from Italy we are stopped a few times as the hand luggage is loaded with parmesan and lavazza coffee. Can't believe Angela you can't squeeze in a few veg... We grow all the year around and only buy in winter to supplement what we can't grow. We could even cut this out if we were prepared to bottle as friends do. Had to laugh when a neighbour (Italian) said she had no idea how much tomatoes cost in the shops as she had never bought them in her life!
Of course I have to own up that wine is by far our biggest saving in Italy, but hey, that's why we picked the place!!!

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Re: Alternative to buying a house in Italy

Post by Geotherm on Fri Oct 03, 2014 2:09 pm

I agree that prices here have gone ballistic, from when we first arrived 9 odd years ago.
We have virtually stopped eating out, as restaurants have got to the stage where even for lunch you may need a mortgage. Most of the time now we cook at home, but usually Thai/Chinese food, as it is much more cost effective. Chilli con Carne, Thai curries, minced pork and basil stir fries, chilli crab, plus many more. Neither of us are particular about eating pasta and I do make pizza with foccacio, which will draw howls of protests Very Happy  

We were pleased when we were told our riffuti bill would go down by 40%, as there is no door to door collection on the white road here.

Other living costs: Electricity is expensive, but we are now converting to the subsidised heat pump/house tariff. If it works out right, then we should be saving approx 500-700 Euro per year, as we use around 9000Kwh. 50% of the 50 quintale of wood from 9 years ago still sits in the garage, as for emergency use only, or to look at a fire every now and again.
I do not insure either the car or the house with Italian insurers, or subscribe to Sky.
As we only cook with bottled gas, we get through a couple of 47kg units in a year+, so not so bad. We had a tiny apartment when we first moved here, that used up 2 bombola every 2 weeks in the winter, plus loads of wood and the parafin type heaters as well.

Steve: I keep forgeting to pick the walnuts off the tree, as would like to pickle them, but the Maremmano loves to crunch them up when they are on the ground. We do usually have lots of Sloes which are good for gin, plus peaches for Jams and chutney. Gave up on the Orto, but need to get the greenhouse set up to grow lemon grass, bird chillies, Thai holy basil and pea aubergines.


Last edited by Geotherm on Fri Oct 03, 2014 2:11 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : spelling)

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Re: Alternative to buying a house in Italy

Post by Angela Fuller on Fri Oct 03, 2014 3:01 pm

Steve,  as I said I do grow some veg but also make some money from selling flowers so a balance has to be made...  Clothes and shoes are half the price in UK, not sure about walnuts but I suppose around Christmas they would be cheaper...few this year here, but then it has been a poor year for fruit and nuts round abouts.

Geotherm, like you we have noticed a huge hike in prices over the last 9 yrs here, we too rarely go out to eat only an ice cream for a treat.  Utility bills have soared.  Cost of over the counter medicines is ridiculous.  I could not afford Sky and TI have been a joke....thankfully the snow last Nov broke the line in the garden but when I traced where it went I found it threaded through the trees in a nearby road (now broken in many places...) but they still wanted rental payments.  Like you we have to lug our re-cycle stuff 400m up a steep hill as no door to door collection either.  Things are getting worse not better but home, garden and views are spectacular.....
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Re: Alternative to buying a house in Italy

Post by stevegwmonkseaton on Fri Oct 03, 2014 3:02 pm

Thanks Geo, you reminded me I need to look at a greenhouse of some kind (self built), I'm sure we can then extend the growing period for toms, peppers etc. I recall picking my first toms in England one year in late May, so must be able to do better in Italy. You also highlight the point on it depending on how you live, we love pasta, pizza now and then, olives, Italian bread. Rarely do we eat out as we like what we cook and have time to do so. When we do eat out we've found it to be on a par with the UK for price, much better quality, but not as much choice. Electrics, gas etc are even harder to compare as the house sizes differ, can't be for the same time as we are in one or the other. We tend to spend more time in the UK in winter, but have had a few months in the last few years in "summer". So will have a look at those...

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Re: Alternative to buying a house in Italy

Post by Geotherm on Fri Oct 03, 2014 4:04 pm

In some ways, the service companies are pretty good. We lost power for about a week during the snowstorms a year or so ago. Enel, credited our bill with a fair amount for loss of service. TI as well when some idiot builder cut the service line. I lost my broadband connection about a month ago and even though I speak little Italian, the technical lady on the TI site had it up and running again within a hour.
Asked if I would have chosen to live in Italy on a full time basis now, I would say no.
Yes, the scenery is good, the infrastructure is poor, food is overated and overpriced and usually overcooked to support the masses, burnt meat is not on my agenda, for what it is. I make no apologies for these comments.

