Why British buyers beat US investment in Italian property

British interest in Italian property has almost risen by half in the last year, overtaking United States demand, new data reveals.

UK buyers have now taken a 2.2% lead over US investors, with demand rising 47% from January-October 2015 compared with the same time the previous year, according to the autumn figures from Italian property specialist Gate-Away.com. US interest has also increased year-on-year by a sizeable 27%.

British buyers accounted for 16.2% of all property requests, with Americans in second on 14%, Germans in third with 9.54%, French buyers fourth with 8.2% and Belgium buyers fifth on 5.86%.

Tuscany is the most popular region with 16.8% of all inquiries, followed by Puglia on 11.64%, Abruzzo on 11.47%, Liguria on 8.46% and Piedmont on 7.68%.

The average value of property searched is €302,000, although 38.84% of searches are for homes under €100,000, 31.6% from €100,000-€250,000, 18.65% from €250,000-€500,000, 6.21% from €500,000 to €1million and 4.7% above that.

Nearly four out of five searches (78.83%) are for houses and the rest for apartments, with almost two out of 10 (18.4%) wanting properties for restoration one in 10 (9.9%) looking for new homes. Most buyers (35%) wanted two-bed properties, with 24. 4% aiming for three-bed homes.

Gate-Away.com General Manager, Simone Rossi, tells OPP.Today why British demand for Italian property has overtaken US interest. “Despite the euro’s value has decreased both against the GBP and the USD, factors as the short geographic distance, low cost flight connections, information and market players more “at hand” made British buyers respond more quickly than the Americans.

“The favourable currency difference is just the trigging factor that made this figures jump up even further lately, as the positive trends of British demand for Italian property has been steadily increasing for some time now. More proactive activities from Italian players like estate agents but also main Italian property promoters like Gate-Away.com has increased the awareness from overseas buyers in general but particularly towards British buyers. Furthermore, British buyers are more ready to invest in Italy than Americans.”

He believes the trend is likely to continue for some time. “The Italian property market is not purely for an investment purchase but is more an emotional purchase. Brits who buy in Italy are more in love with the lifestyle, the culture and everything this country has to offer, so if we (we Italians) communicate well our market and its potential this trend will remain positive for many years to come.”

The top three areas each have particular appeal. Lois Allan – Owner of the agency L’Architrave Immobiliare, says house prices in Tuscany have remained relatively stable despite the economic downturn due to the continued interest from international investors.

“Planning regulations in Tuscany are strict and there are a limited number of character farmhouses or rustic properties available for restoration. Many stone barns cannot be converted as consent for a change of use is unlikely to be granted except for in few and specific locations.

“Rental returns on properties are high due to the ‘holiday appeal’ of Tuscany. There is no capital gains tax on properties sold after 5 years of ownership.

“Tuscany is the cradle of Western civilization and the natural beauty combined with history, architecture, culture and accessibility with international airports in both Florence and Pisa maintains the area as a prestigious location in the world.”

Matteo Mariano – Owner of the agency Mariano Immobili, says Puglia is a more and more exciting and charming region. “It’s a unique land, a place offering multiple cultures, landscapes and architectures, from the wonderful ‘trullo’ to baroque palaces. In this territory, anyone can find a property that best suits its taste and budgets, never forgetting its extraordinary typicality.”

Mila Caserio – Owner of the agency Immobiliare Caserio, says many foreign buyers are particularly attracted by Abruzzo due to its strategic location and especially for its property prices, which are much lower compared to other Italian regions.

“Abruzzo small towns on the hillside and ancient villages suffering from depopulation are the most affected by this phenomenon.

Hhaving a second or third home in the village of origin is becoming increasingly expensive for Italians. In some cases, these properties have been empty for decades and are in a state of deterioration. Foreigners love these villages, their landscapes, the style of their stone houses and the slow pace of life that these places offer, says Mila Caserio.

“I think the goal should be precisely having foreign customers fall in love even more with the Abruzzo region, in order for them to contribute as well to preserve inland villages (like ghost towns). Thus, they could be reborn as in the past, reviving the gastronomic and popular traditions that are disappearing more and more. Young Italians do not cultivate anymore these passions that our grandparents had and still have today.

“However, also the Abruzzo region should encourage foreign customers, for instance with higher incentives, promoting a better knowledge of the area through guided tours.”

Apart from British buyers demand is growing from other overseas property investors, says Lois Allan. “Tuscany has appealed to the British market for many years. The availability of budget flights from more and more countries (Pisa airport in building a second runway) has added to the appeal from other European countries including Scandinavia, Holland, Belgium and Switzerland. The strength of the dollar has meant an increase of the number of Americans wishing to own a piece of Italian heritage.”

Matteo Mariano says Puglia has undergone a significant increase in recent years thanks to foreign investors who have decided to choose this location as a place to stay. “The main factors determining this choice are certainly related to the beauty of the area and a far lower real estate budget compared to other Italian and foreign locations.”

Mila Caserio says in Abruzzo there is a real estate sector not affected by the crisis, in fact, it has never been as prosperous as now. This is international property market.

“Abruzzo is experiencing once again a glorious time among foreigners who want to invest in a house in Italy. About fifteen years ago, the phenomenon of small foreign investors began spreading. They were mainly from the UK and fewer from Scandinavian countries, interested in purchasing rural properties in Abruzzo. Among them, there was Daniele Kihlgreno, the Swedish businessman who bought and then renovated the famous village of Santo Stefano di Sessanio, today an important tourism destination in Abruzzo. However, after several prosperous years, the influx of investors dropped due to the Italian and international political and economic situation.

“In recent years, the market has regained its former glory, perhaps even higher than before. The very favourable currency exchange between British pound, dollar and euro has increased the interest by international investors in buying a property in Italy.”

Given the international appeal, Italy has fewer agents serving international buyers than other European countries, says Simone Rossi.

“There are not as many as in other countries as Spain or France but we are seeing this growing very fast as many agents from other regions than Tuscany understand that their area can attract a lot of interest from international buyers and are considering this market as good source of income. The more Italian agents serve international buyers and the more other agents will be interested in jumping into this market, serving also the international buyers a wider and a better offer.”

Gate-Away.com is based in Italy and features more than 18,000 listed properties for sale by more than 360 Italian real estate agencies.

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