What's happening in the property market
When the financial crisis hit us in 2008-9 it was very disappointing of course but I have to say it was a bit of a relief in some ways. We'd been working flat out, 16 hours a day 6 days a week rushing all over Piedmont matching houses with buyers. 2010 was dead but since then we've kept things going and it's always been decent. But then this summer arrived... long hot days, no rain but enquiry after enquiry and buyer after buyer. We've not been this busy since 2007! What's the reason?
Why the sudden boom?
UNESCO status was sure to help the region get the recognition it deserves and the increasing popularity of Barolo wine has done it wonders. Add to this the fact that most sellers are more realistic in their asking prices and buyers, I would say, are buying more with the mind than with the heart so expect better prices. Overall, prices are down around 20%. Also, the cost of buying is a little cheaper with a decrease in purchase tax. Every little helps.
Overall prices are down 20%
The area is also seeing a significant increase in tourism. We'd never seen the streets of Alba so busy as during this year's Truffle festival, despite the fact there were no truffles because there's been little or no rain for 6 months.
This means a new demand for nice homes and even wine businesses and B&B type homes. Often buyer's expectations are above their budget but there are still some poorly run establishments that need new blood. Wine businesses are very difficult to find. Barolo vineyards are now €2m/ha if you can find them and profitable businesses are very thin on the ground. But the future is very bright for wine in the area. I met with two of the biggest Barolo producers yesterday evening and they had nothing but good things to say about the local economy and the future of Langhe and Monferrato. Even the lowly Moscato grape is in huge demand so prices are going through the roof. While I was at this particular wine cantina the car park was filling with big German-made cars and happy people in expensive clothes were loading their vehicles with precious wines they'd just paid a small fortune for. Business is very good.
So, what about the future?
Let me start with the past. 6 years ago I had a small village house with a couple of apartments for sale in Barolo, a few minutes from the town. The owner wanted €90,000 for it. We couldn't find a buyer. Client after client saying they didn't like this or didn't like that. In the end, the owner sold it for little money to a friend. It had a half hectare of Barolo/Nebbiolo vineyard. Today the vineyard alone is worth around €1m. So, what does the future of the Langhe and Monferrato hold? Big money is moving in which means prices will definitely rise. If you don't think that now is a good time to buy you could be very disappointed in the very near future. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Big money is moving in which means prices will definitely rise
Choose your agent wisely
And the best advice I can give is to choose your agent wisely. You need experience, honesty, and someone that is firmly on your side. We negotiate hard to get you the best deal and you need good people around you after you buy. There are some real disaster stories of people that have gone it alone, bought privately or with agents that leave you clueless after you buy. Also, it's not unusual to to be overcharged with things like translations of documents, professional fees, etc. We don't do this, we always look for the best deal for the buyer.
I met an English lady a few weeks ago. She's famous in her field but I will protect her identity. She bought a house two years ago in the Langhe. She bought privately. The project still isn't finished so I introduced her to my people (something I will never normally do. I only refer people to our team if they buy through us) and their report is terrifying. She's been overcharged, lied to and there's bad feeling all around. It's very difficult to move forward. I'm confident my architect will get it done but he has a very difficult job ahead of him and money is running out. And this is not an isolated case, I see it too often.
We only work with people we trust. The professionals we work with get the majority of their work from us so are extra careful to do things right or they risk losing a good source of work.
Working with a good agency like us you will have to pay a commission but we can always cover that cost with good negotiation based on our vast experience and with providing the back up you need after you buy. If we currently don't have the house of your dreams, be patient with us, and we'll find it.
How much should you pay?
That brings me to pricing and negotiation. I'm often asked about prices as they are all over the place. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Location is everything. If you're looking in the southern end of Belbo or Bormida valley, or even further south, you can expect to pay a lot less. But it's very rural, very isolated, so of course prices are low for a reason. Move north to the Barolo towns such as Monforte, Serralunga, La Morra and you'll pay a lot more if you can find anything. I've met people with millions to spend and they look for years for things that don't even exist, or at least never come on the market. You might do well to look in other areas that are just as great but have more real estate and prices are good. The area around the town of Mango is very good. And don't ignore some of the Asti towns. Moncalvo is fantastic.
- Asking ridiculous prices isn't unusual. We looked at a house yesterday. It was ok. Not fantastic. We toured the house then asked what they expected to get. €1m was the answer. My valuation was €400,000! And that was being generous. Obviously, I'm not going to take on a house that's so overpriced but you do see the point. Sellers have a plan - once I sell I'll buy an apartment in Alba and anchor a yacht in Monaco. Well, of course, that's not going to happen unless they have something very particular. But an experienced agent should be able to get them to parachute down from cloud cuckoo land to reality.
Our service is like a tailor-made suit. Every stitch is sewn with you in mind, to fit you. You're going to need a lot of help and we're here to give you the help you absolutely need. So, if you want to buy, now is the time.
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