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Re: Alternative to buying a house in Italy

Post by stevegwmonkseaton on Fri Oct 03, 2014 5:57 pm

Geotherm wrote:In some ways, the service companies are pretty good. We lost power for about a week during the snowstorms a year or so ago. Enel, credited our bill with a fair amount for loss of service. TI as well when some idiot builder cut the service line. I lost my broadband connection about a month ago and even though I speak little Italian, the technical lady on the TI site had it up and running again within a hour.Asked if I would have chosen to live in Italy on a full time basis now, I would say no. Yes, the scenery is good, the infrastructure is poor, food is overated and overpriced and usually overcooked to support the masses, burnt meat is not on my agenda, for what it is. I make no apologies for these comments.

You tinker! I think you just haven't found the right wine to go with it. No! Don't tell me you don't like the wine Question

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Re: Alternative to buying a house in Italy

Post by ghiro on Fri Oct 03, 2014 6:29 pm

Boys, boys boys!!  Some perspective please! Shocked

Burnt meat?!!!

I suppose it's where you are that determines your experience.  Quite close to us we can have a pranzo di lavoro of 2 excellent courses, wine, water and coffee for €10 a head.  A bottle of wine in the UK alone would probably cost more than that.

Agreed.  You can't afford to run your CH on gas.  Heat pumps or wood make perfect sense.  Everything in Italy is more expensive than the UK except booze, fags, selected meals out, cotto tiles and pots.

Do we have an orto?  No.  Because when your veg are ready the local farmers market is also selling them at a much better price than Conad.  Why struggle?!

So if Italy is that much more expensive than the UK why chose to live there?  Ask your heart - not your head.
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Re: Alternative to buying a house in Italy

Post by Geotherm on Fri Oct 03, 2014 7:29 pm

LOL Ghiro, I did not want to come here at all, but my wife did. She said that the food was so good, the Italians are so lovely, etc.
but changed her mind soon after we got here. Even she wants to get out of here, but it is more difficult with the dogs

Yes, we can go to a "pranzo di lavoro" for E10 and it is not so bad. Perhaps I should have said overcooked meat instaed of burnt.

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Re: Alternative to buying a house in Italy

Post by ghiro on Fri Oct 03, 2014 9:25 pm

I'm saddened to hear that things didn't work out for you and your wife Geotherm. Sad 

Your comment '.....but it's more difficult with the dogs' is interesting.  Are they 'Italian' rather than 'UK' dogs?  To get a Pet Passport in the UK is relatively easy, albeit not cheap.  But I have no idea what hoops you need to jump through to import an 'Italian' dog into the UK.

A good subject to kick off Admin's new 'Pets' perhaps?
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Re: Alternative to buying a house in Italy

Post by stevegwmonkseaton on Fri Oct 03, 2014 10:16 pm

Mmm this does need some in depth examination, like I said we live in the UK at least 3-6 months of the year and know it is more expensive for us! So it would be good to know what it is that's different? Do areas of Italy make a difference???

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Re: Alternative to buying a house in Italy

Post by Geotherm on Sat Oct 04, 2014 3:46 pm

ghiro wrote:I'm saddened to hear that things didn't work out for you and your wife Geotherm. Sad Your comment '.....but it's more difficult with the dogs' is interesting.  Are they 'Italian' rather than 'UK' dogs?  To get a Pet Passport in the UK is relatively easy, albeit not cheap.  But I have no idea what hoops you need to jump through to import an 'Italian' dog into the UK.A good subject to kick off Admin's new 'Pets' perhaps?

Both dogs are Italian, but to be honest I would not think of returning to the UK, even with the dogs and I have not been back for about 7 years.
The frustration here, is the overpricing, the mediocre quality of food and I have eaten in many places, due to work. I must say, that in the north they do have a better idea of food preparation and cooking than even Tuscany, which even we and a Austrian friend who has lived here much longer than us, said was pretty abysmal when he took us out to a "good" restaurant.

Ripoffs here are commonplace when you are having a renovation. They tried to charge us over 200Euro, for a lorry to sit outside with a few cubic mtrs of gravel on it while they were putting the septic tanks in. Excuse was the lorry could not be used as it was at our property, even though the guy who owned it was a single man business. Charge removed, as said would not pay it........ typical Italian shyster.

Saw this on a Thai site as son lives there, so shows how it works all round the world. At least  they do have reasonable prices for cookers. 5000 baht is under £100.

http://www.phuketgazette.net/opinion/The-price-looks-Phuket/35950

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Re: Alternative to buying a house in Italy

Post by stevegwmonkseaton on Sun Oct 05, 2014 1:22 pm

Certainly sounds like many might have benefited from renting in Italy, but I bet most of us would have still bought, despite what we know in hindsight. I don't think Italy is any more of a rip-off than the UK or most other countries - there are good and bad in all. We've had some wonderful experiences here and not many, if any, bad. As to the food, well it is again a very personal and subjective issue. For our tastes Italy has provided some of the best food ever, but we love pasta, olives, tomatoes, aubergine, peppers garlic and chilli. Fresh ingredients to us far out weighs presentation of the food, but both would be nice! Saying that, as I've said, we rarely eat out as the ambience of collecting in and preparing our own food, eating it when and how we want far, far out weighs the pleasure of not having to clear up!

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