The postcard-perfect views of Tuscany are an easy sell to British buyers, and with confidence returning people are once again ready to pursue the good life. Tuscan homeowners are confident they are buying into a stable market – the region has held up well during Italy’s economic woes – but superstar status can have its downside. Inflated prices and cash-rich buyers from Eastern Europe and beyond have already scared off some people. But if you’re looking to invest in an up and coming area, the Maremma coast in the south is being touted as Tuscany’s ‘last frontier’.
Southern Tuscany is often overlooked by British travellers but Maremma has a lot to offer visitors, with its unspoilt beauty, archaeological sites and medieval mountain-top villages, all with the added bonus of a beautiful 250-kilometre coastline. And a new development at the state-of-the-art Marina di Scarlino is primed to take advantage of this unique notion of “Tuscany on Sea”.
“The British have always had a long love affair with Tuscany,” says Elisa Biglia of estate agency Chesterton Humberts, which is selling the apartments. “An increasing interest is being shown in coastal properties and the Maremma region is fast becoming the new fashionable part of Tuscany. In the past six months the majority of our sales have been coastal properties and in particular Argentario, Roccamare and Marina di Scarlino.”
Marina di Scarlino offers the best of both land and sea, overlooking the islands of Elba and Montecristo and a breathtaking 9,000-hectare nature reserve with sandy bays. The 39 contemporary apartments are the vision of Leonardo Ferragamo, son of the world-renowned cobbler Salvatore Ferragamo and president of the Lungarno Collection of hotels. The feel is modern sophistication rather than high-end luxury – you won’t find Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana, but there is a very smart Puro Beach Club, quirky boutiques, a vintage shop and a contemporary art gallery.
The living areas of the fully equipped suites range from 48 square metres to 123 square metres, which excludes generous terraces with sea views. All of the apartments are sold on a 75-year lease and prices start from €350,000 (£290,000) for a one-bedroom (including fixed and terrace furniture) peaking at €890,000 for a two-bedroom, with VAT to pay on top. If you want internal furniture and furnishings, you pay an extra €12,000 to €29,000. A total of 13 suites at the marina have already been sold to British and Italian buyers and there are plans for more homes in future, probably villas, this time on a freehold basis.
You don’t have to let your apartment, but Puro Suites Toscana will manage lettings if you want to recoup some of your money. The resort is open all year, and this summer was a busy one for the marina with 80 to 90 per cent of the suites occupied. Rental starts from €1,200 a week for one-bedroom suites in low season (October to March) rising to €2,700 for two-bedroom suites in high season and you pay 20 per cent to the management company.
Boat-lovers are well catered for, of course; the marina supports 950 berths up to 36 metres and there are the seven islands in the Tuscan archipelago to explore, or you can venture to Corsica and Sardinia.
There is a spa on site and various sports to keep you busy, including golf, horse-riding and mountain-biking. Wine tasting at the nearby Antinori vineyard Le Mortelle – an impressive €11m winery cleverly concealed into the hill – is also a must. Pisa airport is little over an hour away while Florence is closer to two hour’s drive and Rome about two and a half hours away.
Only 20 minutes from Marina Di Scarlino, Savills International is selling ten new exclusive villas built by Borgo Santa Chiara.
These are set around a central courtyard with olive and pine trees, a 20-metre swimming pool, communal gardens and views of the surrounding 18-hole golf course. Each house has three bedrooms, its own courtyard-facing garden, shaded seating and two parking spaces. They range from 135 to 160 square metres and prices start from €680,000 with concierge services available.
Prices in the whole of Tuscany vary widely but generally the market saw falls of about 15 to 20 per cent after 2007, although prime properties in established areas have held their value.
Agents are predicting that prices will start rising again at the end of 2014 so it could be a great time to buy, whether you are sticking to popular areas such as Lucca, Chianti and Val d’Orcia, or considering lesser-known areas such as Arezzo, Cortona and Maremma.
Wherever you decide to buy your Italian home, you will need to factor in taxes and fees.
Homes that are bought as a primary residence incur lower rates but purchase taxes in Italy are about 10 per cent for second homes (although this is based on the land registry value, which may be half or even a third of the purchase price). You pay up to 4 per cent VAT on new builds, but this can rise to 20 per cent for luxury properties depending on whether you buy from an individual or a company and whether you intend to be a tax resident.
“Exchange rates should be a major consideration of any British buyers in the eurozone at the moment – in 2013 alone, the rate has yo-yoed from €1.23 to the pound in January down to €1.14 and is now edging back towards €1.20, making it more favourable for UK buyers again,” says Richard Way, editor of Overseasguidescompany.com, who recommends using a currency exchange firm to fix a rate as soon as you commit to an Italian property.
Managing a long-distance investment can result in a host of new problems so appoint a local legal adviser to act on your behalf.
Marina di Scarlino is currently on the market with Chesterton Humberts. Contact details: www.chestertonhumberts.com / Tel: +44 (0) 203 040 8210