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Living the Italian Dream: Conversation with Cassiano Sabatini

For many Americans, it’s a lifelong dream to own property in Italy and live “la dolce vita“: Eating the food, sipping the wine, soaking up the vibrant culture and savoring the breathtaking landscape from hillside to seaside.

Cassiano Sabatini, vice president of Coldwell Banker Italy and Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Ambassador, has been connecting well-heeled Americans with the Italian lifestyle for over 25 years. The Monte Argentario-based real estate agent  recently returned from a landmark tour of the United States, where he met with Coldwell Banker Global Luxury specialists in New York (Manhattan and Hamptons), Philadelphia and Boston in an effort “to present Italian real estate opportunities and increase the bi-directional exchange between Italy and the United States.” (He’s planning a Los Angeles tour in May 2019).

What happened on the whirlwind cross-continental tour? What kinds of real estate opportunities are awaiting Americans in Italy? We caught up with Sabatini back home in Tuscany and asked him to give us the inside scoop on everything related to living the Italian dream.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury What was your main objective for the U.S. tour?

Cassiano Sabatini “Creating Real Estate Connections from Italy to USA: Opportunities for Collaborations and Referrals” is the name that we chose for this U.S. tour. Our main objective was to underline the importance of collaboration and the countless advantages made available to us within the powerful Coldwell Banker® network of 92,000 agents in 44 countries and under Coldwell Banker Global Luxury® program. Just think of the unique professional experience lived on an international level or the learning opportunities. You get the development of faster and more efficient processes, plus client satisfactions thanks to the full support of different agents with different tools and experience levels and, of course, referrals. We wanted to boost our international network for creating a strong connection between different agents in different places, and we wanted to boost our referrals system between the United States and Italy.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Why did you choose the cities you visited?

Cassiano Sabatini We chose cities that may be related to Italy’s culture or rich in potential buyers who would be interested in Italian real estate. New York, Philadelphia and Boston are the areas with the highest exchange rate in United States. A lot of Italians live there and a lot of prospective clients are searching for properties in Italy.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury How many U.S. agents did you meet with?

Cassiano Sabatini We met around 200 agents and colleagues. We registered more attendees in Boston. Everyone was so welcoming. We are very thankful. We felt right at home!

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury What has been the best result to come out of the tour thus far?

Cassiano Sabatini Referrals have already increased. All of the agents who attended our presentations in the U.S. jumped at the opportunity for collaboration. Our international network is an opportunity in itself and we just needed to cement it with facts in order to achieve results and business opportunities.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury How has being a part of the Coldwell Banker Global Luxury program made it easier for you as an agent who relies on close collaboration between international players?

Cassiano Sabatini The name, Coldwell Banker Global Luxury, means excellence, expertise, heritage, prestige, exclusivity and, last but not least, connection. Our expert network across 3,100 offices in 44 countries and territories give us a real global power. Outside of our own Global Luxury events like GenBlue, very few other events offer intimate networking opportunities with such a powerful group of prestigious agents and industry leaders. We share the same values and procedures, and we stand together under the flag of excellence. In the Hamptons, for exemple, we noticed that the real estate market is very similar to Italy’s market, especially in terms of timing of sales. Being a part of such a powerful real estate network enrich us not only at the professional level, but also on a cultural level.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury How has the Italian property market changed over the last five years?

Cassiano Sabatini Italy’s housing market is recovering gradually, despite the country’s struggling economy. Demand is now rising. Residential construction activity is increasing. And the market outlook is improving. The nationwide house price index fell by 0.8% (-2.25% inflation-adjusted) during the year to 2018, according to the European Central Bank (ECB). Both demand and supply are increasing. Residential property sales in Italy rose by 2.3% during the first quarter of 2018 and in the last year a slow growth was registered.

The luxury real estate market in Italy travels on a double track. On the one hand, there are some historical properties suffering from a decrease in prices because of their outdated features. On the other hand, in some top locations, there are renovated luxury properties where the market is on an upward trend.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury You had previously mentioned that 80% of property buyers in Italy are international.  Why do you think it’s such a huge percentage?

