‘We bought a cheap Italian house and added an elevator’

(CNN) — Buyers from all over the world have been snapping up Italian houses at very low prices in recent years as many cities and towns are trying to revive their community shrinking by offering value purchases.

Although the hope of improving the big plan, with red often involved in buying a home in a foreign country, can leave some, others jumped at the opportunity.

Of course, every customer will have a different vision for their remodeling project. Some decide to keep things as simple as possible, focusing on renovating the house, keeping costs down.

And there are those who decide to go out.

Massoud Ahmadi and Shelley Spencer, the first to complete renovation work on an abandoned house in the Italian town of Sambuca di Sicilia, fall into the latter category.

Italian secret

Massoud Ahmadi and Shelley Spencer bought an abandoned house in the town of Sambuca di Sicilia in Italy in 2019.

Massoud Ahmadi and Shelley Spencer bought an abandoned house in the town of Sambuca di Sicilia in Italy in 2019.

Silvia Marchetti

The couple, from Montgomery County in the state of Maryland, were among those who seized a historic house in Sambuca, located in the heart of Sicily, after the local authorities placed 16 Abandoned houses for sale with prices starting at a mark. euro — about $1.

Ahmadi and Spencer first wanted to buy a property in Italy, and they thought of looking at the Sicilian country when they read about the plan on CNN in 2019.

“It was love at first sight,” Spencer told CNN. “Sambuca is very clean, with nice old stone slabs reminiscent of the contents. [Washington, D.C. neighborhood] Georgetown and the street lights at night are very romantic.”

They were delighted to find that their €10,150 (about $10,372) bid for a 100-square-meter palazzo had been accepted, and they immediately set to work handing over the property.

Two years later, and before the three-year deadline imposed by local authorities, their Italian hideout was over.

Ahmadi and Spencer, both of whom have worked on international development projects, spent about $250,000 transforming the blighted property into a beautiful home, which they say is “like a Renaissance house.”

They plan to split their time between the US and Italy, spending about half of the year in their two-bedroom home, with their daughter and grandchildren.

The renovated house has beautiful marble bathrooms, but its exterior appearance is questionable in the house that the couple uses to cultivate its three levels.

So what made the decision to have an elevator, complete with a security camera and phone, installed in the property?

Add black

The couple installed an electric car in their 100-square meter palazzo.

The couple installed an electric car in their 100-square meter palazzo.

Massoud Ahmadi

“We want to grow old here, do yoga every day and drink coffee outside on the patio with a view of the misty lake,” Spencer said.

“So we think it’s best to be as comfortable as possible avoiding those narrow steps, and not having to go up and down four windy flights of stairs multiple times a day.”

Although a quarter of a million dollars may seem like a lot of money to spend on a project of this nature, they believe that it is actually less than the amount they have released something similar in the US.

However, it is not a common building material in this small town, and its beautiful interior design has greatly impressed the residents.

The couple said they have received visits from various residents seeking to see the transformation of this unfinished building.

“The residents welcomed us with cakes, and came to my house to see what we did with the destruction,” Spencer said, before revealing that they were given a “bottle of wine good” on the local bar.

In addition to the elevator, the house has a lounge, a guest reception, a large bedroom, and a living room with a new open kitchen.

There are also balconies, and a panoramic terrace overlooking the hills and Arancio Lake, located near the Arab fortress Fortino di Mazzallakkar.

Ahmadi and Spencer said they were refunded the €5,000 (about $5,100) they had previously paid as part of the purchase agreement, which stipulated that the renovations would be completed within three years old.

Inanimate nature

They spent $250,000 to renovate the house, which includes a living area with a spacious kitchen.

They spent $250,000 to renovate the house, which includes a living area with a spacious kitchen.

Massoud Ahmadi

They are currently enjoying a great summer at Sambuca. In the morning, they take their elevator down to the ground floor to enjoy a morning cappuccino and pastry at the local bar. Then they go for a walk, before heading home for a long day of work.

