I had my own colpo di fulmine – the Italian term for that lovestruck feeling – while touring Tuscany many years ago. Full immersion into the area ensued, followed by an eager house hunt. After a few twists and turns, in textbook holiday-home-romance fashion, I fell head over heels in love with a crumbling, creeper-covered country house.
Many of us have felt the pull of a place after a particularly happy time spent there; post-holiday, the idea of turning this experience into something more permanent takes hold. At the same time, our rational brains may try to dismiss this as a holiday romance – so how do you know?
I followed my heart. Well-meaning friends warned me about the challenges of renovating an old house. Others seemed baffled by my choice to move deep into the countryside. I politely ignored them all. I had 10 rewarding years in the Tuscan hills, made lifelong friendships and came away with a treasure chest of memories. As with any relationship, it wasn’t always rosy: winters could be testing, as could the distance from friends and family that comes with a remote location.
Asked whether I would still do the same, my response would be an emphatic yes. A little differently, perhaps, with hindsight. With my agent’s hat on and considering my past experience, I would ask myself a few probing questions first.
Would you still love it out of season?
If you’ve enjoyed a blissful summer there, think about what life would be like out of season. You may love the idea of having your own sanctuary deep in the countryside, but what would draw you there in the middle of winter? For me it was the hot springs: lolling in the hot pool under a starlit Tuscan sky was enough to make me feel revived. Yet what seems like a haven away from the hustle and bustle of modern life during the summer could suddenly feel remote in the winter – an important consideration when you are choosing an area for your new home.
Will this home grow with you?
Are your circumstances likely to change, and would this home still work for you if they did? Think about flexibility and future-proofing: you may need to compromise on location and choose something closer to transport links than you originally intended, or find a property consisting of smaller units rather than a single sprawling house, to allow for changing family needs as children grow. If you wish to rent out the property, ensure that local regulations will allow this.
How much should you renovate?
Falling in love with a dilapidated property may sound like a clichéd film script, but remember to focus on the reality of the project at hand. I adopted the maxim “Always repair, never restore”, necessitated by a desire for authenticity and a lack of funds for a full-scale renovation. The result was a stylish but somewhat leaky home. At the other end of the spectrum, think carefully before you go all out on renovations and overspec. It may be tempting to install the latest smart technology in your holiday finca, but if that tech is not expected in that location or type of property, you may never recover your investment. Most important of all, consider what managing a renovation project means for you – it could be an opportunity to work with local craftspeople and suppliers.
Can you be faithful to one place?
Is this somewhere you can see yourself returning to time after time? Owning a second home offers an opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture and way of living, and to be part of a different community. For others, however, holidays are all about exploring new countries and seeing as much of the world as possible. If that sounds more like you, property portfolios or clubs where you purchase an equity share to give you access to a range of homes could be the solution.
If you have considered all of the above and your heart is still determined to go ahead with your purchase, then it looks like everlasting love. If you would like to discuss your plans with one of our experts, we’d be happy to help.
Jelena Cvjetkovic is a director at Savills Global Residential
email@example.com | +44 (0) 20 7016 3754
Pictures from top: a hammock in the mountains of Tuscany (Alamy); farmhouse at Villa Vignamaggio, Greve in Chianti (Alamy); a Tuscan villa (Alamy); riding a bicycle in the Italian countryside (Getty)