During the spring of 2015, when we got geared up on our house search, we identified a list of 91 potential houses. These were selected from hundreds online, based on our initial “wish list” of must-have/nice-to-have features. From this list, on my exploratory trip in May 2015, I saw 39 houses. These were in four regions — Marche, Abruzzo, Umbria, Tuscany — and involved 9 real estate agents Based on the trip, I formed two conclusions: I knew much better just what we wanted and might be able to get, and Marche offered the best potential to find it.
Let me say a few words about, “Why Marche?” I’ll also share our revised “wish list” for 2016.
Why Le Marche?
When reading about Italian regions, either to visit or live, you’ll often see Marche described as “Italy’s secret region” or “Italy’s little known gem.” Those descriptions are at least 10 years out-of-date, at least among property seekers, but they do indicate that Marche is seen as a bit out of the mainstream.
I found Marche appealing because of the terrain, the multitude of small — many hilltop — towns and villages, its location relative to the rest of Italy and places we might want to visit, the relative ease of getting to both the beach and mountains, and what I perceived as a good balance of house quality and price. And I like “out of the mainstream.”
Each of the other regions has its strengths on these measures: Abruzzo offers a lot of house for your money, Tuscany is perfectly located, and Umbria has a great location within Italy and is less expensive than Tuscany. But each also has weaknesses: Abruzzo’s terrain is a bit stark, Tuscany is expensive and overrun with foreigners, and Umbria, as the only region of Italy without a sea coast … far from the beach. And overrun.
I came out of the trip “thumbs up” on Marche. I could see living there.
What Kind of House We Want to Find
I also came away with a fairly detailed specification list to work from in 2016. I’ll copy it here just as we sent it to three agents this spring. They each had some Marche properties, and, interestingly, were the only ones of the 9 agents to keep in-touch after the first trip.
It will be interesting to compare our list to how we sort out in 2016.
Specification/Wish List, Based on Last Year’s Trip
- Must haves are those fixed elements that can’t be addressed with a reasonable amount of time and money. This includes location relative to roads and services, setting, and basic interior layout
- Are willing and expecting to make some upgrades/updates
- Specific house more important than the region/province/specific nearby towns, but need to be in place that isn’t just foreigners and tourists
Here’s what the ideal house should have, once all needed improvements are made. If some items are exceptionally good, we may be able to make some trade offs on price or features.
Price, including key upgrades and improvements: pool, kitchen and bathrooms, landscape. When all costs, including transaction costs, are counted, probably should be under 600,000 euro, ideally under 550,000.
Layout/interior: items that are impossible/harder/more expensive to fix
- Existence of guest suite or at least bedroom and private/designated bathroom in main house or outbuilding. Kitchen not needed as part of guest space.
- Master bedroom suite
- Minimum of two additional bedrooms, counting guest bedroom
- Office/studio space (which could be also used as a bedroom)
- Minimum of one additional bathroom for each two other bedrooms, with this bathroom on same level
- Good flow of public spaces (LR, DR, kitchen) on main floor. Not too separate or connected poorly, property that is currently multiple apartments is unlikely to work (except guest apartment OK)
- Good flow of bedroom spaces. No awkward stairway placement or room connections
- At least a half bath on main floor
- Interior stairways between levels
- Open, bright, airy feel
Layout/interior: likely fixable. Issue is cost
- Good quality of windows, doors, flooring
- Good quality and appearance of kitchen and bathrooms
- High quality, fast broadband connection
Exterior/Location: mostly impossible/harder/more expensive to fix
- Outside appearance: stone and/or brick exterior. Stone preferred
- Property/land: needs to feel private. Owned property minimum about 4000-5000m2. Larger unless surrounded by agricultural land.
- Convenient location relative to a village with basic services (5-10 minutes) and a town with full services (15-30 minutes)
- Access from paved road that is relatively easy and short
- Ability to drive to and park next to house, without a long walk from car to house
- Good location for pool
- Olive and fruit trees, vines, but mature would be preferred
- Nice landscaping
- Pergola (could be loggia or portico if exists), ideally something on multiple sides (east, south, west)
- Annual operating costs, including utilities, maintenance, gardening/land upkeep
Other less important factors
- View type: hills, mountains, lake, etc.
- View “quality”
- Rental potential
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