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Searching for my New Home in Italy

Posted by on in Succesful property purchase in Italy

Chapter II

 It was October of 2013 when I returned to Rome and Lake Bracciano, this time alone. This time I was on a mission: It was to collect as much information for the area as I could, to find the real estate agents who sold property and to take it home with me, so that I could take a look on line.

My holiday was a good one, I was traveling alone and was able to find time to enjoy the warm Autumn sunshine. The lake visit was sandwiched between two visits to Rome. The Eternal city did not fail to energise my mood and I was able to visit a lot of the sights that I had not seen first time.

I was pleased with myself, as by the time I went home I had found the option available to me that would hopefully enable me to find the property in Italy that I wanted. It was a property portal called 'gate-away.com'. I did several things to help me plan so that I could be ready when the right property presented itself. During the year I did a lot of looking and searching through the property portal gate-away that I had found. There was property advertised right across Italy, anything from mansion houses and palaces to tiny caves that had little to no facilities. I was quite taken by a number of little places dotted around the countryside near to Rome, but after speaking to a friend and thinking it through, it wasn’t going to be very helpful to myself to buy a property that had no electricity or water.

It was these thoughts that helped me to consider just what I did want and what practical things I had to consider.

Here is the tick list of my personal wants that I prepared during my year of searching for my house, it needed:

  1. To have a sound construction, with a good water tight roof and drainage.
  2. To have mains connections for water, sewerage, electricity and gas.
  3. To have no evidence of damp.
  4. To preferably be habitable even if work was required.
  5. To be somewhere beautiful.
  6. Situated within a historic village or small town.
  7. To have local amenities, shop, post office, bar, pharmacy and doctor.
  8. To be around an hours drive to the nearest airport.
  9. To have a lake or river nearby because I love water.
  10. To be within my small budget and have enough spare to make any adjustments as well as buy furniture etc.
  11. To have a good road network.

In addition to my personal wants and needs, I also researched a number of other important things that I would need to know before I even looked for the property:

  1. What was the property purchase process in Italy and how was it different to what I know in the UK?
  2. Would I need a lawyer, if so where would they come from?
  3. What would be my rights in Italy? What would I be able to do and not able to do, work, driving, health, etc.
  4. How much extra tax and insurance would I need to find every year, would there be additional amounts for not being an Italian citizen?
  5. What if I wanted to retire in Italy, what would I need to think about for my health and well being?
  6. What might happen to my property in the event of my death?
  7. How did it work if I did have any changes made to the building?
  8. What would the banking process be to transfer the funds from UK sterling to Euro, what effects would the conversion rates have on my purchase for costs to me?
  9. Speaking Italian! How in the world would I learn?

It was a very early morning when I awoke suddenly in October 2014, exactly a year after my trip to Rome. I noticed I had an email from the gate-away that I decided to open. Lots of houses appeared in front of me. There are options on the site to load in my specific requirements. For some reason that morning, I searched anywhere in Italy, instead of Rome, which I never seemed to be able to afford. I was suddenly gripped with some photos that appeared in front of me. It was a small property, overlooking a lake in the village of Colledimezzo, Abruzzo. It was easily within my budget, it had 3 rooms, and a bathroom so it was much better than I ever thought possible. It had a lake view, it looked like it needed some love, but how much? The roof looked secure, it had a bathroom (that definitely needed some love!). It had 2 floors, a large kitchen / room on the first floor with stairs leading to the first bedroom and bathroom with a further room at the top. It looked a little over 100 years to me, and the photos did not look like there were any major problems to the building. The photos were really helpful as they gave me an honest look at what there was and was not.

This was where all my plans suddenly came in use. Within a few minutes I had checked on google maps the location, the distance to the airport as well as the geology and any potential problems or developments that I should know about in the area. It was really at this moment I just had to contact the real estate property agent to check for more information about the house. Abruzzo Rural Property and the details were on the page. I took some time to check their website first; this was reassuringly well written, in good English and seemed to have good understanding of the Abruzzo area with a large portfolio of property that was well presented on their page.

It was a Sunday, so I did not expect any kind of reply. Unbelievably a response came back, it was well answered, in English, from a lady called Monia. She answered all of my questions about the house quickly and courteously. Within 24 hours of seeing photo’s of the house, I had booked a flight to visit just 10 days later.

In those 10 days Monia assisted me with other questions, she also encouraged me to see other houses nearby and sent me some more in Abruzzo to look at. I also looked on line at the region of Abruzzo during this time, the landscape towns and cities and whatever history I could find. I checked the house prices in Abruzzo to see if they were similar across the region, and compared them to other regions of Italy. I looked at the road network and to see the distance to other cities such as Naples and Rome.

I parked along the street that enters the village and already, my breath was taken away by this very pretty Italian village.

When I arrived at the small hotel on the Saturday night Monia had kindly booked for me on the Saturday night in the neighbouring town of Villa Santa Maria, I was kindly greeted by the proprietor. As usual the kindness of Italian people shining through and they were interested to know why I was in Italy and why I wanted to buy a house in Abruzzo.

