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You can buy a home in this scenic town in Sicily, Italy for $1—but there's a catch

View to Historic Center City of Mussomeli in Sicily
gkuna | iStock | Getty Images

Buying a home in Sicily, Italy, the largest island in the Mediterranean, could cost between $290,000 to $2.7 million, according to Realtor.com. But now you can buy a home in the town of Mussomeli in southern Sicily for 1 euro, or about $1.12.

Of course, there's a catch: The homes are currently abandoned, so buyers have to agree to renovate the homes, which could cost six figures. 

"In the last 40 years people, especially young people, left the countryside to find work in bigger cities, and those small villages like Mussomeli became abandoned all over Italy," Stefan Neuhaus, an expert in Italian real estate, tells CNBC Make It. "One of the ideas to revitalize these places is the $1 offer to attract international clients to buy, invest and spend their holidays there."

Mussomeli sits on a steep hillside with narrow streets and is known for Castello Manfredonico, a medieval castle, as well its old churches. As part of a not-for-profit project, there are about 100 homes for sale there for 1 euro each, with about 400 more to go on sale in the future, according to Case 1 Euro, a website that facilitates home transactions and is owned by the Municipality of Mussomeli.

As part of the deal, buyers must give a refundable security deposit of 5,000 euros ($5,585) and renovate their house within three years. Renovations range between 100 to 700 euros per square meter ($111 to $782 per 10 square feet), according to Case 1 Euro. Homes available on the website range from 11 to 190 square meters (or 118 to 2,045 square feet). So a 190-square-meter home, could cost as much as 133,000 euro or roughly $148,600 to renovate. 

Buyers must also prepare a project for the renovation and recovery of the property within one year from the date of purchase and start work within two months from the date of issue of the building permit. If they fail to do so, the municipality has the right to forfeit the policy.

There will also be other business related expenses and annual taxes, which can range from 2,500 to 4,000 euro ($2,793 to $4,469), according to Case 1 Euro.

Potential buyers can check out an interactive map with detailed information on available homes in English on the website. Many of the homes are in "good shape," according to CNN.

London-based production company Double Act is also looking for people who buy a 1-euro home to participate in a TV show documenting the process, according to the Case ! Euro website. "If you think you have what it takes to bring one of these houses back to life, a new primetime TV series wants to hear from you," the call to action reads. "Whether you're a seasoned developer looking for a new investment or a restoration novice in the market for a holiday home, we want to follow your story as you follow your dream."

Mussomeli isn't the first town to offer homes for around a dollar. In 2018, abandoned homes in Ollolai, Italy, a mountain region, were selling for a euro, and the town of Sambuca in Sicily was selling homes for about a $1 earlier this year. There are also $1 homes in the rural village of Zungoli in the Campania region near Naples.

"There is a lot of hope from the local mayors to bring back life in those places with an offer like this," says Neuhaus, who is CEO of Tuscan luxury real estate firm Marina di Scarlino. The mayor of the respective region drives each project. 

However, cautions Neuhaus, "from a customer point of view, you have to look at many points: infrastructure, nearest airports, amenities like restaurants and activities. In several of these places, you aren't able to find basic offerings. There is a lot of romanticized emotion from international customers who invest and hope the best will come."

In this case, Mussomeli is about a 40-minute drive from the Mediterranean Sea and 96 kilometers (about 60 miles) from the nearest airport, Palermo Airport in capital city Palermo.

Still, Neuhaus thinks the "$1 home in an Italian village is a trend that will go on for a couple of years," he says. "Italy has a structural problem in the countryside and no master plan at the moment for the development. It depends on the feedback from the international markets how many other communities will follow."

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View to Historic Center City of Mussomeli in Sicily
gkuna | iStock | Getty Images
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