How to Successfuly buy, project manage and restore Italy property

Published: 07th January 2011
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In Italy, it is common to see derelict farmhouses that have been left as ruins and you may ask yourselves why these once glorious properties have been allowed to fall into disrepair. Many of these family farms were extremely large as they were built to also house tenant farmers or a number of relations from the wider family, and it was not uncommon to find 3 generations plus aunts and uncles under the same roof. Often the cost of farm maintenance was too high and during the 1960s, whilst land yields were more valuable in real terms, landowners built themselves more fashionable smooth rendered villas and left the old stone properties abandoned. Others simply saw the profitability of their land diminish and smaller family sizes saw the need for grandiose farms decline, both these factors drove farmers away from the land in search of alternative forms of employment.

Foreigners in search of La Dolce Vita

Fast forward 20 years and the owners of these wonderful historic properties have seen their stock rise as foreigners bought and renovated them. The landscape has been transformed by the renovation of wonderful terracotta podere or rustici that reflect the warmth of the surrounding farmland and the effect of this invasion has been to increase the desirability of these areas and to increase tourism. Inevitably it has been the catalyst for spiralling property prices and has stimulated higher costs for both labour and materials.

Plan properly to avoid the usual Italian property pitfalls

The demand for Italian rural property is still high as people strive to get back to basics and community based living and aspire to the dolce vita. In these uncertain economic times it is increasingly important for buyers of Italian Property to do their homework. If you want to build your dream home in Italy or want to stretch your funds by restoring, renovating or rebuilding a historic Italian Villa, Farmhouse or Palazzo, then make sure you read this article and follow the numbered tips and links to other useful resources.

1. Get an insight into the area you are searching for property in.

Search online for blogs and contact them, search forums and contact owners of holiday property. For instance if you were looking for Italy travel off the beaten track there is a blog from Le Marche with stories and advice which may help you, alternatively you could email the blog owner for more information.

2. Consider buying your property directly.

Italian immobiliare, estate agents or realtors typically charge 3% commission to buyers and 3% to sellers. Try avoiding that hefty 6% fee by asking around in bars and shops for property, look for "Si Vende" signs and search on line for Italy Property, B&Bs hotels & houses For Sale by Owner sites where owners place an advert but pay no commission. Also consider searching twitter, you tube and other social media sites.

3. If you are buying a property that requires restoration or a rebuild then request a renovation quote

Request this from the vendor or estate agent for the renovation of your Italian property and have this verified by a trustworthy and knowledgeable 3rd party before making an offer. This should specify labour and materials for every aspect of the restoration. You can also perform your own restoration estimate using this Italian property renovation cost calculator

4. Research the local Italian property market and negotiate a price from an informed position.

Compare the total cost of the property plus restoration costs to similar Italian ruins or properties and to fully restored houses. You may find that some houses that were bought and restored when property, labour and materials were cheaper offer better value than some ruins.

5. Buying Land with your Italian farmhouse

If you are buying "particella" or parcels of land, then make sure you a) know exactly how much farmland you are buying and b) you know what the average price for such land is on the local market.

6. Quotes for labour and materials:

Obtain at least 3 and preferably 5 quotes for all the work that you are outsourcing and do the same with Edilizia or building yards who supply materials. Standardise these using a form for each type of contractor. Feed the results into a spread-sheet and calculate the overall costs for each.

7. Research your contractors

Ask for recommendations and feedback from others, ask around the local community and using online forums. Make a decision based on the results and the feedback that you have received for each contractor.

8. Research the local market for architects

Ask around locally for recommendations for a good, honest geometra or architect for your Italian Property rebuild. Once again ask online for recommendations and feedback on architects that you have identified.

9. Identify the Architect’s project management skills.

Remember that property Project Management and architectural planning and design are two entirely different skillsets, some architects and geometras do not manage projects but are reactive to the events that unfold, often with disastrous effects on your budget, timeline or the quality of the finished property. Consider acquiring these skills yourself

10. Decide upon how much of your Italian property project you want your architect or geometra to take on.

Size your Italian Property project in advance of your negotiations with your Geometra or architects. Decide whether you wish them to perform the legal minimum, where they design, plan and oversee the structural works, or whether you wish them to also project manage the rest of the project. Tailor the scope of your geometra or architect’s contract accordingly.

11. Obtain tenders from at least 3 geometras or Architects

Once you have a good range of quotes, use these to leverage a better price from the Architect or Geometra that you feel trust most, have best feedback on and are happiest with. Try to achieve a price of between 5 and 7% of the project cost.

12. Specify the scope of your Italy property project and what is and what is not included in the architect or geometras project.

If you are going to manage the non-structural works yourself, then specify this and that the cost of materials, services, windows, doors etc. are excluded.

13. Obtain a signed contract documenting the geometra or architects specific role, responsibilities, costs and timescales on your renovation.

Ensure that this specifies whether the engineers and geologists fees are included and what involvement the architect or geometra will have with contractors, Quantity surveying and ordering materials on the Italy property restoration.

14. Include a payment schedule in your contract with your geometra or architects .

Agree to pay one third when your Property building plans are signed off by your Italian comune, a third when the structural works of your Italy property is complete and the third when the rebuild project is signed off. This will enable you to incentivise your architect to complete your dream Italian Villa or farmhouse.

15. Project Management of your Italy property restoration:

Whether or not the project management of your Italian Property Renovation is included as part of your Geometra or Architect’s role, or you are performing this yourself, you are also strongly advised to plan and manage the Project using the following tools.

• Financial plans: budget, actual and forecast costs, plus comparisons

• A project Plan /Gantt chart with tasks, workloads, resource plans, timescales, deadlines.

• Quantities of materials calculated & ordered in advance for each phase

• To do lists for dedicated builders, plumbers, electricians and contractors

• Weekly progress reports at the end of each week’s tasks

• Detailed monthly reporting of financial plans, high level project plans and detailed progress reports including any risks and issues.

16. Contact owners of Italian properties and ask them their experiences

We discussed property development in Italy with a number of expats in the Le Marche region of Italy, many contributed enormously to this article including John Redmond and Sharon Conrad who successfully restored and project managed the rebuild of Villa San Raffaello an Le Marche Italy Villa with stunning views of the medieval town of Sarnano and the Sibillini National Park

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