For the 50+ Traveler

At this point, it’s no longer surprising to learn a town in Italy is selling houses for €1. What’s different about the homes for sale in Laurenzana, however, is that the town has taken steps to make it easy to purchase the homes -- especially for homebuyers who don’t already live in Italy.

The process of buying a €1 home usually involves a great deal of fine print, not to mention stipulations such as having to make a deposit of as much as €5,000 ($5,900). What’s more, that deposit typically isn’t refunded until after the home is repaired and subsequently meets the town’s approval. That’s not the case with homes in Laurenzana.

“We want to help newcomers purchase the house of their dreams without making it hard for them to follow tedious procedures and tight requirements,” Mayor Michele Ungaro told CNN. “At times it can be difficult to navigate through regulation, particularly if you’re a foreigner. We want this adventure to be a pleasure, not a burden.”

The town of Laurenzana doesn’t require home buyers to make a deposit to ensure the home is repaired quickly, because that requirement can sound threatening, Ungaro told CNN. Instead, the town has decided to rely on good faith -- but it will watch the progress as homes are being repaired.

The Town Of Laurenzana

Laurenzana, in the Basilicata region of southern Italy, is near the city of Matera, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Close to seaside locations such as Maratea, Praia a Mare, Scalea, Capo Palinuro, and Marina di Camerota, Laurenzana also is near a medieval castle -- perched on a rocky cliff.

As is often the case with old cities, a series of narrow, cobbled alleys -- known as strettele -- criss-cross Laurenzana. Some of the alleys are so narrow that houses on each side must coordinate opening their windows, CNN explains.

So why are there so many houses for sale? Although the town currently has around 1,700 year-round residents, its population has been steadily declining since the early 1900s, CNN reports. That’s when residents began migrating to other countries for work while at the same time, the town wasn’t attracting new residents.

How The Home Buying Works

Although Laurenzana has taken steps to make home-buying easier than it is in other towns, the process still has requirements. For example, potential buyers are required to submit a detailed renovation plan before their offer is considered, CNN reports. What’s more, a home’s renovation must begin within three months after it’s bought -- and the work must be completed in less than three years.

“It would be of great help in speeding up the process if interested buyers get in touch straight away with a draft plan of what they intend to do with their new property,” Ungaro told CNN. “They also should explain how much money they plan to invest in the restyle.”

The homes for sale range in size, so if prospective buyers explain their plans in advance, the mayor can help find the property that best suits their needs, he explains.

Finally, buying a home cannot entirely be conducted remotely. So, while prospective buyers will be given photos of the house in advance, they will still ultimately need to visit the property in person to finalize the sale. Furthermore, given Italy’s travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems unlikely that any sales will be possible anytime soon.

Laurenzana, Italy, homes.

What The Homes Are Like

Right now, there are about 10 homes in the town’s downtown area for sale for €1 -- and they are in reasonably good condition, Ungaro told CNN. There also are approximately 40 empty buildings for sale that also need repair.

The homes, made of stone and red brick, were built in the 1800s. Located in the town’s center and near shops and bars, many of the homes have wrought-iron balconies. Not surprisingly, given that many of the homes have been empty for decades, many have wooden doors that have come off their hinges, and some even have detached window frames. Most of the homes also have side entrances and arches, which, unfortunately, have been and covered in cement.

Ungaro told CNN that buyers should be willing to invest at least €20,000 so they can renovate one of the houses. On the other hand, if you don’t want to renovate a house, Ungaro said there are other houses for sale in the town.

For €25,000 (roughly $30,000), you can buy a 50-square-meter home that’s ready for occupancy, Ungaro said.

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