What About Italy?
Italy, is it the place to settle down?
The trouble with all the articles about where is the best place to live is that they talk about the country and forget about the person who is worrying about where to live.
I occasionally suggest bottles of wine to people looking puzzled in the wine shop. I remember offering a friend a glass of my favourite sherry, and was appalled and outraged when he spat it out and asked what was wrong with it.
Good grief, it cost me €30 a bottle. I’d even gone to the company’s office in Jerez to buy a case.
But, what the heck, my guest didn’t like it. End of story.
Countries are rather like that. I can get to a town and immediately feel something is wrong. I cant always put my finger on the problem, but I just want to leave.
In one of my earlier blogs, maybe several years back, I suggested that you appraise countries in a particular way.
Probably the most important issue is that feeling I just mentioned. If you feel an innate antagonism to the place nothing else matters, just leave.
That leads to the next stage. In order to find out what you really feel about whether the place is for you is that you test-drive the area for about six months by renting, and see how you get on. Dont under any circumstances move to a place without doing that six months test first.
While you are doing your test, put some basic ideas into your discussions.
1 You are probably going to sell your home and buy another. That involves a serious investment commitment. You are investing in a home. You are also investing in a country. Think of that investment as you would think of investing in a company. These days that is going to give you the heebie-jeebies. I cant help you with that one. Everywhere seems to have serious problems.
I do follow a certain Mr Henderson and his Nomad Capitalist series. His mantra is simple and rather good. “Go where you are treated best.” The trouble is, there is more to living than that.
His ultimate preferred destination is Malaysia. Sounds great, but there are problems. And that is where we have to start. You have to start with you, and what you want, and what you cant cope with, and work outwards from that.
For me, that part of the world wont do for two main reasons. First, it’s a long and expensive route for my daughter to visit. Second, I dont like the humidity.
So you need to make a list of likes and dislikes, and see what you want to end up with.
So, look at the investment first. Get that wrong, and you may have a problem redirecting your investment.
I moved to the Algarve. When I moved here the prices were reasonably cheap, but they were twice the price of similar properties in Spain, so I looked for a place outside the tourist ghettoes. That brought prices way down. Also, there is the problem that you can only sell to tourists if you buy in a tourist zone. First rule of any investment is: dont restrict your exit strategy.
Also, do the kind of research you would do on a company. How does (in this case) Italy.com rank as an ideal investment?
Unfortunately, almost all countries in the EU rank very badly as investments. It so happens that the Algarve has turned out to be rather good for those of us who invested some time ago. Currently we are told that 27% of properties sell within a week in this part of the world.
Sounds great? Absolutely not if you are thinking of moving here. Remember that other rule. Buy low, sell high. Dont even think of buying where prices are through the roof, so forget the Algarve.
But what about Italy?
Once upon a time Italy was really a series of principalities. Today, in terms of investable regions, there is a very marked difference between north and south. There are other differences, but Northern Italy is the go-ahead area, while, once you are south of Rome, things get slower and slower the further south you go.
Irrespective of that distinction there is the generalisation that over the course of the past generation Italy as a country has not improved its financial health one jot. Italy.plc is not the place to invest. You may well like to move there and have a happy life, but financially there are better places to go.
2 Let’s move to a totally different kind of decision. Where is your family? Can you get back to see them easily? Can they get out to visit you without taking out a second mortgage and spending days in waiting rooms?
For some of us, that’s important.
3 For others, like myself, the weather is important. Scandinavia just doesn’t work for me. I remember my time in Sweden very well. I enjoyed living in Stockholm, but the weather was awful. I dont relish having to count the bumps in the street to work out which one is likely to hide my car under a deluge of snow.
I dont like wearing several layers of clothes. One day I ended up in a line of cars that simply stopped. We eventually discovered that we were all following the car in front, and had somewhere strayed from the main road and ended up going in a circle on a frozen lake.
4 Real estate in various parts of Eastern Europe is very cheap. I’ve advertised 3 bed houses with an acre of land for €3,500. But can you speak the language? Can you read the cyrillic alphabet, and do you need to get a job to survive? And what will your social life be like?
I could go on, but I think you get the message. Deciding where to live is a difficult decision, and it’s also very, yes, very personal.
Next week, I’ll try and take this a stage further.