An Italian property specialist explains why Sicily in Italy is pulling in increasing numbers of canny real estate investors. She also suggests vital guidelines on where to buy the most affordable deals.
For more than 100 years it has been overshadowed by the sinister Mafia. However, Sicily in Italy is now slowly opening its doors to foreign property investors in the way Tuscany did in the middle of the last century.
One major change has been the increased availability of property in Sicily for sale. Until only a few years ago, they were mainly passed from parents to children. However, younger Sicilians are more likely to give up the family property to make their own way elsewhere.
Another factor behind the surge in demand among overseas buyers for homes in Sicily is its prices, which are in general not only infinitely less expensive than in Tuscany but among the most affordable throughout Italy.
Admittedly you will struggle to discover deals to beat the the one-Euro homes offered by Salemi mayor Vittorio Sgarbi a couple of years ago on condition that buyers repaired the properties’ old earthquake damage within two years. However, just Euro 55,000 should cover a 70sq m property to renovate if you are happy to be 15 minutes by road from a coastal resort. Budget for Euro 70,000 for an apartment around a 10-minute stroll from the beach in villages such as Calatabiano on the east coast and near the famous resort of Taormina. If you have to be a few yards from the waves, expect to pay just Euro 90,000 in nearby resorts like Giardini Naxos.
The burgeoning popularity of Sicily among house buyers and vacationers has also been helped by the establishment of new direct routes by no-frills air companies such as easyJet and Ryanair to its three coastal airports in Catania, Palermo and Trapani. A fourth airport is scheduled to be opened shortly in Ragusa. In addition plans have been rolled out for a Euro 6billion bridge connecting Sicily with the mainland. By the way, put aside the exaggerated threat of the Mafia, which foreigners never have contact with.
An expert at Italy real estate consultants the Property Organiser sums up the area’s attraction and says: “It has always attracted tens of thousands of holidaymakers because of its history, landscape, architecture, climate and low cost of living. Until five or so years ago, there wasn’t a great selection of properties on sale except for in beach resorts as they tended to remain within families. Now a younger generation is less connected to tradition. They are happy to cash in on these family heirlooms to allow them to buy elsewhere themselves.
“It is quite straightforward to get a three bedroom property in Sicily for less than US $250,000. Be aware that some areas are expensive, such as Cefalu, Giardini Naxos and Taormina, but they boast great rental returns given that they have tourists practically 12 months a year.”
The most popular areas with foreign buyers and holidaymakers are Taormina on the east coast and Cefalu, Castellammare del Golfo, Scopello and Trapani on the north. Expect Euro 160,000 for a two-bedroom apartment in Cefalu. For one with a sea view, budget around Euro 220,000 either here or in nearby Castellammare.
Taormina is possibly the region’s premier location for overseas investors and as a result its dearest. In comparison, properties Catania, 50km away are often half the price. High-spec homes in the Taormina area often fetch over one million Euro. The upside is that letting potential is huge and can reach Euro 3,000 a week. Amid the high prices it is possible to unearth bargains. Expect Euro 300,000 for a sea view property, while if you’re prepared to forgo the view, you save around Euro 70,000-Euro 80,000.
Sicily certainly lacks nothing in star quality. The 1988 hit Italian movie Nuovo Cinema Paradiso was based in Cefalu while swathes of George Clooney’s 2004 heist sequel Ocean’s Twelve were made in Castellammare del Golfo. And a number of famous faces have bought in Sicily, such as singers Jim Kerr, Peter Gabriel and Mick Hucknall as well as French film star Gerard Depardieu, designer Giorgio Armani and England football manager Fabio Capello. Julia Roberts and Madonna have vacationed here too.
Even going back in time Sicily had no shortage of famous fans. literary icons D H Lawrence, who penned Lady Chatterley’s Lover in Taormina, and Truman Capote as well as screen legends Marlene Dietrich, Cary Grant and Sophia Loren. In the 1700s the poet Wolfgang Goethe called the island “a land unutterably beautiful” while a century later Richard Wagner orchestrated his final opera, Parsifal, in Palermo.
Sicily’s principal gems are its incomparable architecture and breathtaking scenery. The historic temples and ruins testify to the series of civilizations that have ruled down the ages: everyone from the Romans and Greeks to the Normans and Brits. Sicily has an unparalleled natural allure as well, from its 990km coastline to its magnificent mountain ranges. Not everywhere lets you have a villa with a view over Mt Etna, which soars 3300mt above sea level.
Sicily is not just its mainland, it also has sunny islands. Close to the northern shores are the seven Aeolian islands. To the west lie the Egadi Islands and Pantelleria while the Pelagie Islands off the south are closer to Tunisian waters than Sicily.
All this and almost year-round sunshine. What are you waiting for? You may end up making some real estate agent an offer he can’t refuse…
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