“It’s a better house than what we have in the US, with an alarm system and surveillance cameras,” Spencer added, explaining that they can control alarms and manufacturers of their US products from Sambuca.

After buying their new home, they bought an unused 100-square-meter part of their neighbor’s home for €5,000, which they renovated and attached to their property.

“We love peace in Sambuca,” Ahmadi said. “Our street is very quiet and we enjoy the slow philosophy of urban life, symbolized by a snail sculpture in the main piazza.”

While some travelers choose to use Sicily as a base to explore more of Italy, and the rest of Europe, the couple focused on exploring the countryside.

They have already visited the city of Marsala in the Trapani region, and the salt flats of Trapani, and they like to walk long distances on the narrow country roads in order to visit the local food markets and try things Various flavors, including snails.

New events

“In the US, there are roads everywhere. But here there is no rush,” said Massoud. “Walking slowly allows us to enjoy beautiful scenery.

“To run nine kilometers, and go to the hills, it took us almost two hours, but that’s what makes the trip so interesting”.

Although they were able to complete the renovation in a short period of time, it is very surprising considering the various problems brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, there are some small problems in the awake.

Pressing their furniture through the locked doors and windows of their 300-year-old palazzo proved to be one of the biggest challenges (the sofa went up in the elevator) and finding Finding the right equipment is time-consuming.

“As Americans we have access to many stores in America, where we can buy things of all kinds,” said Spencer.

“But it’s a problem to find good quality furniture in Sicily that you want. but don’t have.”

Although the structure of the building has been completely renovated, they decided to keep the original windows, along with the golden red brick walls, majolica floors and vaulted ceilings in order to preserve some of the famous features. of home.

Massoud and Spencer chose to keep some of the items left behind by the previous owners, which appeared on their first visit, including a 1967 calendar that still hangs on the walls.

Their home was one of those in the Saracen neighborhood that was abandoned after a catastrophic earthquake shook Sicily’s Belice Valley in 1968 and destroyed the area.

The city hall has been filled with interest from hundreds of buyers outside of offering 16 houses in 2019, and going to sell 10 more houses in 2021, this time for a token € 2 each.

While some of the participants in the second auction ended up selling their home undisclosed due to Covid-19 restrictions at the time, Massoud was able to fly to Italy with his brother in 2019 look at the property and look. the Sicilian town before their request.

“Along with my husband, I sent my brother-in-law forward on a scouting mission to find out what the city was like,” Spencer said.

“He is an engineer and he said that the foundation of the village and the houses in Sambuca, despite the earthquake.”

Dramatic change

It took only two years to transform the poor property into a beautiful home.

It took only two years to transform the poor property into a beautiful home.

Silvia Marchetti

Massoud is very grateful for the smooth running of the sale and renovation, explaining that the city office helped with the paperwork and legal issues, helping them overcome the language.

Although he points out that they need to apply for an Italian fiscal code, or a social security number, and open a bank account in the country before buying the house, it is not “painful” no” process. go all the way.

“In the US, I had to work with sub-contractors myself, but in Sambuca it was very easy,” said Massoud, who handled all the work, including the author.

“I was lucky to have a good designer and I gave into electrical work, designing some of the electronics.”

The men were amazed at the quality of work done by the tradesmen and builders, saying it was better than anything they had seen in the US.

“Italian tools are good,” Spencer said. “How they turned this place into something new. It was a shell, now it’s like a Renaissance building.”

However, the final bill came as a surprise to them, as they did not know that a 10% VAT would be added to the house prices.

Before starting the renovation of their Italian home, Massoud and Spencer were often told about the difficulties involved in buying and renovating a large house abroad. .

But they say they are confident in the Sambuca housing project, which is supposed to support the development of the local economy, and are happy with the result.

“I can nail myself,” Spencer said. “We are really lucky. I could tell you many dreams but I won’t, because everything went well.

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