European models of home ownership: so how do they do it in Italy?

Even the Italian obsession with bricks and mortar has fallen foul of the market, writes Paddy Agnew

Italian house prices climbing
Italian house prices climbing

When we arrived in Italy more than 30 years ago, one of the first things that struck us was the national passion for il mattone, otherwise known as “the brick” or housing. For investment purposes, every nationality loves the property market, of course, but what seemed remarkable about Italians was the extent to which they appeared to value property investments above all other investments.

One of the first pieces of useless information that the newly arrived, would-be Rome correspondent accrued was the remarkable consideration that the Italian property market had remained stable from the 1930s all the way through World War II. Even if the world was literally falling about your ears, il mattone still held its value.

However, now, for the first time in long living memory, Italian residential property has begun to lose value. Where Hitler and Mussolini failed to have an impact, global recession and a struggling Italian economy have struck with a vengeance. Between 2010 and 2017, the value of Italian real estate has, on average, dropped by up to 20pc.

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