Cassiano Sabatini The 80% refers to luxury properties ($1 million+). The process of internationalization promoted in Italy, not only in the real estate market, has greatly contributed to this trend. Global wealth chose Italy as an interesting place to buy. In the current market, the sale prices are at their lowest level in nine years, the Euro is historically weak and Italian mortgages are finally accessible to foreign investors. These factors, combined with tax credit measures for property renovations just renewed on January 1, 2019 and a booming tourism rental market, create a very enticing opportunity for foreign investors to purchase property in Italy.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Why aren’t more Italians buying?

Cassiano Sabatini In Italy, the economic crisis of the last years has been characterized by recession and deflation. In addition to its broader effect on society, the crisis has deeply affected Italians’ everyday practices, their views and their future goals. This is particularly true for young people, who can no longer rely on rising expectations. A lot of Italians perceive and handle their everyday life in a social and working context, and are heavily influenced by income uncertainty, job insecurity and a general lack of confidence in the future so they’re not ready to invest.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury And, why do you think they are specifically coming from the U.S. and not Europe at large?

Cassiano Sabatini The numbers speak for themselves. In Italy, 80% of property buyers are international and the vast majority of referral requests comes from the United States (around 20%) and not from Europe. They are searching for luxury properties over $1 million, in particular. In fact, 40% of the millionaires worldwide live in the United States, or around 18.6 million individuals. By contrast, only 24% live in Europe. And let’s not forget the cultural bond between the United States and top Italian destinations such as Tuscany, Amalfi Coast and Apulia.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury In the U.S., where are the majority of Italian property buyers coming from?

Cassiano Sabatini The East Coast, surely. In Manhattan or Boston, you can breathe Italian cultural on every corner. Gradually, the customs developed in these cities’ “Little Italy” neighborhoods have found acceptance in the mainstream and were absorbed into broader American culture. Italian immigration, at least on a large scale, is now a thing of the past. But the influence of Italian American culture remains. These immigrants and their children did not simply melt into a homogenous stew of Americanism; they created a lively ethnic community that helped shape mainstream culture.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Where are the cities or locations in Italy that they are most interested in buying?

Cassiano Sabatini Lombardy, Tuscany, Apulia, Sardinia, Sicily and Amalfi Coast.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury What kinds of properties do they tend to be interested in?

Cassiano Sabatini They prefer seaside or lakeside single villas and farmhouses, à la “Under the Tuscan Sun.”

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury The media continues to report on some Italian cities offering historic properties for $1. Bivona, Sicily is the latest town. What’s driving this trend?

Cassiano Sabatini Actually, it isn’t a trend, but an extraordinary case because Bivona is a little ghost town, which needs to be repopulated. In our tour, we spoke about the luxury real estate market and Italy’s top locations. Bivona is definitely not one of them so that event is not linked to the increased interest from international buyers.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury What’s the one misconception that a lot of U.S. buyers have about Italian real estate?

Cassiano Sabatini Unfortunately, we’re still fighting against false stereotypes that define Italian agents as sloppy individuals. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water! We chose a powerful and authoritative brand recognized all over the world precisely because we wanted to raise standards and job quality. Our agents verify the regularity of properties. They are very professional and they think as international agents, not local ones. They want to be a part of something special and exclusive. With the Coldwell Banker Global Luxury program, they can have an experience no one else can have. Because of the investments we make in our people and in our network, we can honestly say that the ultimate luxury is our agents.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury If you had one piece of advice for a potential U.S. buyer looking to live the Italian dream, what would it be?

Cassiano Sabatini This is the best moment to purchase Italian properties. Prices are at historical lows also in top locations. If you buy a property in Italy, you will buy also a lifestyle rich in history, cultural and beauty. The investment is double: revaluation of the property and quality of life.

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Living the Italian Dream: Conversation with Cassiano Sabatini

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