House Hunters International: Italy: The Prices!?

We just watched the most recent airing of House Hunters International with a couple moving from Milan into the countryside.

The showed a condo, a house and another house/condo combo. All of them were, to be honest, nothing spectacular; crappy furnishings, ugly kitchens and small rooms. I have lived in Europe and have traveled through Italy. Yes, I guess you could call them “quaint” and “rustic” and “old world charm”, but here in the US, you would call them dumps. But then they mentioned the prices!

One of them was just under $1 million and two of them were over $1 million!!!

Have all the prices of homes in Italy (and the rest of Europe) gone insane in the last few years? Seriously, if I had been invited to visit someone in any of those three homes, I would have thought them to be poor villagers!

From the prices for those places, homes in NYC and Beverly Hills are starting to look like a bargain!

I remember watching an episode that took place in Italy a while back (my wife loves the show; I’d like it better if they didn’t waste so much time and repeat themselves so much). I can’t remember where the episode took place, but I want to say around Tuscany.

Anyway, they mentioned near the beginning that homes were hard to come by because, due to laws passed to keep the area from being built up, it was against the law to lay down a new foundation. If you wanted a new home, you had to tear down an existing house and build on its foundation. That meant that living space was at an extreme premium, and meant that many old “dumps” went for truly absurd prices.

I’m only guessing, but could it have been something like that, perhaps?

Max Torque, you have a point there. I remember that show as well, and you are right - they did mention very strict building codes. When I lived in Switzerland, I know they had limited space and similar laws - hence any “new” homes permitted to be built look very much like neighboring old homes from the outside, and not just because everyone coincidentally has the same taste; it is to retain the style of the landscape.

Lack of homes for sale would most certainly explain why the prices are high, even though the houses are sub-par and rooms are small.

What it doesn’t really explain is why someone would plunk down over $1 million dollars for what still is a primitive cottage at best.

I mean, if you have that money, or are asking for that large amount, wouldn’t you expect some major interior design renovations? I have seem some really beautiful old cottages retain their structural exterior and interior design charm, but still have tastefully styled creature comforts of the 21st century. It just seems like a lot of money for homes that even a Hobbit would gut, renovate and update before moving in.

Maybe it is just me.

This was in the countryside? I’ve seen episodes where they’ve been charging that much for a gloomy Paris flat that has few windows and a lunatic floor plan (because it was carved out of someone else’s closets). But that’s in downtown Paris!

OTOH, I’m often surprised by how cheaply one can buy a home in the Caribbean or on the Mexican Riviera.

I remember a few years back when I worked in Italy (GOD, I am like a broken record with that, but it seems helpful to include it in threads about Italy) that there was a big issue with young Italian people moving back in with mom and dad because housing prices were so crazy. We laugh about it in the U.S., and still it was even more prevalent in Italy, even including young newlyweds. Of course, Italy has a more established tradition of multi-generational living, but even to the Italians, the trend was excessive and it was all about rising housing costs.

The other issue that might be factored in is that the idea of a “starter home” isn’t that common in Italy – when most people buy a house, they are buying it for the long term (and I guess that would even include their own kids moving back as adults!). There is less of a push for young couples to establish themselves by buying a house – the idea of renting v. owning isn’t attached to ideas of respectability in the same way it is for some Americans. Renting for longer is viewed as prudent and responsible, not weird or transitory.

I was in Italy to mid-2001 then returned at the end of 2005. Besides all the roundabouts (traffic circles), I was shocked at all the building of homes, condos, townhouses, and apartments. A little podunk village would have 50 to 60 condos/apartments being built just back from the main road. Everywhere you went, the sky was/is dotted with construction cranes hauling brick and tile around the building sites.

My area is around Vicenza / Padova in the Northeast 1/2 hour west of Venice. Both provinces and North of Venice were explosively growing. Part of it is relaxation of rules of ownership by foreigners and I think there may be a government subsidy program to get the kids out of the house? If/when I get back from these deployments, I’ll do some digging with my Italian friends.

Now that the Euro is down a bit, prices are more reasonable… New construction 3 bedroom/2 bath townhouses 125-150 sq mt (1400-1800 sq ft approx) can be had for $175,000 to $225,000 in good locations. I know these are still small by McMansion standards and no/minimal closets but not bad for Italy/Europe.

Prime locations will be more but I’m not totally blown away anymore.

It would probably be cheaper to live in Albania and commute!

[hijack]You know, I think that describes the area I grew up in in the US, too, pretty well. I remember being fascinated by the concepts of “starter homes” when I moved to Michigan from California in 2002. I worked in the mortgage industry in both states, and it was really, really different. In the Bay Area, most people don’t really do starter homes, because it’s not practical when an ordinary suburban house is running $600-$700k. My parents still live in the house I grew up in.[/hijack]