The 5 golden rules of renovating overseas property for profit

Buying and renovating a property overseas is a bold move, particularly in a country where you don’t speak the language and have never lived before. It’s a dream that many don’t dare to pursue, but for those who do, the results can be incredibly rewarding.

Interestingly, a recent survey from has found that British buyers are more likely than any other nationality to take the plunge and tackle a renovation project, with 25% saying that they’re willing to refurbish a property.

Brits were also revealed by the survey as the individuals most attracted to moving to Italy. The number of them thinking seriously about doing so jumped by 11% between H1 2013 and H1 2014, following a 31% jump from H1 2012 to H1 2013.

This was precisely what happened in the case of the Appassionata team. British interior designer Dawn Cavanagh-Hobbs fell in love with Italy almost a decade ago and, back in 2007, packed up her husband, offspring and a suitcase full of antiques in order to take on the renovation of a cluster of tumbledown farm buildings, redeveloping them as two incredible, luxury fractional ownership holiday homes.

The road hasn’t always been smooth but it’s certainly been a fascinating journey. Now, Dawn shares her expert insights with all those considering renovating a property overseas, helping them to avoid the unexpected pitfalls in order to turn a dilapidated building into an enchanting holiday home that they will be proud to sell on for a profit.

The 5 golden rules of renovating overseas property for profit:

1. Pick the right spot – any holiday home has to be viewed through the potential user’s eyes from day one, so consider your target audience. Is the property just for your own usage or will you be renting it out? Or even developing it as a fractional ownership property? Access to an airport or train station, restaurants, cafés, shops, beaches and stunning local scenery are key appeals to holidaymakers, so make sure you choose a property in a spot which offers as many of these as possible.

2. Ensure clean title deeds – this is hugely important, so be clear from the offset that the property you buy and renovate has clean title deeds. If not, it’s best to keep searching. Don’t let your heart rule your head and purchase a property without clean deeds just because you fall in love with it. Such a move could cost you serious amounts of time and money, so be sure that the paperwork is in order and that your legal representative is happy with the documents that you have.

3. Know the local government – do your research and purchase a property in an area with a local council that is easy to work with and quick to make decisions. This can make a huge difference, especially when you are planning to renovate the property as you may require additional planning approval for any changes you make to the building. Be sure to check what you will need planning permission for as well, as rules overseas will differ from those in the UK.

4. Wait for the wow factor – make sure that the property feels right. It has to have that certain something that means you know it is the one. I drive my husband crazy with my insistence on this sometimes, but he always knows I’m right when we finally find the perfect property and I get that feeling!

5. Do the maths – remember that the property purchase is a business venture. Look at the asking price and the amount of work that will need doing and do the maths. If you can’t make a profit to cover all of the time and energy that you invest, then it may not be the right property for you. Be sure to include the cost of your time and set aside a contingency fund to enable you to weather the unexpected.

Following these 5 golden rules has certainly paid off in Appassionata’s experience. Their first Italian renovation – a crumbling farmhouse that the team transformed into the stunning Casa Giacomo, saw nine of its ten ownership fractions sell within just eight months of the house being launched. The equally beautiful Casa Leopardi sold seven fractions within seven months in 2013.

The latest Appassionata property to be renovated by Dawn is the urban fractional townhouse Casa Tre Archi, in the ancient Le Marche town of Petritoli. Following a thorough yet sympathetic renovation, the three bedroom three bathroom property has sold two of its ten fractions already, with a third sale pending.

Clearly, those looking to live the Italian holiday home dream need to act fast if they are to turn their dreams to reality. The remaining fractions in Casa Tre Archi are available from £65,000, which entitles the owners to five weeks’ exclusive usage of the property per year.

For more information on fractional ownership and the wonders of the luxury Italian urban lifestyle, visit