I bought a $62,200 house in Italy that I’m planning to move into full-time. The home prices are so low I bought a second house — and may buy more.

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JULY 1, 2023

Lorrah Minton.

  • Lorrah Minton, 53, wanted to fully immerse herself in a foreign culture by buying property in Italy.
  • She plans to move to the home in Sicily, and was able to renovate it because it was so inexpensive.
  • She bought another home with her brother to use as a rental, and may buy another with her sister.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Lorrah Minton, 53, about her experience buying low-priced properties in Mussomeli, Italy, a 10,000-person town in Sicily, as an American citizen. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I travel a lot.

I’ve gone to China, Amsterdam, Paris, Germany — all over — but Italy just felt like home.

Minton dining out in Italy. Lorrah Minton

My nephew and I had come to Italy on a trip together a year before the pandemic, and we were walking around like, “We need to figure out a way to live here.”

We were really brainstorming. Like, “Okay, they don’t have kettle corn here, let’s make a kettle corn shop for all the tourists and we can live here.”

I paid 57,000 euro for a house in Mussomeli, before taxes and fees

A couple of years ago, I started seeing the 1 euro program, where cities were selling a house for 1 euro.

I read a lot about Mussomeli. They do have 1 euro homes, but they have a lot of premium homes that aren’t 1 euro.

My house in Mussomeli was listed for 60,000 euros ($65,481). We went back and forth on the price and I got it for 57,000 euros. I put in the offer in October of 2022 and it closed in March of this year.

The house I bought is almost 3,000 square feet. The kitchens are being put in, but I’ll have a full kitchen, then a kitchenette, two living rooms, and a laundry area.

I have my primary house in Mussomeli, and then together, my brother and I bought a second house.

Since I’ve been here and met more expats, I’ve found that there’s a huge need for people who want to move here and get residency.

The exterior of Minton’s primary home. Lorrah Minton

My brother and I thought, “Let’s buy a couple of houses and then rent those.” That’s why we bought the second house, and my sister and I are looking at a third house right now. It’s primarily for the focus of what they call short-term rentals, but it’s not an Airbnb. It’s an 18-month kind of rental.

We bought it for 25,000 euros, but it ended up being 31,000 euros after all the fees and everything. It’s a three-bedroom and it has a yard area, which is amazing.

There were a lot small fees that caught me off guard

I get asked a lot about how much I’m spending on renovations, but it’s hard for me to say because there’s wants and then there’s needs.

I need a kitchen. I needed my walls not to have crappy wallpaper falling off. Do I need a second kitchen? No.

But the kitchens here are way more affordable. My two kitchens combined are just 5,500 euros.

Before and after photos of Minton’s kitchen renovation. Lorrah Minton

What needed to be paid at closing for my primary house was a 10% deposit and the agency fee, which is generally 4% of the purchase price. One thing that surprised me was you deposit it to their bank account, not an escrow account, which was strange to me but it’s very common.

Another surprising part was that I bought my house for 57,000 euros, but some guy at an office decided my house is worth 80,000 euros, so my taxes were 9% of that home value — unless you have residency, then it’s 2% of your primary home.

The updated living and kitchen area in Minton’s primary home in Mussomeli. Lorrah Minton

I assumed that the taxes that I paid involved property taxes, but they did not. It was only the tax on the sale. Generally the property taxes are between 300 and 600 euros annually, but because my house is ginormous, it was 946 euros.

After all the fees, it all totals to 69,182 euros. But if someone said you can get this 3,000-square-foot, six bedroom, two kitchen, beautiful house for 70,000 euros, I’d say, “Done.” It’s just all the little steps that threw me off.

I wanted to travel abroad while I’m still able

I try to take one big international trip a year. I’ve always had a dream of spending every summer in a different country, because I don’t like to just travel, I like to immerse myself in it. There’s only so much you could do with a couple weeks.

Minton standing outside of her second home in Mussomeli. Lorrah Minton

I’m 53, which is great and young, but I have a lot of things I want to do. I’ve probably got 20 good years of traveling with my good hips and good knees and all that.

At some point you can’t visit everywhere you want. You really have to start scratching things off the list because they’re not going to make the next 20 summers.

If I had my way I would spend full-time here, but because of visas I can’t. I have to go back and forth.

My house in California is a three-bedroom, has 1,500 square feet, and the value is $504,000.

I probably have two more years before I can retire, but I will be here in Italy the majority of the time, and then eventually I’ll come back to the States. I’ll just rent out my house in California for the next 15 to 20 years. And when I want to come back, then I’ll still have my house in California that’s now paid off because someone’s been renting it.


Courtesy/Source: Business Insider