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House Hunting in ... Rome - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Rome – This bright five-bedroom, three-bath, three-story penthouse is approximately 2,500 square feet, with a view of St. Peter’s Basilica. The apartment is in a 19th-century building — young by Italian standards — in Borgo Pio, a neighborhood with small shops and restaurants packed into narrow streets.

The main entrance, accessible by elevator, is on the third floor. The front door opens onto the dining room; on the left is the kitchen, which has marble counters and a vintage design, and on the right, a small maid’s room and en-suite bath. Off the dining room is the living room, which has a fireplace, exposed wood beams and hardwood floors. The lower level can be reached by stairs from the dining room, but has a separate entrance as well. It has three bedrooms, a full bath, a sitting area and a hall closet. (There is also a large storage area in the basement.) On the top floor is the master bedroom, which has an en-suite bath, a fireplace, built-in bookcases and a private terrace overlooking terra-cotta roofs.

St. Peter’s Square is a five-minute walk; the Vatican Museums are 10 minutes away; and a large covered market, Mercato Trionfale, is within a 15-minute walk. The Ottaviano stop on the metro, which runs to the Roma Termini train station, is a 10-minute walk. Fiumicino Airport is about a 30-minute drive.


Italy’s real estate market started to pick up in 2014, said Maurizio Pezzetta, the owner and broker of La Commerciale, a luxury real estate agency based in Rome and the exclusive Christie’s affiliate in Rome and Lazio. In 2016, there were around 500,000 transactions nationwide, up from about 400,000 in 2013, Mr. Pezzetta said, although this is still far below the pre-recession peak of around 845,000 sales in 2008.

The market seems to be gearing up for a sustained recovery, he added: Mortgages are more readily available; there is an increased supply of housing and new government incentives to encourage home buying, and asking prices are more in tune with what buyers are willing to pay. But events like the Brexit referendum and recent terrorist attacks in Europe, as well as domestic issues like Italy’s economic problems and political crises, are standing in the way of a more robust recovery, he said.

On average, the Italian market has lost around 30 percent of its value since 2010, and the Roman market about 25 percent, said Flavio Angeletti, the deputy manager, Italy, of the luxury real estate firm Immobiliare Santandrea.

Rome is Italy’s second most expensive market, after Florence, said Carlo Giordano, the chief executive of Immobiliare.it, which calls itself Italy’s largest property listing website. Prices in Rome, as in the rest of the country, fell some 2.5 percent between December 2015 and December 2016, Mr. Giordano said, but they now seem to be approaching stability. Historically low mortgage rates and government incentives aimed at helping first-time buyers and buyers of energy-efficient properties are proving successful, he said, and he expects Rome and Milan to lead the recovery.

Diletta Giorgolo Spinola, the head of sales for Central and Southern Italy for Italy Sotheby’s International Realty, said about 80 percent of Italians are homeowners, and politicians are reluctant to raise taxes on primary residences. Second homes are not highly taxed either, she said, compared to those in other European countries and the United States.

The resignation of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in December seems to have had little effect on the market, she and Mr. Giordano agreed, because Italian real estate is relatively impervious to political upheaval. As Ms. Giorgolo Spinola put it: “If every time we would have a political change, it would impact us, then we would be in a real mess.” But the economic situation in Italy and Europe, she added, has affected the lower and middle tiers of the market.

Luxury prices range from 7,000 to 20,000 euros per square meter ($689 to $1,970 a square foot), Mr. Pezzetta said. In the past, the city’s most expensive residences were often sold through word of mouth. Today, he said, they are more often advertised, because supply is greater.

Along with the historic center, desirable areas include the Gianicolo, Monti and Parioli, Via Veneto, Pinciano, Villa Borghese and the areas around Villa Ada and Villa Torlonia, agents said.


At the lower end of the luxury market, about 20 percent of buyers are foreign, Ms. Giorgolo Spinola said, and as prices go up, the share of foreign buyers increases. Most — about 80 percent — are buyers from the United States who are taking advantage of the strong dollar and Italy’s lowered prices, she said, followed by those from France, Britain and Switzerland.

Wealthy foreign buyers typically want homes in centrally located historic buildings, Mr. Pezzetta said, preferably on higher floors or in penthouses with terraces that have panoramic views. They are also interested in villas with gardens just outside the historic center.


Because of reciprocal legislation, citizens of some countries face restrictions when buying real estate in Italy, but those from the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia are not among them, said Giandomenico De Tullio, a partner at the De Tullio Law Firm, which has offices in Italy and London. It is becoming more difficult for foreigners to obtain mortgages, agents said, but that may not affect luxury buyers, who tend to use cash.

Italy’s tax laws are complicated, and closing costs are difficult to estimate, Mr. De Tullio said. In general, a buyer pays for a notary’s services, half the real estate commission, taxes and sometimes a lawyer’s services. Unlike notaries and agents, who represent both the buyer and the seller, a lawyer is “exclusively committed to the interests of the buyer,” he said, and for this reason hiring one is recommended.


Vatican Museums: museivaticani.va

Official Rome tourism website:


Italian; euro (1 euro = $1.06)


Annual taxes on this property, including municipal fees, are approximately 4,800 euros ($5,088). Yearly condominium fees are approximately 1,800 euros ($1,908).

The New York Times