California-based woman buys 3 crumbling houses in Italy for $3.30
- Rubia Daniels flew to the town of Mussomeli in Sicily after hearing about cheap homes.
- She ended up buying three crumbling houses for $3.30 in 201[ads1]9 and is restoring them now.
- Many Italian cities have introduced similar schemes in an attempt to repopulate rural Italy.
When Rubia Daniels first heard about Italy’s cheap houses, she knew she had to check them out for herself.
“I was so surprised. It was one of those things where you have to see it to make sure it’s true,” San Francisco-based Daniels told Insider. “I did my research, and within three days I had my plane ticket, a rental car, the hotel, and I was off.”
By the end of a 10-day trip to Mussomeli, a small town in Sicily, in July 2019, she was the proud owner of three dilapidated homes that she bought for just €1, or $1.10, each.
A representative from Case 1 Euro, the organization responsible for the housing project in Mussomeli, confirmed the sales.
Daniels, who moved from the outskirts of Brasilia, Brazil, to California 30 years ago, said the Italian city reminded her of her childhood home.
“People were super welcoming and everyone wanted to have coffee with me. The real estate agents embraced me like a sister – they were with me every single day of my time there,” Daniels said.
Not only was she charmed by the rich history of the city and its inhabitants, she also loved the idea of restoring an abandoned home.
“It’s an environmental concept,” added Daniels, who works in the solar industry. “We need to stop building and start remodeling the existing things we have.”
Daniels said she has different plans for each of her new houses.
“The one I’m working on now, I plan to turn into an art gallery. One will be for me to stay. And the third house, which will be my biggest project, I’ll turn into a wellness center center to give back to society,” she added.
The 49-year-old restarted restoring the properties towards the end of 2019, but had to put the project on hold due to the pandemic.
“Covid-19 happened and we weren’t allowed to go back, so I just started renovations again last year,” Daniels said. She currently splits her time between San Francisco and Mussomeli, spending at least a month in the Italian village each time.
So far, she has completed the exteriors of two houses, but hasn’t started on the last one, she said.
Italy is desperate for people like Daniels
Daniels isn’t the only person jumping on Italy’s desperation to repopulate its empty, sleepy cities.
In 2021, nine villages in southern Italy offered to pay millennials $33,000 to move there as long as they help repopulate rapidly depleting cities. The villages – all in the southern Italian region of Calabria – offered people under the age of 40 a cash payment to move. The towns on offer included the clifftop village of Civita and Aieta, a coastal beach town.
The one thing these places had in common was that they all had under 2,000 residents and were only years away from becoming ghost towns.
The region of Calabria also made the news in the summer of 2020 when it offered housing for $1.14 in the village of Cinquefrondi. Twelve houses were put up for sale for that price in a mad dash to repopulate the town dubbed “Operation Beauty”.
And in 2019, Insiders Will Martin reported on Cammarata – a town in central Sicily that gives away houses for free to anyone who wanted to live there. This, according to the city’s mayor, Vincenzo Giambrone, was part of an attempt to prevent the city from turning “into a ruin”.
However, taking over a $1 house is no mean feat. The catch, according to Insider’s Tom Murray, involves dealing with a home that may be in complete disrepair and require extensive renovations just to be livable.
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