A California woman buys 3 run-down homes in Italy for $3.30

A poster showing the facade of one of its houses before and after restoration.
Rubia Daniels.

  • Rubia Daniels flew to the Sicilian town of Mussomeli after hearing about its cheap homes.
  • She ended up buying three run-down homes for $3.30 in 2019, which she’s renovating now.
  • Many Italian cities have introduced similar schemes in an effort to repopulate the Italian countryside.

When Rubia Daniels first heard about Italy’s cheap homes, she knew she’d have to take a look at it herself.

“I was so amazed. It was one of those things you have to see to make sure it’s true,” San Francisco-based Daniels told Insider. “I did my research, and within three days I had my plane ticket, rental car, and hotel and left.”

By the end of a 10-day trip to Mussomeli, a small town in Sicily, in July 2019, she was the proud owner of three run-down homes that she had bought for just €1, or $1.10 each.

A representative from Case 1 Euro, the organization responsible for the Mussomeli housing project, confirmed the sales.

Rubia Daniels poses in front of one of her properties in Mussomeli
Rubia Daniels.

Daniels, who moved from the suburbs of Brasilia in Brazil to California 30 years ago, said the Italian town reminded her of her childhood home.

“The people were so welcoming and everyone wanted to have a coffee with me. The landlords hugged me like a sister – they were with me every day during the time I was there,” said Daniels.

Not only was she fascinated by the rich history of the city and its inhabitants, but she also loved the idea of ​​restoring an abandoned house.

A poster showing the roof of one of its houses before and after restoration.
Rubia Daniels.

“It’s an environmental concept,” added Daniels, who works in the solar industry. “We need to stop building and start reshaping the things we have.”

Daniels said she has different plans for each of her new homes.

“The one I’m working on now, I plan to turn into an art gallery. One of them will be mine to stay in. And the third house, which will be my biggest project, I want to turn into a healthy gallery center to give back to the community.”

The green door building is the third property that Daniels owns.
Rubia Daniels

The 49-year-old resumed restoring the properties at the end of 2019, but had to pause the project due to the pandemic.

“COVID-19 happened and we weren’t allowed to go back in, so I just started the renovations again last year,” Daniels said. She currently splits her time between San Francisco and Musumeli and spends at least a month in the Italian Village at a time.

So far, she said, she has completed the exteriors of two homes but has not started on the last one.

Italy desperately needs people like Daniels

Daniels isn’t the only one jumping on Italy’s desperation to repopulate her sleepy, empty towns.

In 2021, nine villages in southern Italy are offering to pay millennials $33,000 to move there as long as they help rebuild fast-emptying towns. The villages – all located in the southern Italian region of Calabria – have offered people under the age of 40 a cash payment to make the move. Towns on display included the cliff-side village of Civita and Ayeta, a coastal seaside town.

The one thing these places have in common is that they all had fewer than 2,000 residents and were just a few years away from becoming ghost towns.

The Calabria region also made the news in the summer of 2020 when it offered homes for as little as $1.14 in the village of Cinquefrondi. Twelve homes have been put up for sale at this price in a mad rush to rebuild the town dubbed “Operation Beauty”.

And in 2019, Insider’s Will Martin reported on Cammarata – a town in central Sicily that offers homes for free to anyone who wants to live there. This was, according to the town’s mayor, Vincenzo Giambroni, part of an effort to prevent the town from turning “into ruin”.

However, it is not easy to grab a house for one dollar. According to Insider’s Tom Murray, the catch involves dealing with a home that might be in downright disrepair and require extensive renovations just to be livable.

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