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Judi's avatar

Can you renovate your own house in Italy?

Asked by Judi (37656 points ) March 30th, 2012

My husband is a contractor and close to retirement. We are looking all over the world for where we might want to live.
Le Marche Italy looks like it has some great opportunities for a guy like him to buy a house and renovate it.
All the research talks about hiring a Gometra. I know we would need to hire someone to help get us through the permitting process, but are homeowners allowed to do any of the work themselves? What are the limitations?
We have enough passive income so we shouldn’t have any trouble getting a residence visa.

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13 Answers

funkdaddy's avatar

I’m not sure how a government would keep people from working on their own homes, or what the purpose would be.

I did a search for “home depot italy” and google provided several discussions of similar stores available there. So there seems to be a need to DIY supplies. Maybe a good place to start?

Bellatrix's avatar

I don’t know @Judi, I feel sure you will need someone (me) to help with painting or something though :D How fabulous! I hope you will keep us up-to-date with your quest to find the perfect place in the world to retire to.

Do you both speak Italian? My only concern, and I have no reason to suspect this apart from watching home reno shows and real estate programmes, is the availability and local knowledge to find quality tradespeople. Even if you are a tradie there may be some work you need to contract out. That can be challenging anywhere but I imagine it would be worse in a place where you don’t know all the regulations and have local knowledge.

Judi's avatar

Bellatrix,
We don’t speak Itallian (yet.)
I don’t think it would be to hard to find some student from the US who does who would want to spend 6 months or so helping us in exchange for room, board and some free travel adventures.
I was also thinking we could hire an English speaking Gometra who should be able to hook us up with the sub contractors for trades my husband would rather not do. Mostly the exterior stuff.
This is still in the dream phase. We are also looking at places in South America, but my first choice would be Italy.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Connect with the local mayor or city father.

cookieman's avatar

When we were in Venice, we learned that the local government will pay half of any renovation costs however, you must adhere to exact, historical standards. There are no other options (at least in Venice).

This was in 2005. We inquired about buying property. My wife speaks fluent Italian.

Now, she tells me that in her little hometown (not nearly as historically significant as Venice), you can renovate however you wish – but you’re on your own money-wise.

Thammuz's avatar

Ok, i’m no expert, but from my experience living here this is the jist of it:

Some cities (depending on the region and the historical significance of the area) will, as @cprevite already said force you to follow the style of the area to keep the look intact. Tourism is, afterall, one of the most lucrative industries in italy.

You obviously need permits to modify the exterior of your house, especially because you most likely will need to block off part of the road. Most houses face public roads, and you need a permit and advance warning if you need to use them for a protracted period of time.

You also need, and this is in general, a project to be signed by a geometra or architect (“Architetto” in italian, for reference) and approved by the technical office of the Comune (basically city hall, only it sometimes covers more than one small town, our summer home, for instance, is in a very small town that shares its Comune with about 6 others), which is where you should go anyway if you need to know exactly what is allowed and what isn’t as far as renovation goes, before you can actually do any work, which will have to be done by licensed contractors. Also, you can’t make changes to the plumbing, gas and power lines yourselves. You need to hire a licensed company to do the work for you. That kind of infrastructure is very tightly knit in european countries and, therefore, it stands in a delicate balance. The touch of an amateur could end up in huge damage.

(By the way, if you expect to find hardware stores like those you find in the US, prepare to be disappointed. Aside for the fact that italy doesn’t have nough space for such a place to exist on the same scale, save for some areas, it’s just not the kind of stuff we do. Italian cities and towns mostly exist in the same state as they did 100 years ago and, more importantly, are mostly made of interconnected houses, unlike the stereotypical independent two story houses you see in american movies. There is very little room for external modification and, since you need licenses to do most of them anyway, that kind of stuff is generally bought directly by the contractors throught their own channels)

Basically, you can build your own toolshed, a treehouse, small stuff, you can add shelves, you can make furniture, but you can’t mod the house itself without an approved project and outside help.

Judi's avatar

@Thornbird, thanks so much for the helpful info. We’re looking more at farm houses with at least a hectacre of land if that makes any difference.

Thammuz's avatar

@Judi That changes some regulations, but many areas demand anastylosis when rebuilding the outside.

Judi's avatar

@Thammuz , We would want the outside to look as authentic as possible, but inside, we would want to be completely modern. I Have to have my Toto toilet!
The hard part is figuring out ow much hubby can do himself on the inside.

Thammuz's avatar

@Judi However much you want as long as you don’t add/remove walls, floors, ceiling, powerlines and piping.

Basically you can repaint, you can refurnish, you can redo the floors, but you can’t open a basement yourself. You can, in some areas, do light modifications to the walls on the inside without a permit, but you need to notify the catasto afterwards, regardless of the permit (The catasto office is, basically, a regional office that keeps track of all the land, built or not, and their proprietors. Depending on how big your house is, and other factors like the number of bathrooms, they determine how much you need to pay in taxes for that house).

Regardless, it varies wildly from region to region and even from comune to comune, so take everything i say with a pinch of salt, and remember to ask the tech office before doing anything.

Judi's avatar

@Thammuz , It sounds like we really need to partner with a well connected Gometra, who knows how to get things through. Thanks so much. You have been really helpful. Now we know that we need to establish that relationship before we even make an offer.

Thammuz's avatar

@Judi (It’s gEometra, from the greek “geométrēs” “one who measures the land”)

Judi's avatar

Oops. Thanks for the correct.

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