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Italy’s cheap houses are back. You can now buy a property in Sicily for as little as €3

Italy is famous for its €1 houses so why the price increase?
Italy is famous for its €1 houses so why the price increase? Copyright Antonino Cicero
Copyright Antonino Cicero
By Rebecca Ann Hughes
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Italy is famous for its €1 houses so why the price increase?

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In 2019, the southern Italian village of Sambuca di Sicilia went viral for selling off homes for as little as €1. 

Schemes like this have become a popular way for rural towns with dwindling populations to boost their number of residents and prevent disused houses from falling into disrepair. 

But while the initiatives flopped in some places, Sambuca’s sellers were met with floods of requests. 

Buyers came from as far away as the US and the Middle East. The sales injected some €20 million into the local economy. 

Now, the Sicilian village is putting more houses under the hammer. 

As with last time, however, there are a few stipulations potential buyers should be aware of - plus the price has gone up. 

Italian village puts more cheap houses on the market

After successful sales in 2019 and 2021, Sambuca di Sicilia is auctioning off another lot of cheap houses. 

This time, ten homes are available at the starting price of €3. 

The structures are located in the town’s old Saracen district and are reportedly as structurally sound as those sold under previous schemes. 

The houses, which were abandoned after an earthquake in 1969, belong to the local authorities so the process of selling is smoother than in places where councils have to liaise between buyers and private owners.

The properties on offer are two to three-bedroom houses no bigger than 80 metres squared built in honey-hued stone. 

The buildings have two or three floors and some have terraces. 

So what’s the catch?

The houses are sold via auction to the highest bidder so the buying price will likely be considerably more than the symbolic sum of €3 - previously most have gone for between €5,000 and €10,000.

A few of the homes on offer boast internal courtyards with pretty lemon trees and bright majolica tiled floors. 

But most of the properties are far from being ready to live in. As with the previous cheap homes, buyers will have to undertake extensive repair work. 

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New owners should expect to pay at least €30,000 for a basic revamp rising to over €200,000 for a full makeover. 

Renovation work must be completed within three years of purchase otherwise buyers lose their €5,000 deposit required during the bidding process.

Interested applicants can find information in English and photos of the properties available as well as application forms on the town council’s website.

How have €1 houses schemes changed Italy’s small towns?

Sambuca’s “houses for the price of an espresso” have brought in much-needed income with important contracts for local builders, architects and designers. 

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It has also prompted the opening of new tourist accommodation and shops and there are now remote-working spaces to encourage digital nomads to stay in the town. 

The scheme has changed the town’s demographic too. It has been particularly popular with buyers from the States leading to the town being dubbed “Little America” because of the large expat community. 

While the initiative has revitalised Sambuca, those looking for an immersive experience surrounded by locals might want to look elsewhere. 

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