ANYONE buying a Continental holiday home has a choice to make – do you like cutting-edge design and built-to-spec polish, or do you like something steeped in history? A minimalist mansion on an Ibizan hillside is one thing (a very nice thing), but a rambling old farmhouse or converted medieval church comes with a romance all of its own – and it may just hold its price better too.
“Demand is still strong for high-end historic properties, and their values haven’t been so affected by the crisis,” says Paul Hudson, Italian representative of international buying agents The Property Finders (www.thepropertyfinders.com). He says even old palazzos converted into apartments are likely to be as strong a long-term investment as a single ancient villa. “It’s all about character and rarity, and that kind of appeal is a timeless investment.”
Of course, with older properties comes a greater requirement for upkeep or renovation. Whether you’re buying a place that’s been restored or you’re intending to get the work done yourself, you need to go through a careful due diligence process and avoid being seduced purely by the building’s character – that’s where buying agents with local knowledge can come in handy. For instance, if you have to reclassify a former agricultural building as a residential one, you may find yourself on the wrong end of some steep tax liabilities. If you can overcome such hurdles, you can snap up a beautiful slice of history.
WALLED CHATEAU, DORDOGNE, FRANCE
An opportunity to be king or queen of your own castle with this magnificent mini-chateau in France, which sits on a dramatic rocky promontory overlooking a valley in the Dordogne region. Historic towers, walls, a moat and a circular tower containing one of five bedrooms completes the fairytale. Call Savills on 020 7016 3740 or visit
CASA BURIANO, TUSCANY, ITALY
Apartments from €358,000 (off-plan)
A magnificent palazzo, formerly occupied over the centuries by generations of Italian nobility, that’s being converted into luxury apartments secreted in the Tuscan countryside. One hour’s drive from Pisa and 20 minutes from the Med, the apartments come with magnificent views, plus a restaurant, swimming pools and leisure facilities.
For more information and to register interest visit www.buriano.co.uk or call 0131 221 6575.
L’ABBAZIA, LE MARCHE, ITALY
A picturesque – and then some – 15th century former monastery and church in the foothills of the Apennine mountains, the building includes seven bedrooms across two separate apartments. It sits in several acres of private woodland in the trufle-rich Le Marche region, and includes two terraces, one of which has a large pizza oven. Contact Cluttons Italy on 0039 075 845 0100 or visit www.cluttonsitaly.com
CEGLIE MESSAPICA, PUGLIA, ITALY
An extraordinary, rustic property consisting of two medieval Trulli buildings (limestone dwellings with conical roofs) not far from Brindisi. The building was renovated after lying abandoned for 70 years, and includes four bedrooms, a swimming pool, a wine cellar and land with olive groves, pomegranate and fig trees.
Contact Hamptons Italy on 00 39 06 688 928 70, or visit www.hamptons.co.uk.
OLD MILL, MALLORCA
A historical country house in the old mill of Puigpunyent (try saying that after a night on the sangria), the house is surrounded by a landscaped garden featuring the original aquaduct leading water into the old mill itself. The renovated house includes three bedrooms, a separate swimming pool area and an additional studio apartment.
Contact MJC Associates on 00 34 971 57 99 57 or visit www.mjassociates.net.