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The 'most beautiful Italian town' selling homes for just £2 – everything you need to know

Many Italian towns that have been struggling to attract new residents since 2019 have taken to launching incredibly cheap homesale schemes, some for as low as 85p. The latest scheme is set to take place in one of I Borghi più belli d’Italia (“The most beautiful villages of Italy”). 

After seeing huge demand for its previous home schemes in 2019 and 2021, Sicily’s Sambuca di Sicilia is preparing to launch a third batch with starting prices of three euros, or just £2.55. 

“Foreigners are flocking to buy our homes, it’s been a hit so far,” said newly elected mayor Giuseppe Cacioppo to CNN. 

Cacioppo encourages potential buyers who are heading to the region to pay the town a visit and check out the around a dozen homes available: “The timing is perfect. Tourists and interested buyers currently travelling to Italy, and those planning a trip in spring and summer can come take a look.”

According to Cacioppo, the homes located in the old Saracen district are as “structurally stable as those so far sold”, but are in need of a restyle. Those on offer are said to consist of single, two to three-bedroom houses of 50 to 80 square metres, built with golden-brown stones and spread over one or three floors. 

Many have iron-wrought balconies overlooking cobbled streets and terraces, as well as original green wooden doors decorated with arches and windows. Those in the best condition even feature tiny internal Moorish courtyards with lemon trees and old painted majolica tile floors.

Sambuca made global headlines in 2019 when it was first revealed that 16 houses were up for sale for just 85p. Two years later, the town released a second batch of homes for two euros – or £1.70. 

“We just want to make it clear that by numbering these batches, more sales will likely follow in coming years,” said Mayor Cacioppo. 

The scheme has helped to revamp the local economy with an influx of over £17million, luring international buyers from as far as the Middle East, the mayor continued. The influx includes turnover from new B&Bs, new shops that have opened in the town and contracts with builders, architects, surveyors, interior designers and notaries.

“The two batches of houses, owned by the town hall, revitalised the private real estate sector. People rushing to grab one at auction but didn’t make the final cut bought a cheap house instead. So far, 250 homes have been sold,” he said.

The success of the efforts is largely attributed to the fact that the local authorities own the empty homes which they hope to offload. Sambuca’s authorities took possession of the houses after an earthquake in the surrounding Belice Valley in 1969, which caused locals to flee. 

“Rome’s government back then approved a specific law for Sambuca’s revival that granted the town hall ownership of the abandoned homes, so we can dispose of these as we wish, and there are no middle agencies,” says Cacioppo, meaning the sale process is much faster. 

However, while towns such as Sambuca have basked in the success of its sales, other towns have struggled to find buyers. This includes the medieval village of Patricia, located south of Rome. The village attempted to launch similar schemes, but struggled to track down the former owners to gain permission to sell their empty homes. 

Depending on the condition of the property, simple restyles are said to start at £25,500 but can rise to over £170,000 if buyers plan to create a luxury retreat.

The scheme is such a success that many of those buyers who previously won bids ended up buying more properties in town, often attached homes, meaning they could expand. Similarly, locals keen to cash-in on the high demand have rushed to sell off garages and abandoned lofts.

Last year, the town hall opened remote-working spaces to lure global digital workers, offering free stays and strengthening its Wi-Fi connection. 

“Our town is now definitely on the map,” says Cacioppo.

The Sambuca homes up for auction will be sold to the highest bidder, with those taking part required to pay a deposit guarantee of £4,255. If they lose, the sum will immediately be returned to them. The rules of the scheme stipulate that the renovation work must be completed within three years, or risk losing their deposit guarantee.

In the previous sales, houses were eventually sold at prices between 85p and £21,000, with most going for between £4,255 to £8,511. 


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