On the Sunday morning and after breakfast, I took the morning to visit the village of Colledimezzo. I parked along the street that enters the village and already, my breath was taken away by this very pretty Italian village. The houses were looking out towards me as if to say hello. Church bells were ringing as if welcoming me home. I took a walk quietly through the small network of paths, steps and streets, trying to see the house I was coming to see and the views of the lake. I reached the top of the village and looked across to the Lake Bomba and in the distance could see the Majella mountains with snow lacing their tops. Abruzzo was breathtakingly beautiful. I could not believe that sea and mountains were all so easily accessible. Nobody could ever be bored with this area, filled with such a beautiful bountiful landscape.

As I walked back down through the village there was a delicious smell of Italian food as families had prepared their Sunday meal in time for lunch. I watched as the men gathered round near the bar and others walked from church to greet them. There were happy sounds of laughter and a genuine murmur of contentment that sounded good to me.

I was excited to return the next morning and to meet Monia. She was there on time and greeted me with a warm smile and welcome. With all the emails we had had between us, it felt as if we already knew each other and it was easy for us to talk. We walked up through the network of steps towards the house, exchanging information about the village and the house. On the way she mentioned some of the neighbours and certainly seemed to know a number of them. Before I knew it we approached the house that I had seen in the photos and I recognised it immediately. She took the key to the large brown door and gave it a turn or two. We were inside. Large shutters were keeping out the light, the door let in some light and she opened the shutter so that we could see. It actually felt quite a lot bigger than I remembered in the photos. The middle floor housed a bedroom and bathroom, with another large room at the top floor.

I can remember my emotions as I looked at the house. Suddenly my dream was becoming a reality and I had the actual physical house to look at. It was actually quite frightening in a way. Very different to any house I had ever had in the UK, as well as suddenly feeling a very long way from home. In a foreign country without knowing a single soul, I had to put a lot of faith into how I was going to make this happen. Clearly, I was going to need some help to put it right. I would need a builder or a good plumber and electrician at the very least.

Paper work in the UK for buying a property is very lengthy and complicated, whereas this did not seem to be the case.

Looking back I can really appreciate just how good a property agent Monia is. She had everything in place for my concerns already. I was lucky, a quotation had already been prepared previously for the house by the local construction company outlining a number of the potential repairs that would be needed. I had seen this before I arrived, but now with the house in front of me it was a great to have this as a guide to the cost of repairs. Even more brilliant as Monia had already made arrangements to introduce me to one of the owners of the construction company. Returning to the village piazza, we waited for a minute and sure enough a man arrived with some of his men that were working on replacing a nearby roof. I could see immediately this company would have no difficulty in making the small repairs I would need. Sig. Porfilio gave me his attention whilst directing his staff, he appeared to be in full control of the situation. My fear seemed to dissolve, as I gained confidence it could all be possible with his expertise and support.

The other important discussions I had with Monia on that day were regarding the process of purchasing a house in Italy and again Monia’s attention to this detail was also a great assistance to me. Paper work in the UK for buying a property is very lengthy and complicated, whereas this did not seem to be the case. I should mention here that the cost of my property was very small and I could visually assess its condition without needing to take any additional surveys. Again Monia had confirmed that all of the vendors paperwork had been prepared in advance and essentially, once an offer was accepted and deposit in place, it would be up to me to decide when I wanted to meet with the Notary and sign the papers for it to be mine.

Monia had persuaded me to see another property, but it was really a gesture on my part to take a look. It was useful to see, as it also confirmed just how right my chosen house was for me. I had taken some photos, said my goodbyes and returned back to my hotel room to prepare to leave for the UK.

At that point, it would have been so easy to have been overwhelmed with the thoughts of how I was going to do this, but I really had to push any doubt or negative thoughts away. I could have spent many months of further looking to see if I could find something else, but past experience in life has shown me that this can confuse me into not making a decision at all. Instead, I grabbed the bull well and truly by the horns. After all the house did actually tick all of my boxes. Holding tight, I placed an offer just a little short of the asking price. Monia promised to get back to me with a decision as soon as she had spoken to the owners. By Wednesday it had been agreed for me to buy the house.

Just one month later on 8th December 2014, I went to sign the papers and collect the keys. With the guidance from Monia for the whole day, everything went pretty smoothly. A couple of hitches are always inevitable, but the finances and payments were arranged with relative ease. Even the notary was able to speak good English. Throughout the day Monia was also able to add and confirm any additional information or questions whilst we were together for the day. I signed all of the paperwork to the house. These were then validated and I returned some hours later with Monia to collect the key.

Looking back to 2014 it seems quite a long time has passed, and many good memories have been harvested. If anyone were to ask me had I any regrets, my answer is a resounding no. Abruzzo has changed my life forever, and anybody planning to do the same will find it so. Abruzzo is so so beautiful I am forever grateful for finding my little paradise that I can now call home.

Read chapter I

Author: Zoe Adams

Bio: With her children grown up and a successful career behind her, Zoë Adams bought her small property in Colledimezzo, Abruzzo Italy. This brought about significant changes in Zoe’s future. She has now reconfigured her lifestyle, spending 3 to 4 months of the year in Italy where she pursues her love of art. The other months are still in the UK working on temporary assignments to help pay the bills.