‘We’re Covid-free’: Remote Italian village aims to tempt buyers with one-euro homes offer

The latest in a long list of depopulated Italian towns offering houses for sale for a just a euro also claims that new residents won't need to worry about infection.

'We're Covid-free': Remote Italian village aims to tempt buyers with one-euro homes offer
The town of Cinquefrondi in southern Calabria has had no Covid-19 cases, the town's mayor says. Photo: Comune di Cinquefrondi

As tourism gradually restarts in Italy, many of the country's depopulated towns are once again looking to sell off their dilapidated houses to foreigners for the price of an espresso.

With most of these towns being in remote areas, they have often also escaped the worst of the coronavirus pandemic – and the mayor of one small town in Calabria says that's exactly why people should choose to buy a house there.

A well as the scenery and local history, Michele Conia, mayor of Cinquefrondi in Calabria, pointed to the area's lack of confirmed Covid-19 cases as a reason for buyers to consider his one-euro house scheme.

READ ALSO: These are all the Italian towns offering houses for one euro

The rural southern region of Calabria as a whole was one of the regions least affected by the coronavirus outbreak in Italy, with a relatively low count of 1,177 confirmed cases. 

Far from the tourist trail, Cinquefrondi is in a mountainous area between Catanzaro and Reggio Calabria in the very south of the country, on the toe of Italy's boot.

Screenshot: Google Maps

Like the many other towns making such an offer, Cinquefrondi has suffered from depopulation as younger generations have left in search of work. Italy currently has 5,800 villages with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants each, all at risk of becoming ghost towns.

As well as bringing new life to the town, mayor Conio hopes investors will beautify the currently crumbling parts of the historic town.

Photo: Comune di Cinquefrondi

Of course, the real cost of buying such houses is far higher than the symbolic one euro sale price.
While other towns selling one-euro homes require a deposit of up to €5,000 ($5,635) – which the buyer forfeits if they fail to renovate the house within three years – Cinquefrondi authorities instead request an annual €250 policy insurance fee until works are completed.
However, new owners are liable to be fined €20,000 if they do not complete the work within three years. 
“We're just asking for some kind of certainty once a new buyer commits to the project. The fee is very low and the cost of a restyle here is within €10,000 to €20,000, given the dwellings are cozy [and] tiny,” Conia told CNN.
The available houses are around 40-50 square metres in size.
There are around a dozen old houses currently on the market for one euro, which once belonged to farmers and shepherds. Conia says up to fifty could be made available if demand is high enough.
“If we receive a huge demand, I can expropriate all other buildings which have been empty for decades and the old owners are nowhere to be found.”
And he claims that the town has already been inundated with enquiries from far and wide.
“We believed in it from the beginning, and soon our abandoned houses will be inhabited by many tourists,” Conia wrote on the town's Facebook page on Thursday. “Just today, hundreds of requests have arrived from those who see Cinquefrondi as a strategic place to live.”
Anyone interested in the offer can find out more on the town's official website or send an email to: [email protected]


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Reader question: Has Italy’s ‘superbonus 110’ been scrapped?

The Italian government has announced sweeping changes to the country's popular building superbonus scheme, but does this mean funding is no longer available at all? Here's what you need to know.

Reader question: Has Italy's 'superbonus 110' been scrapped?

Question: I’m currently renovating my Italian property and plan to use the ‘superbonus 110’ discount from the Italian government. I’ve read in a UK newspaper that Italy has just scrapped the superbonus. Is this true, and if so can I no longer claim it?

This is partially correct – you’re unlikely to be able to begin a new renovation project using the building ‘superbonus’ now, as Italy’s government has just made a major change to the scheme which makes it inaccessible to most people.

Until last week there were three ways of claiming the funding, but following a hastily-approved amendment on Thursday now there’s only one – via a tax deduction (detrazione fiscale), which is only available to those who pay higher rates of income tax (Irpef). This effectively means the superbonus is now only open to the highest-earning Italian taxpayers.

The first thing to know however is that the rule change does not apply retroactively to projects which are already underway.

EXPLAINED: How Italy has changed its building superbonus – again

So you should be able to continue if you’ve already begun your claim for the superbonus under any of the three routes previously available: trading tax credit (cessione del credito), choosing to receive a discount on the invoice (sconto in fattura), or deduction from future income tax bills (detrazione fiscale). You can read a more detailed explanation of how this works here.

However this will depend on exactly what stage you are at with your claim. A qualified geometra (surveyor) or the building firm overseeing your renovation project should be able to confirm whether and how this could change anything in your situation.

So while the superbonus hasn’t been scrapped entirely, it is now so tightly restricted that new claims will be impossible for most.

Builder carrying out renovation work

After undergoing major changes in early January, Italy’s superbonus has been re-modelled once again. Photo by Milivoj Kuhar on Unsplash

There have already been various other recent changes to and problems with the superbonus scheme which stopped many homeowners from either making new claims or completing existing projects in recent months.

The availability of the superbonus was limited from the end of 2022 when long-planned changes came into effect preventing many people who had previously been eligible from claiming, including second-home owners. The maximum amount of funding available was also cut from 110 percent to 90 percent at this point, effectively turning it into the ‘superbonus 90’

While these generous amounts of state funding understandably drew international media attention, in reality many homeowners in Italy using the superbonus found that the maximum amount of funding was only available in rare cases – usually to those paying the highest rates of tax – and everyone else would be more likely to get a deduction of between 50-70 percent.

Still not a deal to be sniffed at, the superbonus proved immensely popular – so popular in fact that it resulted in a building boom leading to a nationwide shortage of building companies available to carry out the work. This plus a shortage of building supplies, which was further exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, meant the cost of labour and materials soared – making many projects unviable even with the hefty rebates.

READ ALSO: How Italy’s building bonuses are delaying the renovation of cheap homes

These shortages also resulted in major delays to many projects, as did another rule change which made it harder for building companies to obtain the credit they needed to begin work. This blocked credit transfers causing delays to projects and uncertainty which, readers tell us, meant they had to cancel their plans or in some cases has not yet been resolved.

So while it was technically available, many people found themselves unable to actually use the building superbonus in 2022.

But if you already have a claim underway, the latest government rule change looks unlikely to cause any further problems on top of those already faced by homeowners.

Please note that The Local cannot advise on individual cases. For more information on claiming Italy’s building bonuses, homeowners are advised to consult a qualified Italian building surveyor or independent financial advisor.

See more in our Italian property section.