Patrica, In Italy, Struggles To Sell Its Homes


In Italy’s one-euro-home sales over the past few years, dozens of people have bought empty homes in some of the country’s less-populated areas, attracting a lot of attention. Some municipalities have had trouble selling their empty homes, but places like Mussomeli in Sicily and Zungoli in Campania have been able to sell a range of empty homes to foreigners who want to live the Italian dream.

One of these is Patrica, a small medieval town south of Rome with only 3,000 people. For over 40 years, people have left their homes empty and let them fall apart. Patrica is a beautiful town in central Italy. It sits on a rocky hill with a view of the Sacco Valley. But life for the people who lived there wasn’t always easy.

Unoccupied Homes

Many of them left their homes empty for decades while they looked for better chances elsewhere. Lucio Fiordaliso, the mayor of the town, has been trying to bring life back to the village by selling empty homes for one euro, which is a little more than a dollar like other Italian towns have done. So far, he hasn’t had much luck. “We attempted to sell only two houses for one euro after mapping all abandoned houses and formally contacting the original owners to request that they turn over their run-down family properties,” he told CNN.

In places like Patrica and others like it, this isn’t the case, even though local governments can put up for sale empty homes in towns that haven’t had many people since earthquakes or other natural disasters.

Fiordaliso said, “First, we need the owners or their heirs to be willing to get rid of their old houses.” Not until they say yes can we put these homes on the market, which makes the process much more difficult. Almost impossible to do. Fiordaliso said that ten owners agreed to take part in the town’s “public call to involve them in our one-euro-homes project,” but they later changed their minds. They never replied to any of them.

A Call To Public Figures

Fiordaliso says that people who changed their minds may have done so because they didn’t agree with other family members who owned shares in the same property. Ancestors of people who lived in ancient Italian towns sometimes split up empty houses among themselves, giving each one a piece, like a kitchen, balcony, or bathroom. You can’t sell anything in Italy without getting written permission from all the owners first. Tradition has it that children used to get parts of their family home, like orchards, wells, and small pieces of land. There’s no guarantee, though, that a family member will remain friendly and/or stay in touch years from now.

“Most relatives who shared the same property were at odds with one another for personal reasons or couldn’t agree on the sale; some hardly spoke or knew each other, while others lived in distant cities and even abroad,” he says. So, the sale of possible one-euro homes came to a standstill.

In some cases, heirs never officially split a house, leaving the ownership line broken and making it hard to tell who should be the current owner. Fiordaliso says it has been very hard to find the children and grandchildren of owners who have moved away, mostly to the US, Canada, and Argentina. It’s possible that these people had different last names or sold their Italian land to people from other countries without telling Patrica’s town hall.

“It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack,” he says. With its one-euro approach, Patrica was able to sell two empty homes that belonged to two locals who owned them outright. This meant that they didn’t have to work with fourth-degree cousins or great-great-grandsons to get the deals done.

Family Ties In Patrica

When there are arguments in the family, some family members may decide not to sell their share as a form of revenge or for legal reasons linked to inheritance disputes. Long-term absentee owners may also not want to tell the officials where they are because they are afraid of missing electricity bills, back taxes on their property, and fines for not properly disposing of trash that can reach 2,500 euros ($2,730) per year.

The state of the empty homes in Patrica could also be a reason why the One Euro scheme never really took off there. There are some houses that are too bad to sell, even if the owners were willing to do so.

Gianni Valleco, who was born and raised in Patrica, and his two brothers decided to try selling their parents’ empty house to see what would happen. But they quickly found out that the house was in terrible shape. “We reasoned, ‘Why not try it?'” For just one euro, we would no longer have any more stones that we didn’t need. “We were interested to see if someone might be interested in buying it anyway,” Valleco said.

“After fifty years, we knew that our parents’ house was nothing but rubble—it had been completely torn down.” After the roof and most of the walls fell down, there was a space with trees and grass growing over it. Another thing that was gone was an ugly park in the middle of the historical center. Valleco said that a neighbor had been dropping off old stuff at the house’s ruins.

“Then we realized no one would ever buy it,” he says. “Building the house again will cost a lot of money, so it’s not a good investment.” It makes more sense to buy a small house in the country in the area. Some abandoned homes in Patrica that could sell for a euro are actually in pretty good shape, which is good news.

A few people from other countries came to see the empty one-euro houses. “They were very interested, but we were sorry, but we had nothing to offer them,” says the mayor. People from the US and Europe were interested. To bring in new people, Fiordaliso has been coming up with new ways to make the town more appealing.

New Plan

After decades of being empty, some residents decided to fully renovate and repurpose their old family homes. This is because the town council recently gave money to fix up the outside facades of a few historic palazzos.

A local woman named Alessandra Pagliarosi went one step further and turned her husband’s 1950s home into the stylish Patricia Bed & Breakfast. “We fixed up the inside and the roof, which wasn’t there at all before.” Pagliarosi says, “After sitting there idly for a while, the mayor’s move finally gave us a good reason to completely fix up the property.” He also benefited from the town council’s decision to lower taxes to help the local economy.

If someone opens a business in a historic area, like a bed and breakfast or an art shop, they will get tax breaks for the costs of reorganizing and won’t have to pay taxes on trash removal, advertising, or using public spaces for ten years.

“It would mean a total of about 1,200 euros (about $1,310) in tax savings per year for a small B&B, which is a significant amount of money,” says Pagliarosi. Foreigners who want to move to Patrica and start a small business can also take advantage of the tax breaks. Because of this, one restaurant and two new B&Bs have opened so far.

Several American descendants of families who moved to Patrica recently came to look at homes, according to Ilario Grossi, a real estate agent in the nearby village of Ceccano who runs the Immobil Lepini company.

But it turned out that the town’s ready-to-move-in homes were more appealing. Two-bedroom flats began at 20,000 euros ($21,832). “There is interest, but many foreigners would rather choose turn-key apartments that are already restyled or just require minor repairs when they actually see the bad shape of the old homes,” says Grossi.

Therefore, it is much more sensible to buy one of these modern models than to choose an older one that would need a lot of work, which would make the total cost go up. Fiordaliso is still determined to sell some of the town’s long-neglected homes, even if it means resolving a fight between two cousins who don’t get along.