Head South for Italy’s Most Affordable City Properties

An apartment of 50 sq. mts. (537 square feet) in the prime spots of northern Italy’s cities can be expensive–as much as $650,000. But look to its warmer southern regions and property prices in Italy fall dramatically.

In Ragusa, on the island of Sicily, you can pick up an Italian property in the sun for 450 euro ($621) per square meter. Equate that to dollars, and it means you could have a similar sized apartment (537 square feet) for just over $30,000.

Why the huge disparity? Well, unemployment in this region has been historically high for generations. This is reflected in both the purchase price of property as well as long-term rentals in the south of Italy.

Published in February this year, the latest research from Borsino Immobiliare di Confedilizia pinpoints Venice as Italy’s most expensive city for property buyers. Its watery beauty comes at an eye-wateringly steep cost. In central neighborhoods, $12,972 is the square meter average.

At $12,282 and $10,488 respectively, average square meter prices in the centers of Rome and fashion capital Milan aren’t too far behind.

Although Milan overtakes Rome when it comes to semicentrale neighborhoods, the same trio of cities top this category’s “priciest properties” list too. An apartment in “semi-central” Venice typically costs $8,804 per square meter; in Milan $7,093; in Rome $6,900.

While the global downturn certainly affected the price of property in Italy, there was no bloodbath like in Spain and Ireland. Homes in major cities have mostly held their value. One reason is that supply is limited–new-build housing didn’t spiral out of control. Another is that Italian city properties attract investors, as well as residential buyers.

Looking elsewhere, Tuscany’s draw cards include the art cities of Siena and Florence. Average square meter prices in their respective historic centers are $7,355 and $7,038.

Property prices get slightly less expensive in the neighboring region of Emilia Romagna. Famed for its university and gastronomic passions, rose-red Bologna is the regional capital. Average square meter price for an apartment in its central zone is $6,251.


Where to get cheaper property in Italy

Contrast that to Vibo Valentia, a city that also gives its name to a province in Calabria. On the western coast of Italy’s ‘toe’, it offers almost 50 miles of coastline, archaeological sites and a mountainous hinterland. The average price in the center of Vibo Valentia is $1,104 per square meter; on the periphery, $690 per square meter.

On the island of Sicily, the port city of Siracusa was once a major Greek colony. With Mediterranean beaches on the doorstep, it has a history going back almost 3,000 years. And with average property prices at $1,242 per square meter, it’s one of the most affordable places on the Mediterranean.

According to Tecnocasa, a nationwide Italian real estate agency, 2011 is predicted to be fairly stable. So if you’re thinking of buying, should you look to the north, center or south? That may depend on what you plan to do with your Italian property. Is it solely as a home/second home for yourself–or do you intend renting it out?

Along with Rome, north and central Italy capture the bulk of tourists. Property in Venice or Florence is at the upper end of the price range, but will likely prove easier to market as a vacation rental–and command far higher rates–than somewhere in the deep south.

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