For sale at one euro: a house in an idyllic Sicilian village
Council in Gangi selling off around 20 homes for the price of a cup of coffee in the hope of attracting new life to hilltop community
Nick Squires in Rome
4:24PM BST 06 Aug 2014
It’s yours for the price of a cup of coffee – a historic house in a terracotta-tiled hill town in Italy.
In fact for the price of a full English breakfast, you could snap up half a dozen of them.
The mountain town of Gangi on the Madonie mountains in the Province of Palermo (Alamy)
A village in Sicily which has endured decades of population decline and neglect has come up with a novel, and seemingly too-good-to-refuse offer: it is selling off empty homes for just one euro each. That’s 80p at today’s exchange rate.
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Gangi is a hill-top town set amid the rolling wheat fields and wooded valleys of central Sicily, about an hour’s drive south of the picturesque holiday resort of Cefalu.
Founded in the 12th century, it boasts a castle and access to hiking trails in the surrounding countryside.
The local council wants to sell around 20 houses, many of them derelict, which were bequeathed by locals who had neither the money nor the will to renovate them.
The bargain-basement prices come with a few conditions, none of which are very onerous or particularly costly.
Gangi, with Mt Etna in the distance; the town is an hour’s drive from Cefalu (Alamy)
Buyers must pay a €5,000 (£3,970) guarantee to the local council to ensure that they renovate the properties, rather than just leave them empty. The money will be redeemed once the homes are restored.
Owners have five years in which to bring the houses up to a habitable standard. Most of them are in a state of disrepair, if not derelict, with the cost of renovating them estimated at around €35,000 (£28,000).
Buyers would have to pay the legal costs associated with the purchase – estimated at around €6,000 (£4,760) per property, depending on its taxable value.
Gangi’s council first launched the unusual initiative a couple of years ago, but with none of the councillors speaking English, it received barely any attention and achieved few results.
Now the village of 7,000 people has turned to Marie Wester, an English-speaking, Swedish property consultant who lives in Sicily, to help market the deal.
The Ventimiglia tower in the town of Gangi (Alamy)
Through a newsletter she sends out to clients, she has already had interest from four British couples as well as Swedes, Americans and Russians.
“The people of Gangi want to attract foreigners to the town because they want to bring in new life,” Ms Wester told The Telegraph.
“Since I got involved in the sale, there has been massive interest. I think it’s a good deal.”
After living in Italy for seven years, Ms Wester has a shrewd idea of what local builders would charge to undertake the renovation of the properties, all of which are in the historic centre of Gangi.
“The houses need new roofs and floors, you’d need to put in electricity, water and sewerage and re-plaster them at the end of it all. I reckon it would cost about €35,000 per property.
“The only downside I can think of is that the village is not near the coast, but it a lovely medieval town, it’s very clean and well-kept and the people are friendly.”
Two of the houses were bought last week by an expatriate Italian businessman and his Russian wife, who are based in Abu Dhabi.
“They fell in love with our village, with the tranquillity and the clean air,” said Giuseppe Ferrarello, the mayor. “We’ve received more than a hundred telephone calls from Italy and abroad. We are ready to welcome more people with traditional hospitality.”
Gangi may be in the same province as Corleone, the town made notorious for its Mafia links by The Godfather books and films, but foreign buyers need have no fear of Cosa Nostra.
“The Mafia exists, of course, but they are operating at a different level – they are interested in multi-million euro construction projects, not restorations like this,” said Ms Wester. “Some people think that if you come here you’ll see them walking down the street with guns, but it’s not like that.”
The one-euro-a-house offer comes a month after much of a village in the Italian Alps was put on sale on eBay for €245,000 (£195,000).
Calsazio had a population of around 80 a few decades ago but emigration and the drift to the cities by young people has reduced the number of locals still living there to just eight.
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