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Subscriber active since. Gillian Sweeney: This bit here, I'm not gonna talk because there is a pigeon living in this bit. Narrator: And that's Gillian, House for sale $1 new homeowner in Sambuca, Sicily, a picturesque town in Italy's countryside in danger of dying out. That is, until the government started selling abandoned homes here practically for free. People from around the world came running, hoping to get in on the deal.
And while the pandemic may have delayed some of these plans, it hasn't deterred buyers, even though the true cost of these homes is a lot more than a dollar. For the sake of this video, we'll call them dollar homes. The towns selling these dollar homes are small, and most of them are far out in the countryside. And they've been suffering from rapid depopulation for decades. Ina massive earthquake hit Sicily. It caused so much damage that for some homeowners, it was cheaper to cash in on insurance and move somewhere else completely.
The exodus continued from there. Across Italy, younger people left for the cities. Many moved to escape the poor job markets in their rural hometowns. Marco Cicio: There's not much work here right now, so the only work is construction. Marco: The town was small. We used to be 8, people. Now we only 5, people. Narrator: And Sambuca isn't alone. Tally up all those towns losing residents, and that makes more than a million people in the last 20 years who have moved away from Italy's rural regions and House for sale $1 to the urban cities.
So here we have a lot of houses without people inside. Narrator: What's left are beautiful towns with abandoned homes, an aging population, and economies on the verge of collapse. Toti: So we decide to repopulate this part of the town. Now you can buy an home with only 1 euro.
Narrator: Some towns, like Sambuca, set up websites where prospective buyers could scroll through the homes for sale. In the mountainous town of Molise, where they've lost 9, residents sincetown officials made the deal sweeter. It didn't take long for publications to pick up the story.
And it blew up globally. Tom Murray: The headline kind of writes itself. It's a beautiful home in rural Italy for a dollar. I mean, who isn't gonna click on that? Gillian: The very beginning started on Facebook. I saw my mom had shared an article, and when I saw it, I thought, "I want to buy a house for a euro.
Giuseppe Cacioppo: I'm happy for the people arrive in Sambuca. I'm enthusiastic for this big revolution. Narrator: That's Giuseppe. He's the guy who launched the program in Sambuca, a town of nearly 6, Sambuca got the widest media coverage after Giuseppe put 16 homes up for sale in early Giuseppe: Arrive interesting people. A journalist, a singer, and a actor. Everything, you know?
Is important arrive younger people. Younger woman and younger man for stay in Sambuca. Narrator: Even though the towns are small and rural, foreigners have flocked here, looking to find vacation homes, open Airbnbs, or even move here full time. Gillian: What Sambuca has that I haven't experienced elsewhere is really the history of it. Tamara Holm: I love how you can just see the stucco peeling off and the old stone just popping out right behind it. It's like a little piece of history.
Gillian: You literally could take a photo anywhere round about you. You could actually put them on the wall, you know? Narrator: Plus, everyone we spoke to said the locals here were welcoming to the new faces and energy. Bert: My neighbor gonna make lasagna, and she invited my wife to make it with her. Narrator: So landing a dollar home in these idyllic towns may sound perfect, but there's a catch. Actually, multiple catches. In some towns, like Sambuca, the homes were actually sold at auction, which meant they started at a dollar but ended up selling to the highest bidder.
More thanpeople sent in requests for 16 houses, so competition was steep. Gillian: I looked at my s one day, and I saw thatand I went, "Ooh. Narrator: That's Gillian. She's from Scotland and was one of the lucky auction winners in Sambuca. Narrator: Only one home in Sambuca actually sold for the dollar listing price.
Then there's the security deposit. Gillian: We bought the house for the 1, euros. At the same time, we had to send a 5, euro deposit. Homeowners will get it back if they start renovations within a year and agree to finish within three years of getting des approved. Gillian: It's a safeguard for them to make sure that they don't almost give away these properties and then they sit vacant again. Narrator: That's Bert House for sale $1 his wife, Nina. They're from Belgium and were two of the first people to purchase dollar homes in Mussomeli. Bert: If you buy a house for 1 euro, you can't expect it will be beautiful.
Narrator: Plus, when these new buyers still live abroad, renovations take a while. Tamara: And also they don't have large hardware stores. So I can't just, like, run down and grab lumber. Narrator: So, what does a dollar home really cost? Let's do the math.
And that's for a home that was supposed to cost a dollar. So it might seem like a rip-off, but Gillian: The fact that we'll have a holiday home for life for a fraction of the price that we would spend elsewhere, you know what? I would do it again in a heartbeat, and I haven't even finished it yet.
Narrator: And so far, the program has been a success. In Mussomeli, more than of the houses have been sold in the past year. In Sambuca, all 16 of the original euro homes went in a matter of months. Today, they've sold a total of about Tom: Italy was kind of seen as Europe's ground zero for coronavirus cases, with the majority in the much more densely populated north.
This means that there are a lot less cases in the south, but the south is actually worse affected economically because it's a lot poorer. Gary: They gave us some more time for the planning phase. So we've been able to work with our architect to sort of nail down all the odds and ends that we wanted to do.
Narrator: Despite the pandemic, there's hope that all these newcomers will bring about change in these rural towns. Toti: It started a small economy here. Engineers, architects, deers that make plans, make project of the house. The building companies can have a job also.
Narrator: Along with new businesses, restaurants, and Airbnbs in Sambuca and Mussomeli, Tamara said you'll also see postings for English classes. Tamara: And I also think it's helped tourism, because for the last couple of times I've been there, I've been seeing more and more tour buses coming through, so I really think it's put Sambuca on the map. Narrator: Of course, more people in once sleepy towns will create some friction.
In Mussomeli Tom: One of the local newspapers had launched something of a smear campaign against the new Belgian inhabitants after one of them was arrested for being drunk and disorderly. So there are some cultural differences that will need to be worked out. Marco: People come out of town to eat food here. They love this place. It's beautiful. And we go there too. I love there too. But the problem is it's too busy!
I can't go there. I don't like to wait. Narrator: As for whether all this new energy will really save these shrinking towns, only time will tell. Tom: In my time reporting in Sicily, the reaction to myself and the newcomers in town was really, really positive. I think they were just excited to see some fresh faces. Bert: We see it now already.
All the houses are renovated, there will be a new bed and breakfast at Piazza Roma. In my street there's a new home, and everybody is working on it. And I think that they say 10 years, it will be a beautiful city. World globe An icon of the world globe, indicating different international options. Get the Insider App. A leading-edge research firm focused House for sale $1 digital transformation. Free subscriber-exclusive audiobook!
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