When she decided to move to Italy with her Italian husband and their three children, Tami Schrader chose Florence as her international school. The family moved from London last July and are renting in the Gavinana district – a former orangery close to the city walls at Porta Romana – pending the completion of their refurbishment project.
“The International School of Florence was the main factor, but we liked the small, compact city with its cosmopolitan community,” says the East Coast American, who used to teach the International Baccalaureate curriculum in the UK. “The center of Florence is too touristy, too hot in summer and lacks green spaces – we wanted the playroom to have a large garden and a swimming pool.”
Not all Tuscan shoppers think alike. Demand for apartments in Florence’s historic center has remained high since the pandemic began, particularly in the area south of the Duomo, where the big attractions are clustered around Piazza della Signoria, the Uffizi Gallery – Italy’s most-visited cultural attraction in 2021 – and the old one Ponte Vecchio, which seems to be constantly clogged with tourists.
In July, a property there sold for just over €9 million for €21,428, the highest price per square meter ever recorded in Florence, according to sales agent Knight Frank. The property, a 420 sqm penthouse, is located in the Palazzo Portinari Salviati, a prestigious family home converted into high-end apartments and hotel suites in Via del Corso, overlooking the dome of Brunelleschi’s Cathedral.
The most expensive houses in Florence usually sell for around €10,000 per m², but the average value in Q2 2021 was between €3,500 and €4,600 per m², according to the Agenzia della Entrate, the Italian tax office. The total number of sales in Florence was 5,433 in 2021, up 9.4 percent from 2019, according to OMI, Italy’s Ministry of Economy and Finance.
Knight Frank’s Bill Thomson says the penthouse buyer was motivated by taxes – specifically the €100,000-a-year flat tax on foreign earnings for new residents. “Tax-driven buyers often start in Milan or Rome because that’s where many of their accountants or notaries are based, but some end up in Florence once they experience the lifestyle on offer.”
An American couple recently bought a three-bedroom pied-à-terre in a converted palazzo in Borgo Pinti for €3million after frequent visits to the city. The US dollar’s strength has helped draw more American buyers to Florence, Thomson says, noting that high-end buyers “never seem particularly affected” by rising mortgage rates across the continent. He currently has “a few more deals worth over 5 million euros” going on.
It’s too early to know if international buyers will be affected by the policies of Italy’s new right-wing government, although local buyers could be helped by promised tax cuts and higher government salaries.
During 2020 travel restrictions, when many Airbnb apartments sat vacant, some owners in Florence sold, says Thomson. According to AirDNA, the analyst for short-term rentals, the number of rental offers in the historical center in August was still 36 percent lower than in August 2019, although the figures show that demand has recovered.
Several apartments in the centro historical with discounts see idealista.it. “Sales below €1.5m have slowed due to the decline in tourism [last year] and its impact on some Airbnb owners has had a negative impact on the market, but also because net wages are low in Italy,” says Thomson.
As in Venice, there have been discussions about a new local law limiting short-term rentals – to 90 days per year and two properties per owner. “There is a risk that buyers betting on the yields will be caught if this is rolled out,” he says.
Space-seeking families look south of the Arno at the Porta Romana, the entrance to Florence’s walled old town, Via San Leonardo, and the hilltop Piazzale Michelangelo for panoramic views over the city. It’s possible to find villas rather than apartments in these areas: Expect to pay around €4,000 per square meter if they need renovation, says Diletta Giorgolo Spinola of Sotheby’s International Realty.
The ancient narrow streets behind the city walls at Pian dei Giullari, as well as Bagno a Ripoli and Poggio Imperiale are convenient for families with children at the International School of Florence, where student enrollment has increased by 10 percent since 2019. Schrader only got two of her children in school this year; she is waiting for a place for the third, who had to go to another school.
She describes her real estate search as “difficult”. Standalone homes with lots tend to be sold — and rented out — quickly through discreet networks, says Jeremy Onslow-Macaulay of brokerage firm Casa & Country.
“It’s difficult to find her. We had more inquiries for a three bedroom townhouse on Via San Leonardo this year than any other property – it sold for just under €2m.”
Franco-American Alexander Zeleniuch has been renting in the Porta Romana since he moved to the city in July 2020 with his artisanal coffee company, Ditta Artigianale. He will move into a new two-bedroom apartment he bought in Manifattura Tabacchi, northwest of the city.
The former tobacco factory, designed in the 1930s by Pier Luigi Nervi – who helped design Milan’s Pirelli Tower – is the city’s largest redevelopment project and includes the Polimoda fashion school (chaired by Ferruccio Ferragamo, son of Salvatore) , artist workshops, a theater and hotel.
Two-bedroom apartments are sold through the Savills real estate agency and start at €570,000, ranging from €4,000 to €6,000 per m². Zeleniuch estimates that he pays a premium. In the neighboring district of Novoli, the average price is 3,600 euros per square meter.
“I whiz through the city center for work and therefore wanted to live a little more secluded and quiet so that I could withdraw,” he says. “It’s easy to cycle to the center, although it’s too far to walk.” A new tram line, due to arrive in 2025, will stop outside the settlement and better connect it to the centre.
After 34 years in the city, arriving as an art school graduate, Jane Harman and her partner have finally moved out of the center to an old stone mansion and studio 25 minutes east in Pelago. Her work as a furniture restorer brings her back to the city about every week.
“I sold our little house near Artemio Franchi [football] To the stadium very quickly earlier this year – we were thinking of moving out but the pandemic pushed us faster,” says Jane from Glasgow. “Now we have the best of both worlds, peace and tranquility but not excessive seclusion. Tourism in the center seems to have picked up again this year.”
In 2021, the average property price in Florence was €2,772 per m², 0.4 percent higher than the €2,761 in 2019, according to OMI, the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance.
Florence is cheaper than the other big Italian cities. According to Knight Frank, €1m will buy 111m² of prime property in Florence, compared to 87m² in Rome, 80m² in Milan and 56m² in Venice.
Acquisition tax on resale properties is 2 percent of book value for first homes and 9 percent for second homes; The broker’s commission is 3 percent for buyers and sellers.
What you can buy. . .
Apartment, San Marco, €850,000
A 158m2 apartment just a short walk from Sant’Ambrogio Market and Piazza del Duomo. The two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment features 15-foot ceilings, frescoes, hardwood floors, and views of the Duomo from French windows in the living area. For sale at Knight Frank.
Apartment, San Marco, €1.3m
A three bedroom, three bathroom apartment overlooking the Giardino Della Gherardesca in central Florence. The 240 m² property has been extensively renovated and features frescoes and mosaic floors. Listed with Casa & Country.
Apartment, Piazza d’Azeglio, €2.7m
This property is one of 10 newly developed apartments in a 19th century palazzo and consists of three bedrooms and five marble bathrooms. A few minutes walk from the Sant’Ambrogio market, it is due for completion in December. Available from Knight Frank.
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