What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?
Name three things that you wish you had brought and three you wish you had left at home.
I wish I had brought:
Spices I love and that are hard to find here (if its not oregano or basilico or chili, its a bit difficult to find where I am). More flashy clothing (I was under the impression that there were poor people here and felt no need to be austentatious) but I was wrong, here they seem to generally like austentatious people. More family photos (postal service is not to be trusted with unreplaceable things like photos).
Things I wish I had left:
Summer clothes that would be used with a mild climate. Here, summers are extremely hot and it is difficult to use more than a swimming suit and a sarong in summer.
My precious things. I had a drycleaner specializing in leather ruin (butcher really) my 1000euro suede bag and still charge me 30euro for it after having it at his shop for two months.
My expectations. I should have left those home. Where I live is another planet not another country.
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What advice would you give someone preparing to move to your area about the actual move, choosing a neighborhood and finding a home?
I would say to find someone of your same socio-economical level in the area and ask them. We all have diverse expectations but this way you would know what is considered 'good' and what is considered 'bad' areas, prices, etc. by someone with whom you can relate.
Remember, your expectations have no bearing.
People native to a place often see foreigners as walking idiots (rightfully so as it took the natives years to sort it all out and they live there). They might try to take you for a ride so to speak. So making yourself more informed will only help you.
Then, I recommend renting a place near where you would like to buy or live for a few months (without signing a year's contract) while you look and get used to the place and the diversity of the areas.
The things to watch out for: cracks, mold, humidity, neighbours, graffitti. Be sure that your assesor is not related to your seller or anyone that your seller might know. They could be helping out a friend and they will do that before giving you a fair assessment. Here, omission is not considered dishonest and nepotism is a way of life-seriously.
Check the roads and their conditions in all seasons...ask the local cafe people about stuff if you can...ask a lot of questions..ask the local planning counsel about future projects in your area (expropriation still goes on frequently)they will understand why you are asking, don't worry. They know the games better than you do.
If you live near a school, your place will have or will soon get graffitti on it before any others. If you live near a place without street parking, be warned, people double or triple park thus blocking-in your car with no care at all. And..you must not honk or yell, you must wait patiently for them to come to move their cars. So if you live in the city, sort that out right away.
Invasiveness is relative. Neighbours wanting to spend time with you could come by for hours a day and not feel invasive at all. You will have to ask their permission for most things you do to your home (on the outside and the property) and if they do not give it to you, don't do it. They will call the police and report you and you will have huge problems getting permits and these things.
If building, pay a 'local and recommended' project manager. Keep him motivated though. Go onsite frequently and sporatically. If you do any restructuring or work on a property, we advise going with one 'dita' or company. If you choose to save a bit here and there hiring others, you will lose in the end as when a problem arises, you will be in the middle of the blame game.
We always asked for three estimates for all jobs to be done (restorations, doors, windows, plowing land, everything) and informed those wanting to do the job of our policy. That way, they gave us more honest bids and did not cut themselves out of the running. Get it in writing as well and NEVER, EVER, EVER, pay everything upfront.
Take care and be nice when you turn away a person if you live in a small area (they all know each other). Always pay in pieces....leaving an incentive to finish the work.
Many people where we live, did not really care about the price of the job as much as they cared about how much they were looking to make that month. Doing so at times they reason that the job should pay 1000 Euro for the day because he needs it-not that the cost of the job was that, but the worker needed that money. So you want to be sure of the cost ahead of time...and not give the money until you are happy and in agreement.
Add 6 to 9 months on top of the dates they give you. If you do not get what you want, ask nicely for what you do want. If that does not work, whine, call, complain until you do...and then pay. The build time speeds up when someone wants money. That is why you do not ever, ever pay before the job-be careful even when asked to buy loads of materials paying up front.
If you have a countryside property, it is probably zoned as 'agricola', if that is the case, the owner first had to offer it to the bordering neighbours. ASK THE NEIGHBOURS THE OFFERING PRICE. If they did not know it was for sale, it probably is not. If it is different from that being offered to you, you will possibly need to consult a lawyer as someone is not dealing completely within legal limits. Although dealing outside legal limits is often happening in Italy, being complacent to this makes you an accomplice and it will not end there...as you were once an accomplice, you will be seen as one who will be expected to always be one and keep quiet and be obliging-always. You will live in fear of the law and of threats if you accept this deal. Better to be totally legal and let them know you are and that you expect them to be as well.
If you buy a piece of land and inside its boundaries there is another owner's land, be aware. That internal owner must have access at all times to his property-even at YOUR expense. There will be a whole separate agreement and legal document for that 'diritto di passaggio'.
Again be honest and straightforward in your dealings. Don't think of ruining it for others. An Italian would choose to support his worst enemy from his local area over a foregner any day.
Everything done here is done through a local NOTARY (Notaio). You will pay this person no small fees so try to negotiate these fees with the seller BEFORE going to the Notaio's office. It is his job to read over everything (after your lawyer did) and make sure it is all on the up and up.
Don't be sacred off...once you are there and they know you are intelligent, and honest, they will value you and trust you. You will be welcomed. You will soon find yourself living happily ever after, attending dinners, bbq's giving a hand to your neighbour, lending tools to each other and sharing recipes too...
Be a good guest (or newcomer), give first, then ask. In everything you can! Even when stating your name and from where you came. Give information, then ask. Then people do not see you as a risk but as an asset.
What type of housing do you live in? Is this typical for most expats in your area?
We have a large country property with a 200 year-old stone farmhouse on it that we restored. We have a 100% organic 'azienda agricola' with 500 producing olive trees and 250 citrus trees with other ornamental trees and two natural water springs on it. It is heavenly. The other expats in the area are a mix of apartment dwellers and countryside lovers like us (there are just a few of us).
How did you choose your neighborhood and find your home or apartment?
I found my wonderful husband and the rest was part of the package deal.
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Are your housing costs higher or lower than they were in your home country? What is the average cost of housing there?
Well, property taxes here are incredibly low. At least compared to my native California.
Houses and even apartments can be very expensive here though. There are places here in Catanzaro, apartments, overlooking a parking lot asking over 400,000 EURO! We bought our beautiful property (just outside of Catanzaro and about 15 minutes to the Mediterranean sea) with a lot of land and producing orchards and rebuilt the home spending around 600,000Euro. However, going outside the city into a rural community, even 10km outside of town, you can pay half of that.
Here, neighbours are an issue and there are many lawsuits when they cannot get things sorted out (especially in our area where there are many lawyers who are unemployed). We got lucky and have a large piece of property with no problems.
Here, in the country you can get a good deal. If my property were in California, we would be paying well over 1,000,000 dollars easily! We enjoy our life in the country here and wich those thinking of coming here the same good fortune.