With real estate prices on the rise, affordable housing seems like a pipe dream. However, a town near Rome is selling homes for about $1 each. The town is called Maenza and it looks like a village out of a medieval movie. It’s rich in history and quaintness with its cobblestone pathways and narrow alleys. It sounds too good to be true, and it is — sort of. Buyers have to commit to renovating these neglected homes within three years of purchase.
Maenza is Selling Neglected Homes for Just Over a Dollar
Maenza contains about a hundred neglected homes for sale. They were built in the 1700s and many have been empty for years. While other small towns in Europe have listed homes for insanely cheap prices, Maenza is the first one so close to Rome.
The mayor of Maenza, Claudio Sperduti, sees these sales as a “pact for the rebirth” of the town. He hopes to bring life into the quiet area. To do that, he stated that the municipality is contacting the families who own the homes to give them up for sale. “We’re taking it one step at a time. As original families get in touch and hand over to us their old houses, we place these on the market through specific public notices on our website to make it all very transparent.”
He added, “Families and youths often leave town to move to larger homes in nearby cities and villas in the countryside, but there’s always some newcomer who takes their place so it’s balanced out. This is not a dying city, people still inhabit the old district but it needs a revamp, fresh oxygen.” 
This long-term revival project is not only drawing buyers for the neglected homes but also for them to see Maenza.
“An owner who was desperate to get rid of his old property, even if it meant giving it away for free, eventually sold it for €3,000 to a person who showed up in town,” said the mayor. “The house isn’t great, but it’s not crashing to the ground either.”
More About the Renovation Project
Potential buyers have the option to renovate the properties into homes or businesses, like bed and breakfasts, stores, or restaurants. In addition to the renovating costs, buyers must provide a $5,840 (about 5,000 euros) deposit with a detailed explanation of how they plan to renovate the home. The deposit is returned at the end of the renovations.
According to Sperduti, they came to the $5,840 deposit because most homes are between 550 and 750 square feet. The amount also includes tax deductions for renovations that are environmentally friendly and earthquake-proofing. Keep in mind that many of these neglected homes are in poor condition and part of the renovations may have to focus on making the home safer and more modernized. Estimated costs for renovations are over $4,000 or begin at $85 per square foot. 
While a buyer does not have to live there all the time, Sperduti explained that young couples and families with children who want to live there on a semi-permanent basis are especially encouraged to buy. If several people apply to the same house, priority is given to those planning the quickest renovations and those who want to settle in Maenza. The available homes are listed on the town’s website. While applications to some houses had closed on August 28, the mayor states that more houses will go on the market once more original owners are contacted.
More About Maenza
Initially, Maenza was constructed by shepherds fleeing Saracen coastal raids. Later, Germanic Volsci tribes occupied it. The name of the town is said to come from the German city of Mainz, but locals prefer to claim it came from the Latin phrase translated as “the people who prosper.”
Today, the neglected homes provide views of the sea, Pontine Islands, the town square, lush gardens, kiwi plantations, a former marshland, grazing buffalo, and lakes. And when the weather is especially clear, the view stretches to the Circeo promontory. That’s where legends say Odysseus was bewitched by the sorceress Circe. The town is also surrounded by forests of holm oak, beech, and chestnut trees. Wild horses roam in the forests and the area is ideal for hiking, cycling, and horseback riding. The trails for these activities are surrounded by wild orchids.
The old district is like walking into the past with arched alleyways, staircases of cobblestones, and emblems and coats of arms on buildings. Maenza is also known for its delicious cherries and their byproducts, like jams, liqueurs, honey, and syrups. 
The neglected homes for sale have arched doorways and dark gray stones. Inside, there are old tiles decorating the walls, kitchenettes in need of repair, and old chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Potential buyers can choose how much they want to preserve the old-fashioned looks versus modernizing the home.
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- “A town outside of Rome is selling neglected homes for a little more than $1 — but buyers must commit to renovating them within 3 years.” Insider. Joey Hadden. August 23, 2021
- “This Village Near Rome Is Selling $1 Homes.” Thrillist. Caitlyn Hitt. August 23, 2021
- “Village near Rome joins Italy’s €1 home sell-off.” CNN. Silvia Marchetti. August 23, 2021