Italy was the first European country into lockdown and is only now beginning to emerge, still with more restrictions than most. Property is one business already coming back to life, however.
Firstly the good news. Italy’s estate agents are now open. Since 4th May they have been allowed to visit properties, take photos and do valuations. You cannot travel to see the properties yet, but like everywhere, Italian agents have been learning the art of video-conferencing, and consultations are moving ahead. See below for an assessment of what the pandemic could do to prices.
New cases of coronavirus in Italy are now down to around a 1,000 per day, showing a steady decline since late March when there were over 5,000. The tragic daily death total is below 250 too, although it’s worth bearing in mind that Italy’s figures don’t include care homes. Millions of Italians are returning to work.
The bad news is that the IMF is forecasting an economic contraction of over 9%.
What is now open?
As well as estate agents, you can now buy your morning espresso and evening pizza from a cafe, but only for takeaway. Parks have opened. While “non-essential” shops are still closed, bicycle and scooter shops are open, as a way to limit use of public transport. Factories and construction sites are also open. You can now travel within your region and between municipalities, but not between regions without good reason.
You can also visit relatives, in-laws and those with whom you have a “stable and enduring emotional link”, which has caused some confusion and a lot of ribald laughter.
One person not laughing, however, was the mayor of Milan who threatened to close open spaces down again if social distancing rules were not followed: “Yesterday’s images from along the Navigli were disgraceful,” he said, “Either things change today, or tomorrow I’ll pass measures to close it and I’ll stop takeaway services. This isn’t a game.” He didn’t, however, reimpose restrictions.
Italy’s property market
Prior to the virus, Italian property seemed to finally be on the upswing, with Italian banks providing mortgages at low interest rates. The Italian real estate analyst Nomisma said that the expected level of 613,000 residential sales in 2020 was likely to now be between 40,000 and 110,000.
They suggest, however, that while there have been some wild speculation that house prices will fall further than during the global financial crisis, they expected falls of between 1.3 and 4%, over the next year.
One poll of agents found that 65% expected prices to fall, especially in small towns and in the south.
For prices to fall, someone has to put them on the market at a lower price, and if people cannot visit Italy to view properties there seems little point in doing so. There are also reports of more interest in online property portals, especially from overseas and especially in more remote areas, according to Rightmove.
But if you find the right home on an online portal, what can you do about it?
Transactions already in the pipeline should complete, says Jessica Zama of Buckles Solicitors: “The majority of conveyancing transactions have been put on hold for the time being.. It’s important to note that Notaries can and should proceed with the final Deed of Sale. Therefore, if a date was set for completion in this period, it must still go ahead unless it’s impossible for the parties to do so.”