Mussomeli, an Italian town on the island of Sicily, is selling its old houses at a discount in a bid to revitalize its local economy.
The hilly town with a population of less than 11,000, launched a plan to sell houses for only one euro (about 1.12 U.S. dollars) in 2017. In order to handle the many requests and inquiries the agency, Agenzia Immobiliare Siciliana, was created.
When buying a house in Mussomeli, purchasers sign an agreement with the local government where they pay a cash deposit of 5,000 euros (about 5,578 U.S. dollars) and agree to renovate the house within three years. Buyers will also have to pay the brokerage fee of 400 euros (about 446.24 U.S. dollars) if a deal is reached. In addition, they also need to pay legal and proxy fees.
According to Agenzia Immobiliare Siciliana, a total of 100 sets of houses ranging from one to thousands of euros have been sold since the plan was launched.
Most buyers are from Belgium, France, the Netherlands and other European countries due to the local government’s requirement that buyers need to visit the houses on the spot and that right of long-term residence cannot be guaranteed when buying a house. About 400 sets of homes are on sale now.
“Now I have 3,000 e-mails to answer and I receive 15 to 20 phone calls every day,” said Valeria, an agent with Agenzia Immobiliare Siciliana.
Giuseppe Sebastiano Catania, Mayor of Mussomeli, said the town used to have a population of 15,000 in the 1950s, but the number has now shrunk by almost a third, especially in the historic center where old houses are concentrated. This is mainly because a large number of young people have left the town in favor of more developed regions and job opportunities.
“We carried out the plan mainly in order to achieve our economic goal: to make foreigners buy houses here and attract foreign capital at the same time, which can help us to rebuild these old houses and give a boost to the construction-related industries,” said Giuseppe Sebastiano Catania, Mayor of Mussomeli.
Patrick, a house purchaser from Brussels, the capital city of Belgium, bought a house for about 7,000 euros (about 7,809 U.S. dollars). According to his design, the house will include a living room, two bedrooms, three toilets, one kitchen and one balcony after the three-month-long renovation is complete.
“For the work, to redo everything it’s almost 65,000 euros, so it’s less than 80,000 euros for everything and you have a house for yourself for the next 20 years,” he said.
Thanks to the housing plan, local tourism has also seen rapid growth since the end of 2017. According to data from the local media, tourism revenue brought by the plan reached one million euros (about 1.12 million U.S. dollars) in 2018.