If you're on a budget, Italy may be the last place you'd look. But don't dismiss it completely. There are still plenty of cheap Italy properties to be had.
Italy's property market has been resilient but not immune to the property slowdown seen across the continent and in Britain. Having benefited from a slow but steady pace of property price increases over the years, Italy has been protected to a certain extent from a major burst bubble effect. According to a Cluttons' research report, price rises for Italy property are expected to slow in 2008 but they will at least still be on the up.
Deanne DuKhan, portfolio strategist for Experience International, says: "Italy as a whole is quite a mature market, but 'emerging' regions, such as Calabria, are still deeply undervalued and offer real long-term potential for capital appreciation within a limited risk profile."
Calabria is the toe on the boot of Italy. Its southerly latitude makes for warmer winters than the north and a sunny Mediterranean summer in which to enjoy the beaches on both the Tyrrhenian and Ionian seas that border it. The rugged landscape and natural beauty of the region seems to have largely escaped the attention of international property buyers until quite recently, which means property prices are much lower. Calabria could be termed an emerging market within an already mature one.
The Jewel of the Sea II development is a gated low rise resort of beachfront apartments and villas close to the town of Brancaleone, about 30 minutes drive from the regional capital of Reggio Calabria. The development will include a golf course, restaurant, swimming pools, aqua park and tennis courts. Property prices start from £45,767 through Experience International.
Calabria is accessed via either Reggio Calabria or Lamezia airport, both of which offer direct flights from Britain. Just 15 minutes from Lamezia airport, GEM Estates is selling apartments at the Pizzo Beach resort in Borgonovo starting from €75,000 (£59,000). Situated on the shore of the Tyrrhenian Sea the development is bordered by the Club Med resort and along with the tennis courts, clubhouse restaurant and swimming pools, the developers are working on access to more facilities for residents. There are also rental opportunities in high season with expected rental yields of 10 to 15 per cent and completion scheduled for December 2009.
Italy's bargain rack doesn't stop in the emerging south: even some of the most popular areas can squeeze themselves into a size £80k budget. Tuscany has long been a top choice for that rural Italian idyll but the popularity and influx of both local and international admirers of Tuscan charms has come at a price, with the majority of Tuscany properties well over budget.
However, in Lunigiana, in the northern tip of Tuscany, prices of property are still relatively low, and restoration properties can still be found, according to Sylvie Allen from L'Architrave. She says property prices have risen consistently year-on-year and this unspoilt pocket of Tuscany offers good investment potential. She believes they are set to rise further as Lunigiana becomes more popular, thanks, in part, to the choice of three airports nearby, at Pisa, Genoa and Parma, all of which are served by low-cost airlines. In addition, the Ligurian coastline can be reached in half and hour and the mountains offer skiing the same distance away.
L'Architrave has a large stone building in need of restoration for sale, with land, near the town of Fivizzano in Lunigiana for just €50,000 (£40,000). The property has about 10 rooms plus stone vaulted cellars and is situated at the edge of a hamlet. If you don't fancy a restoration project, the company also has a restored village house near Fivizzano for sale for €75,000 (£59,000).
In the Tuscan region of Lucca, Casa Travella is selling a detached stone house set over two floors and in need of restoration for €97,000 (£76,000). The property retains the original terracotta floors and chestnut beams and is on 1,000 sq m of garden and woodland. Agency owner Linda Travella says that on a low budget you can expect the property to have some disadvantages, and they may also be quite remote, but this is not always the case. She also has a restored, ground floor apartment in the village of Bagni di Lucca for sale with one bedroom and a patio and garden for €95,000 (£75,000).
Frances Petersson, marketing director of Jackson Stops & Staff International, says the lower end of the Italian property market can be tricky to navigate: "Many Italy properties require significant restoration work, which can be difficult to undertake yourself, while approaching artisans can be a daunting experience, especially if the property buyer is new to Italian rules and regulations."
Her advice for potential property buyers is to find recommended building companies experienced in the specific type of restoration work you need; choose your materials carefully for the most appropriate style and age in order to preserve the property's character; and get good legal advice from someone with experience of helping with rural or restoration purchases.
Jackson Stops has an Abruzzo property, a recently restored apartment in the centre of Loreto Aprutino, located about mid-calf on the boot of Italy. The 60 sq m one bedroom apartment is located in the high part of the village facing south east and costs a mere €80,000 (£63,000).
Even sea views are a possibility on a limited budget, with Casa Travella selling a one bedroom apartment on the border of Calabria and Basilicata with a pool and sea view for €70,000 (£55,000). L'Architrave has a Ligurian cottage for sale with panoramic views of the hills and medieval castle for €65,000 (£51,000). The islands are not out of reach either: Casa Travella has a selection of properties in Badesi on the north coast of Sardinia for sale close to Santa Teresa di Gallura. The one or two bedroom properties for sale have views of the sea and start from €90,000 (£71,000).
As you can see, there are still plenty of cheap Italy properties to be had.
Some information contained within this article may have changed since it was first published. HomesOverseas strongly advises you to seek current legal and financial advice from a qualified professional.