My parents bought the property to feed my mother's penchant for the romantic and remote. Having grown up in Switzerland, Tuscany was a perfect fit for her because "it makes you feel like you went back in time," she says.
Like many foreigners buying property in Tuscany, my parents are mainly concerned with authenticity and charm. Buyers like a pension fund manager in London who conducted research all over Europe before deciding to buy Italian property, however, also have a sound investment in mind. While lawyers, diplomats, bankers and intellectuals of the 1980s still form the bulk of Italian property buyers, people from all walks of life are now buying across the various market levels, says Steve Emmett, managing director of
More Pleasure Than BusinessThe weakening dollar hasn't deterred American buyers, says Emmett. Mostly, it's culture and history, not financial gain, that attracts foreigners, although some are still looking for ways to move their money out of the U.S. market or diversify their assets. According to The Wall Street Journal, the American Stock Exchange recently listed an international real-estate exchange-traded fund, WisdomTree International Real Estate Fund ( DRW) and Charles Schwab & Co. launched the Schwab Global Real Estate ( SWAIX) mutual fund.
Tasteful by Law"It's beautiful, but what will it be like 10 years from now?" asked my mother while driving through the popular lakeside town of Passignano sul Trasimeno in Umbria. Looking down at the impressive villa of a prominent celebrity who calls this town home, I wondered whether the area will suffer from the impact of tourists and major developers. But Riccardo Luculli, senior partner in Immobiliari Brian French Italia, assures me that "Italy will be Italy forever" because laws ensure real-estate hot spots like Umbria and Tuscany will keep their local charm for years to come. It started when the Medici family moved into the countryside in the 14th century and brought a certain standard of quality and taste with them, says Luculli. Today, cultural standards as well as the law dictate whether you can build a pool and even the color of your house.
The Charm Money Can BuyBrian A French properties range from 500,000 euros to 3 million euros, as more and more buyers look at the top end of the market, says Emmett. "The more expensive properties are almost easier to sell," he says, as clients opt for the most beauty and character their money can buy. Approximately 70% of Emmett's clients use their property as a getaway rather than a permanent residence.
Pay With CautionItalian real estate agents must be licensed with the local chamber of commerce, unlike in other countries like the U.K., where estate agency is vastly unregulated, says Emmett. His clients have never had any problems from a legal point of view. "
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