Our Italian Adventure: Housing
Updated: Jan 3
VII. This part is called: Housing: Buy, Rent or Lease?
PART 7: I thought it might be of interest to share how we pulled off living in Italy for part of the year. I will post some steps we took.
We are in Puglia until the end of September, then back again in the winter.
Housing: Buy, Rent or Lease?
Step 1: When we first decided to live in Italy, my first instinct was to find a place to buy so we could lock in our future Italian adventure. We looked at some places for sale in and around Rome and Lecce, but prices were higher than I expected and I wasn’t clear on what we wanted.
Once I realized that I was being impulsive, I remembered the principle that “what is important is not urgent, and what is urgent is not important”. Calm down, chill out and let the process unfold without forcing solutions, I told myself.
Step 2: Choices. I realized that we have essentially three choices for lodging once we move to Italy. Since our intention was to live there 4-6 months out of the year, our choices included: buying a property, leasing a property for a year or more, or renting a property for only the times we would be living in the country (2-3 months in the summer and 2-3 months again in the winter/spring).
Step 3: Investigation. Each lodging choice could fit specific needs so we needed to investigate which solution would fit our needs.
Step 4: Solution 1: Purchasing a property. Years before we began the adventure of living here, I began to look for properties to buy online. My impulse was to purchase and lock in our Italian home, but I didn’t want to have future regrets, so we searched and visited properties.
I am grateful to have a partner who urged me to be cautious. My local friends advised me: “It is easy to buy a house in Italy but difficult to sell”. After looking at properties online and spending time in the area we were interested in (Puglia), we discovered that many of the best properties and opportunities are discovered through word of mouth rather than a website; the properties that end up on the international websites are not always ideal and often have been on the market a long time.
We learned again that many things function in Italy through relationships. Through friends, we heard about and looked at interesting properties for sale which were yet unlisted.
We discovered a wonderful real estate expert, Anna Maria, who speaks English and specializes in Salento, Puglia. We are grateful for her friendship and she also gave us some great leads.
After looking at some properties, we decided to hold back and get to know the area before looking into buying.
Step 5: Solution 2: Renting a property. Renting a property for 2-3 months at a time is another option that we looked into. Many of these types of properties are available through AirBnB and other sites. What we found out is that the daily rate on these sites, multiplied by months at a time, can get very high very quickly.
We then asked our local friends. In our experience, the best way to rent a property here is through relationships. We found several people in Puglia who are willing to rent their homes for part of the year. They didn’t advertise on the websites, being either friends or friends of friends.
Step 6: Solution 3; Leasing a property. Leasing a property on a 12 month or more lease can greatly reduce the monthly cost. For example, a house that may rent in our town for 600-700 euros a week during the tourist season (July, August), can be had for 300-350 euros a month on a 12 month lease.
We found that the 12 month property leases found on international real estate websites can be higher than what can be found locally. Everything works through relationships here!
Step 7: Discernment. We had to reflect for a time on which situation fit most our needs at this point in time.
Coming to live in Italy, for us, is part planning and part act of faith. By doing the footwork and investigation we were able to figure out what we wanted and we lined up a few possibilities;; this is the planning part. The faith part unexpectedly came into play when we came to Italy over the holidays. We visited our friends in Puglia and one had just rehabbed a house.. We stepped in and were amazed how well it fit our needs. It was as if the right solution presented itself at the moment we were ready.
Step 8: Our solution: We are choosing a hybrid between renting and leasing: renting from a friend for 4-6 months out of the year seems to be the ideal solution for us, for now.
Step 9: The Future. We have been discovering that not everything is clear at the beginning, and that next steps seem to reveal themselves at the right time. Today we are renting for about half the year, tomorrow this may change; that is part of the adventure.
Watch for my book coming around the 1st of the year: "Stories from Puglia: Two Californians in Southern Italy".
More next time.