A British man living in north-west Italy says the effect of Brexit on the exchange rate and on UK house prices when he was selling his London home wiped €250,000 (£214,000) off his budget to buy property in Italy.
Steve Thorne, a 51-year-old hospitality consultant from London, sold his home in Twickenham, west London, for £800,000 before moving to Piedmont, and says the housing market downturn in the UK after Brexit forced him to settle for a lower price.
He says this and a post-Brexit exchange rate plummet left him with fewer available funds to buy and renovate his new home in Piedmont, estimating that it meant a €250,000 loss in total.
“The exchange rate was around €1.30 to £1 when we started looking for our Piedmont home, but we ended up only getting around €1.03 when it came to transferring the funds. Also, the dropping of [UK] house prices in the months after the referendum reduced available funds,” he tells i.
Mr Thorne purchased a property for less than £300,000, but says Brexit wiped more than £200,000 off his budget for the move to Italy (Photo: Steve Thorne)
His Twickenham house, a traditional Victorian “end of terrace” three-bedroom mansion of 130 square-metres with two gardens, was originally expected to sell for a price closer to £950,000, about £150,000 more than the final one.
The other loss was in capital gains from the eventual sale price, says Mr Thorne, who estimates an extra €50,000 (£43,000) lost, as house prices in London “dropped dramatically” in the six to 12 months after the referendum.
His Piedmont investments were, however, still a good deal and he has lived there since 2017 with his partner Nick Giles, a garden designer.
In 2017, Mr Thorne bought a three-bedroom, 200-square-metre rural property in Piedmont, with 20,000 square-metres of land and gardens including a small wood. It is located in Rocchetta Palafea, a tiny village of barely 450 residents in the province of Asti, surrounded by vineyards and truffles. He believes a similar home in the UK would be worth at least £1m.
Two years later, he also bought the attached house next door, which he has renovated and since last year rents to holidaymakers. It’s a four-bedroom, 250-square-metre property with triple garage, stable, patch of land and panoramic swimming pool. Both properties cost less than £300,000.
The hospitality consultant has bought two adjoining properties and rents one out to holidaymakers (Photo: Steve Thorne)
Homes similar to the two he purchased are currently priced around €250,000-€375,000 (£215,000-£322,000), he says, which in London would not be enough even to buy a one-bedroom home.
“Cheaper and larger properties were and are still available here, but the cheaper ones between €100,000 and €200,000 generally require a full renovation, often have been unoccupied for many years and can be in a poor, but salvageable, state.
“We were lucky that the roofs on both our properties were in good condition and didn’t require a full replacement, which kept the renovation costs under control.”
Mr Thorne, who sells Italian holiday homes and small hotels to expats, says that since Brexit, British buyers in the country have largely been replaced by French and German investors.
“Brits are potentially put off buying property in Italy and Europe because of the restrictions on their rights and the ability to stay for longer periods. Brexit has damaged thousands of people’s plans for their future,” Mr Thorne says.
He says Britons who have wanted to sell their UK properties since 2016 to help buy a house in Italy have had to “adjust downwards” because of the exchange rate and the drop in UK house prices.
He now sells holiday homes and says British buyers have largely been replaced by French and German investors (Photo: Steve Thorne)
Mr Thorne voted Remain and believes Brexit went the wrong way.
“We decided to permanently move here before travel rules and residency permits became more complicated,” he says. “We were optimistic, we thought, ‘no way, people can’t vote for Leave’. We were glued to the TV screen on referendum night, shocked by the results.”
Mr Thorne says he has no plans to return to the UK and feels lucky to have been able to change life and move to such “an untouched, authentic part of Italy, which is not as touristy as Tuscany, nor trodden by the housing market”.
“We never get bored,” he said. “We drive across vineyards, green hills, in one hour we get to the coast and to the airport; and have friends stay over.”