You don't have to be as rich as Clooney to be his neighbour

Italy's Lake Como is an accessible and affordable place for a holiday home. Monica Woodley reports

It seems impossible to discuss Lake Como without mentioning its most famous resident. But long before George Clooney purchased a lakeside villa, Lake Como was the glamorous holiday spot of Italians in the know.

It's not hard to see why. The 28-mile-long, Y-shaped lake in Lombardy, northern Italy, is surrounded by green mountains, creating dramatic panoramas.

While the glamorous image of Lake Como remains, it is no longer the preserve of the wealthy. It is easily accessible and new-build properties are providing a more affordable entry to holiday home ownership. A modern, two-bedroomed flat with stunning views of the lake in Argegno, an hour from Milan airport, can be had for less than €250,000.

The Lake Como area property market slowed during the recession but prices remained stable. According to James Price, the head of international residential development at Knight Frank: "Lake Como has fared much in the same way as other prime European markets; the best-located properties remain sought after and largely owners can hold for prices as they are not in need of rapid sales.

"It benefits from having a wide range of interest from well-heeled Italian families, UK and other north-west European buyers, the US and, increasingly, more discreet and discerning Russians. Prime spots remain lakefront, in particular on the west coast areas in the Cernobbio, Moltrasio and Menaggio stretch and on the eastern side but closer to Como town."

Finding the right property

Location has a big impact on price. Starting at the south-western tip of the lake at the city of Como, up the western coast to the bend of the upside-down Y, is the prime territory. According to Paul Belcher, the managing director of Lake Como property search firm Ultissimo, there are several reasons for this.

One is accessibility: Como is 10 minutes from the motorway that links Milan and its airports with Switzerland, and from there, there is a road that runs in the hills above the lakeside villages, allowing you to reach Argegno (the village at that bend in the lake) in 20 minutes. Along the way are the villages of Cernobbio, Laglio and Brienno. Much beyond Argegno and travel becomes difficult. The story is the same on the eastern shore: one narrow road, which is usually slow moving.

Many places are short on sunshine, as steep mountains run down to the lake, but the western shore gets the most light. Smart house-hunters will view a property at different times of day to see how it catches the sun.

There are more properties on the western shore to choose from, but this can also mean less space. Property-seekers should beware of houses built close to the busy perimeter road that can spoil the Lake Como idyll with traffic noise.

For British house-hunters, there are some characteristics of Italian properties they may find unusual. Because the Italian equivalent of surveyors are allowed to design properties up to three storeys without an architect, some properties do not make the most of their setting or are oddly laid out. Also, swimming pools are not as important to Italians as they are to British buyers, and do not massively increase house prices. However having a pool does increase rental prices – by about 40 per cent – so finding a property with space to put a pool is a good idea for house-hunters planning to let their property. Parking is also at a premium.

With all of these issues to keep in mind, finding a property in Lake Como can be difficult. This is not helped by the local aversion to "for sale" signs; local sellers tend to be discreet when advertising their homes (if they advertise at all) and working with an estate agent is necessary to access many properties.

Pricing can vary wildly, with the same property viewed through different agents offered at very different prices. It is important to ask what may feel like obvious questions. Is the garage included in the price? Does the size quoted include outside space such as terraces? With new-build properties, the price often does not include the kitchen fittings.

Mr Belcher from Ultissimo says: "Buying in Italy is labelled as complex and it is commonplace for purchasers to fail to reach completion. Our clients report a totally different experience." Working with someone who understands the local system can save headaches. Mr Belcher adds: "We explain the process and the costs early on to clients, and we adopt an approach which is significantly different from the typical Italian process."

Ultissimo charges an advisory fee of 3 per cent (the minimum a local estate agent will charge). For this, the company will – in addition to tracking down a property – help you to find a lawyer, get financing if necessary, obtain your Italian tax code and get you better exchange rates than you are likely to get through a bank.

Maximum loans from Italian banks on property are usually 50 to 60 per cent of the buying price for second homes and nearer 75 to 80 per cent if the property is your main residence, for terms of 10 to 15 years. For a €250,000 property you can get a fixed rate of 3.85 per cent with 80 per cent loan to value. Notary fees usually amount to 2.5 to 4 per cent of the declared land value.

Death and taxes

When you buy a property in Italy, you may pay value added tax (VAT) if it is new-build, although this should be included in the purchase price. VAT is 9 per cent for non-luxury property and 19 per cent for luxury property. If VAT is not applied, the all-purchase registration tax is 10 per cent.

As a non-resident property owner in Italy, you will be liable for income tax if you earn income from your property, but you can offset certain expenses against that income. The amount left is taxed at between 19 and 46 per cent, depending on the amount. You still have to declare that rental income as part of your worldwide income in your resident country, but double taxation relief exists so you won't pay taxes on it.

There is also an annual municipal property tax of 0.4 to 0.7 per cent of the official value of the property and some municipalities charge an extra fee for services such as rubbish collection. There are no capital gains or wealth taxes that apply to foreign-owned property, but resident and non-resident property owners are subject to Italian inheritance law.

While buying a house in Italy is more complicated than in the UK, the beauty of Lake Como and the ease of getting there from the UK should make up for any initial hassles. And for celeb-spotters, an apartment next door to Clooney's Villa Oleandra in Laglio is on the market for €850,000.

Suggested Topics
News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
Louis van Gaal at the Hawthorns prior to Manchester United's game against West Brom
football

Follow the latest updates from the Monday night Premier League fixture

News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Concerns raised phenomenon is threatening resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Customer Service Executive / Inbound Customer Service Agent

    £18 - 23k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Customer Service Executiv...

    ASP.NET Web Developer / .NET Developer

    £60 - 65k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a ASP.NET Web Developer / ....

    Operational Risk Manager - Asset Management

    £60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...

    Project Coordinator - 12 month contract

    £27000 - £32000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our large charity ...

    Day In a Page

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past