Everything considered, Sicily is a great location to have a holiday home and most owners who I get to meet on the island who are not originally from here, seem to be happy spending time here. There are though, as with buying in any place in the sun, a few things worth considering before investing your hard earned money, in property here. Below some thoughts on considerations before buying.
Without question, the type of apartment, its location and the price are all primary concerns and will certainly be thought off and considered before airport access. Being near to an international airport though can certainly make life a lot easier and be a big benefit. Buying property in locations such as Catania, Taormina, Messina and Syracuse (all driveable from Catania International airport) and Palermo, Cefalu, Sciacca, Trapani and Marsala (accessible via Palermo airport) are all areas certainly worth considering. Trapani airport also serves the west coast. New flights: You can now also fly into Comiso airport in Sicily with Ryanair, flights commenced in 2014. This airport is perfect for those of you interested to stay on the south of the island for locations such as Ragusa, Modica and Gela. Many airlines fly into Palermo and Catania including British Airways, Easyjet and Alitalia.
It is perhaps common-sense in many ways, to learn some of a language if you plan to buy property and live in a certain country. In Sicily though I would perhaps put even more emphasis on learning some Italian because in many areas very few people do not speak English or any other foreign language. Even in major cities such as Catania communicating can sometimes be hard. Many younger people though are growing up with more English ability. This is of course also the Sicilian language and it is still spoken by a lot of people. Most people on the island though do speak Italian and this is the language which you need rather than Sicilian. One of the best ways I have personal found to learn Italian is by using Rosetta Stone Italian.
If you are buying property or any type of real estate, DO ensure you have a lawyer very carefully check the wording and ensure translations are clear to yourself. Even if you pick up a decent standard of Italian, do still pay and take the time to check the details of any documents very carefully. If you use an Italian company, check their credentials carefully.
Life on the island can be very slow so if you want peace and an easy going laid-back lifestyle then Sicily could be perfect for you. There are many rural areas and coastal towns which are ideal. If on the other-hand you are looking for a wild and vibrant part town or city Taormina in the summer time, Catania or Palermo might be more suitable, although neither could really be considered lively in the same way Barcelona, Ibiza or Rome is.
We all love sunshine and temperatures in the mid twenties (Celsius) but what about temperatures in the mid-thirties and also into the forties? In August in Sicily it can get real, real hot. A lot of local people head for the mountains in the peak of summer to cool down or head abroad to places such as the UK for a week or two where it is a sure thing to find cooler weather.
It is not always easy to deal with or understand the Sicilian mentality as a foreigner, so be prepared for a cultural change and a different way of thinking and doing things. People often do not wish to queue like people do in the UK for example. Get used also to people sounding as though they are arguing when in fact they are just talking or debating something very passionately. Expect many businesses to close down for most of August so that they can escape the hot weather and try thus to avoid needing to use any public office for dealing with anything administrative during August. Just be prepared for a different lifestyle.
This reliance has been the downfall of a few people in recent years who have bought in Spain and is of course something you will want to avoid in Sicily. Rental income can never be guaranteed and the best option is to have atg least 1 years of mortgage payments set aside in case there are any rental problems. As with any property purchase worldwide, make sure you have a good financial plan in order, preferably one which does not rely solely on rental income.
Because of the aforementioned pace of life in Sicily, it takes times to get things done sometimes and as also mentioned, in August you might struggle for anyone or any business to help you. Even going to the gym I found hard in August when I stayed in a village on the Etna. If you want to renovate just be prepared to allow a lot more time for getting things done, than you might otherwise normally do.
It can be worth giving serious consideration to the country in which you mortgage the property, if you are not buying in full. If you are British for example, you might want to choose a mortgage with a UK bank. Currency fluctuations can significantly affects some owners and the best idea perhaps (but please do consult a financial expert) is to have a mortgage in the currency and country from which you generate your income. At least this way there are fewer surprised and you can budget and have a clear understanding of the payments you can expect. Dealing with an Italian bank if you are British, can also be mortifying given the bureaucracy and amount of paperwork sometimes involved.
It might perhaps sound obvious to state that location is everything. I feel that it is even more important in a location such as Sicily though in that the Etna area can be great but you need to factor in the lifestyle. Live on the Etna and you will need to be willing to drive and you will need to get used to the style of driving here. This is quite difficult (but not impossible) for foreigners, but it does take a bit of getting used to.