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All across Italy a new trend has seen plenty of citizens of other countries buying properties there. The lure of $1 villas, advertised online, have become more common in the past couple of years. The idea is that by offering empty (or abandoned) houses for cheap that towns with dwindling populations can boost their economies and begin to rebuild after decades of losing residents. Many of the homes are advertised as needing some work. But, what some homeowners have found is that these buildings are in shocking states of decay.

decrepit building in Sambuca, Sicily, Italy
Sambuca, Sicily. Via/ Wiki Commons

So far the local governments of 20 towns across Italy have begun selling these homes for $1, with towns in France and Spain also offering these low-cost deals to would-be residents.

Young people have been leaving the countryside for decades -ever since the 1950s- in search of better jobs and more cosmopolitan living. This flight from the countryside has left the towns empty and struggling to continue. These de-populated towns are at risk of losing businesses and other revenue without residents. To make matters worse, the mass exodus of young people means that the towns are often left with only an aging population.

Some cities, like picturesque Molise (below), even offered to pay people to move there, giving them a monthly salary -provided they also start a new business.

Molise, Italy
Molise, Italy. Via/ Unsplash

The low price is only a starting point, as the homes are sold at auctions that start at $1 but usually go for a few thousand or more. The purchase price doesn’t include broker’s fees, taxes, or other hidden costs. And, many of the people who win the auctions have never even seen the property in person.

New homeowners have to pay a deposit, which they will get back if they start renovations within 1 year and complete them within 3. Some properties also have a minimum renovation budget that is required, meaning that homeowners can’t get away with only doing a small amount of work.

Mussomeli, Italy
Mussomeli, Italy, where 100 or so of these $1 homes have been sold. Via/ Wiki Commons

Some of the properties are in pretty bad shape, which means that the cost of renovations alone can be staggering, above and beyond all the other fees. What this means is that most people will have spent $75,000-$100,000 or more by the time they are finished. Not bad for an Italian vacation home, but it’s far from a dollar.

You can see inside some of these $1 homes and learn how the new residents are changing these towns in the video below.