House Hunting in Italy {Fall 2015} part six

House Hunting

Yep we are still looking; 2 years and counting…

This time I thought it was a great idea to house hunt in the fall. Why not, right? Enjoy the cool weather and see what else is out there.

House hunting in Italy is a real challenge, no joke. Here in the states, you give a great real estate agent your wish list, and they come up with a great selection. In Italy, there’s no such thing. Basically you tell them what you want, and they show you things that leave you scratching your head.

So this time, I spent about 4 days scouring the internet and found some really great options for myself.  I enlisted an agent in the region (northern Tuscany) and took matters into my own hands, as one does in Italy. The other really really important bit is to know people in Italy, and by “know” I mean my friends “know people”; most real estate is sold by word of mouth. Most of my friends know the families of houses for sale, or at least can research the family if we are looking at something through an agent. It’s all about connections in Italy. If you’re interested in buying real estate in Italy, make sure you have an Italian friend in tow.

Heading Southwest in my trusty Fiat 500 with my best friend and partner in crime Forrest in tow, we again set our sites on finding thee properties for us to get out hands on and turn into the perfect location for style + photo workshops and many other retreats down the road.

(I was so excited!)

With my excitement contained, we ventured to see this tiny rustico (farmhouse)… like with all houses we’ve seen there are always pros and cons. In Italy there’s no such thing as the perfect package; EVERYTHING is a compromise. EVERYTHING. Money helps with the compromise part, but more on that later.

House 1 : Piccolo Rustico : This house was too small and too close to the road, but had an amazing view and new roof. Yes a new roof is a big deal ,as most reconstruction costs comprise of the roof. Great price, but you can only add 20% onto the house, so it’s still too small.

House Hunting House Hunting I love it when there is furniture left in the house; this house was obviously not set up or staged. Staging in Italy is not a thing. In most cases, you have to look around the mess and see if there’s potential.

House 2: Grey Gardens, Italian Style: The next house was what I named “The Grey Gardens” property. A massive family summer house, that was probably breathtaking in it’s hay day. Bustling with children, dogs, nannies, and parties and summer fun.

Now in disrepair due to the family falling on hard times (a family comprised of 4 families with about 24 family members). This family has put part of the property up for sale. BTW just because it is up for sale does not mean it would be an easy purchase; all 24 family members need to sign off on the sale. This is why it is daunting to buy property in Italy (one of the many reasons). Buying property in Italy is not by any means straight forward, or for the faint of heart.

This particular property we had looked at about 10 years ago. I remembered the amazing kitchen; the perfect location for cooking classes, food styling workshops and retreats. 7 bedrooms, grand sitting rooms, entrances and a killer location for a communal dining room.

I was really excited to see it again.  We navigated a very very curvy dangerous road to a mountain top village. As I had remembered it, the house was still pretty impressive. We toured it for a couple hours, the overgrown rose garden, and a perfect location for a pool in full sun with the most breathtaking mountain views (honestly so beautiful is literally looked like a painted backdrop). The 2 barns and grassy entry were simply charming.

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Super location for the pool….

House Hunting House Hunting House Hunting House Hunting House Hunting House Hunting The big down side…The family would still live in part of the property. Not a minor complication in Italy. Italians have a tendency to drop by, and they have opinions, especially about a property they still regard as their own, even though you plunked down your money for it. The property had many structural issues (cha ching) and mainly this property is located in a village that is very hard to get to. Let’s say that even though it had tons of potential, the down sides were undeniable. When looking at property in Italy, one must really be realistic about the final outcome. So Grey Gardens was a pass.

On to the next one… House 3: One Man’s Masterpiece is another Man’s Mess!
This house was situated in a beautiful place. The location, in a small hillside village, with a one of a kind marble staircase, frescos gorgeous trim and finishes, stunning original floors a chapel. We had high hopes. Even though we were concerned about the size, the price was right.

We walked into the courtyard and met the man that was selling it, the sole owner (unusual in Italy BTW). He bought the house as a passion project. He wanted to do the renovation himself as a GIANT DIY project. BIG mistake. At an overwhelming 6000 square feet, this house is not a renovation, it is a restoration that needed to involve professionals. This is what I call a “loving hands of home” project, meaning that the homeowner has taken on a project that he had no business tackling. Clearly he was in over his head, and the renovations he had done were not a plus; they, in fact, were a BIG fat minus. Everything he had touched needed to be ripped out. The expense of ripping out and restoring this home would equal the “money pit.” I felt sorry for this man. I know he had the best intentions, but his retrofitted unprofessional solutions made for a grande cassino (a big mess).

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House 4: The Mill and the River I was super excited to see this property…It’s in a sunny location, flat, and at the edge of a vineyard. With a river running through it, this former Flour Mill was a contender. With all properties in general, you have to walk around the site, but especially in Italy you have to see the lay of the land. The fist thing that struck me is that this was a flood plan. Super bummer. The gardener confirmed that the land was amazing to plant in. Yes of course it was because it was “moist”; not a good thing for a home. Upon inspection of the inside, we found black mold everywhere. The water issue is a non-negotiable.The physical plant was a amazing, but the river was a BIG minus. So this one, as beautiful as it looks, the truth revealed … it is a NO.

House Hunting

I will say that I think we did find THE property this trip. I am going to keep that one in my back pocket because in Italy anything can happen, so first things first: an inspection, the results, and then decisions will be made. Piano piano (slowly slowly) in Italy; that’s the way we do it. No grand announcements, you will know as this plays out…patience is a virtue, and patience is something we have; we are in it for the long haul….we will keep you posted. xx

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