House Hunter: 'We want to run a B&B in Italy'

PR manager Melissa Byrne and her partner are thinking about moving to Italy to run a B&B. They're looking in the Le Marche region and have a budget of £350,000

THE PROBLEM

"My partner and I are considering leaving our jobs and selling our house in Wimbledon for around £400,000. We then want to buy a house in Italy that we can turn into a bed and breakfast business. We also have a two-bedroom flat in Raynes Park, which we plan to keep and rent out.

"We are looking at Le Marche in particular, for its good transport links with the UK, and also because it seems relatively affordable, but we would also consider Liguria. Although we could spend up to £350,000 we would, if possible, prefer to spend less - perhaps around £200,000 - on a property with land that could be built on and used for holiday accommodation.

"As the property is going to be used as a B&B it would have to be visually appealing and suitable for us to live in, plus it must have at least four bedrooms for the guests. We don't mind doing work to a property but don't really want to buy a complete wreck.

"I hope you can help us as we've had several visits to Ancona but, although we are both learning Italian, we are not yet fluent and are not able to converse well enough to be able to buy somewhere."

THREE PROPERTIES FOR MELISSA TO VIEW

Property one: Detached house above the walled city of Lucca.

Price: €450,000 (£321,000).

Agent: Casa Travella, 01322 660988.

Agent's details: In the hills just above Lucca, this is a wonderful detached house surrounded by 5,000sqm of land planted with olive trees and with its own private stream. The house is set over two floors and also has a basement, which has three large cellars. On the first floor there is a living room, kitchen, dining area, bathroom and three bedrooms. The second floor has three large rooms in the attic that could be made into bedrooms. The house is in good condition and in a dominant position with views across the city of Lucca. It would be possible to build a pool in the grounds.

Property two: Existing B&B business in Lucca.

Price: £267,000.

Agent: Casa Travella, 01322 660988.

Agent's details: This wonderful group of properties is ideal for anyone looking for an investment or who wishes to start a B&B or rent out properties. It is set in a sunny and tranquil position, surrounded by three hectares of land made up of woods and olive trees. Within the grounds there are three stone properties that have been restored in rustic style with Tuscan cotto and beamed ceilings. Also within the grounds there is another rustic 200sqm property to restore that could make three small apartments. The property is in a central position 10km from Luca, 20km from the sea and 35km from skiing at Abetone. It would also be possible to build a pool.

Property three: House in Le Marche.

Price: €180,000 (£128,000).

Agent: Casa Travella, 01322 660988.

Agent's details: Three-storey building of about 315m2 in size. It is in a nice position with wonderful panoramic views, built across three floors: On the ground floor there is a storage room, cellar, kitchen, two other rooms and a bathroom. The first floor has a kitchen/sitting room with fire- place, two single bedrooms, one double bedroom, bathroom, large terrace. The second floor has a loft which needs finishing. It has water and electricity and a new water discharging system. Outside there is a two storey building of about 330m2 plus a stable and it is set within a 1,000m2 plot.

LINDA'S ADVICE

"I get the feeling that Melissa has done her homework and is being quite sensible about her search. There are many clients who assume you can buy somewhere big enough to run a bed and breakfast business but who simply haven't got the budget to do so, but Melissa is setting aside an ample amount for what she wants.

"Having said that, she won't be able to buy anywhere with lots of land in Liguria, so, if she is adamant about buying there, she would have to consider buying something smaller which may not suit her business plan of having guests.

"Melissa hasn't mentioned Tuscany - perhaps she believes that this area is out of her budget - but I've found her some properties in Lucca, Italy's only completely walled city, that would make wonderful B&B properties. The ramparts make it a big draw for visitors and Pisa airport is very accessible, which is vital if you're trying to attract visitors. None of the properties I've chosen for Melissa are total wrecks, but all require some renovation.

"I think property number one is wonderful and, with its position, it would make a great business which she wouldn't have to advertise too extensively. Property two is already being run as a B&B and there are more outbuildings that could be renovated. Plus there is room for a pool, which always gives you a big advantage over your competitors.

"Property three does need some money spending on it, but it has so much potential. Its outbuildings are 333m2 and could be converted into guest accommodation in the form of three two-bed apartments although the main building is ready to start using straight away. Even if she spent £60,000 doing it up, the whole project would be under £200,000 but she would have to advertise herself more vigorously as this property is in a very rural setting rather than a well-known tourist area."

Linda Travella is director of Casa Travella (01322 660988, www.casatravella.com)

MELISSA'S VERDICT

"Linda's advice is very helpful and property number two sounds like the best option. What we're doing is such a gamble that we have decided not to spend at the top of our budget. If money was no object, property one sounds absolutely fabulous but it is better for us to have some reserve funds. Le Marche is probably too much of a hard slog for us to get it running. The real attraction with number two is that it is already a B&B so it would be easier to take on and I know Lucca and like the area."

Interviews by Ginetta Vedrickas

If you would like House Hunter's help, write to House Hunter, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail househunter@independent.co.uk

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