Venice: a new haven for overseas property investment

imageThe city of canals is again attracting wealthy investors. Caroline McGhie finds out why it is worth a punt.

In a troubled world, we gain solace from spiritual uplift and physical beauty. Few places have the ability to touch the heart and move minds like Venice. For decades it has been a place to visit rather than one in which to buy property, but gradually things are changing. British estate agents have developed connections there, and some big money is about to arrive. “Ocean’s nursling”, as Shelley described it, is becoming a connoisseur’s place to purchase.

“British buyers have taken flight to quality during the recession,” says Claire Hazle , of Knight Frank’s international desk. “They will now only look in tried and tested places they know and love. They have moved away from the emerging markets of Eastern Europe which they were interested in a few years ago.”

What could be more indulgent than owning a flat in the city painted by Monet and Turner, from which you can hear the cries of the gondoliers through the window? The San Marco Piazza, the Doge’s Palace, the Basilica San Marco, the Campanile and the Santa Maria dela Salute across the mouth of the Grand Canal, constitute one of the world’s gold-star urban settings. The luxury hotels and restaurants pull in high spenders. Of course, San Marco is the area where most would choose to buy, but can they afford it?

A luxurious three-bedroom apartment with a small gym, private canal entrance and views of the Campanile offers rare modernised glamour at £1.2m. A more old-fashioned three-bedroom apartment with wooden floors, exposed beams and copious bookshelves in the San Samuele area of San Marco costs £960,000, both through Knight Frank (020 7629 8171). “There is a shortage of new and newly restored property as Venice is naturally a limited market,” says Claire.

It has long been a difficult place for buyers to get to grips with. Local agents can seem to operate slowly and mysteriously (as they work for buyer and seller). But Knight Frank has established links with Venice Real Estate, run by a member of a well-established local family, Franco Bombassei. Search agents are moving in too. Paul Hudson, formerly of buying agents Property Finders, is working for English buyers here ( He says the euro crisis has slowed the market considerably but buyers are coming back to store capital in Venetian property. “Prices don’t drop, so much as sales speed up or slow down,” he says.

A report on the first half of the year from the Italian economic research institute Nomisima highlighted Venice as the most expensive city in Italy, closely followed by Rome and Milan. “Don’t expect to find even a small apartment in the historic centre on a canal, even a secondary canal, for under a million euros,” Paul says.

And he warns buyers that it is a specialist market. “Be careful about buying a property to restore,” he says. “Restoration costs are much higher than in other cities as everything has to be brought in by boat. Also, there are often restrictions on what you can do to an historic building.” External facades with exquisite ornate plasterwork, columns, archways and balconies are fiercely protected. The landscapes of Canaletto cannot be messed with.

Buyers must look to the periphery of San Marco to find more affordability. Prices drop slightly in the tight streets and squares of Santa Croce and San Polo. Close to the Rialto Bridge you can pick up an attic apartment with one bedroom and a roof terrace at €450,000 (£373,000). Or in the Castello district, beyond the Bridge of Sighs, heading east in the direction of modern Venice, there is a third-floor two-bedroom apartment with views of the San Giorgio dei Greci church with its leaning campanile at €760,000 (£630,000). “Quite rare,” says Paul, who has spotted both properties for potential buyers.

A huge event is taking place out on the lagoon, which is expected to create a magnet for international money in 2013. The Grand Hotel Des Bains, the ultimate fin de siècle Art Deco hotel, is being restored as a millionaires’ enclave with 15 hotel suites, 58 apartments and four villas, all with access to the grand ballrooms, spa, pools, tennis courts, the boutique hotel service and the beach.

The resort has been loved by the artistic and famous for more than a century. Goethe, George Sand and Lord Byron all stayed here, and Thomas Mann spent long periods here between 1912 and 1934, immortalising it in his book Death in Venice, later a Visconti film. Hollywood stars decided it was a place for partying. “It will bring in an influx of high-net-worth individuals, with their friends who may also become buyers,” says Claire, handling sales for Knight Frank.

Venice exerts such a global spell that it can be regarded as a buy-to-let location, says Paul Hudson. A diary of events brings people at different times of year – the Carnival in February, the Biennale in June, the Opera Festival in July, the Film Festival in September. “There is really no high or low season, just alto and altissimo!” he says.

Gearbest TS - BT35A08 Bluetooth 3.0 Car Audio Music Receiver with Handsfree Function Mic
TS - BT35A08 Bluetooth 3.0 Car Audio Music Receiver with Handsfree Function Mic only $2.99