Move to Italy?

Thinking of leaving America?  Here’s an sample – and Italians hold out on price too!

On June 4, just a day after Italy opened its borders to European Union citizens, real-estate agent and reality TV star Fredrik Eklund boarded a plane from Los Angeles to Milan, with a pit stop in Paris. With Covid-19 fears still high, the airports were nearly deserted, with restaurants and lounges shuttered and passengers scuttling around in face masks. The experience was like being in a sci-fi movie, said Mr. Eklund, 43.

An L.A. resident with both American and Swedish citizenship, Mr. Eklund was visiting Italy on a personal mission—to scour Tuscany for the summer estate he had dreamed of for decades. With Northern Italy hit early and hard by the coronavirus pandemic, the real-estate market in the region had been stalled for months, and he thought there might be bargains.

“I’m not there to take advantage of a situation, but the reality is that there has been no local activity because the market has been shut down,” said Mr. Eklund, an agent at Douglas Elliman.

Mr. Eklund is one of many potential home buyers looking for deals in Tuscany amid the pandemic. Real-estate agents in the region said they’ve seen an enormous surge in inquiries for rural Tuscan retreats as the nation has begun to recover from the Covid-19 crisis, predominantly from British and American nationals looking for vacation homes as well as Italian urbanites dreaming of more space after having been stuck in apartments for months. Agents now forecast that, if it keeps up, the third quarter of 2020 could eclipse last year in terms of transaction volume for luxury homes, spurred in part by new laws that limit taxes on foreign income for Italian residents.

It’s a much needed injection of activity for the Tuscany market, which has struggled in recent years as the eurozone economy has slowed and more recently as Brexit fears and exchange rates stymied investment from the U.K. Then market activity dropped by about 90% in the spring as a result of the virus, said Mark Harvey, the London-based head of the international department at brokerage Knight Frank.

“It’s a bit of a feeding frenzy, which is not at all what we were expecting,” Mr. Harvey said of the recent influx of interest, noting that the pandemic forced many people to re-evaluate their living arrangements.

Mr. Eklund had very specific criteria for his new home, which he plans to visit in the offseason and rent out in the summers. He was looking for a historic estate in the countryside within driving distance of an international airport, with at least five bedrooms for his family and their nanny plus guests. He wanted a home that was private but still within a few minutes of a town with restaurants and shopping. In terms of budget, he was trying to keep it under roughly $3.5 million but also looked at more expensive properties. And, most importantly for Mr. Eklund, who has an enormous following on social media thanks to “Million Dollar Listing,” it had to have that Instagram magic.

“This might sound a little materialistic, but it needs to have a certain look, like Instagram-friendly,” he said. “It needs to have this ‘I need it, I want it, can’t live without it’ look.”

In part, that’s because Instagram could be a crucial tool for renting out the property when he’s not using it, he said, noting that social media is now more powerful for him than any listings service.

Ultimately, Mr. Eklund’s favorite property was a more modest, 17th-century farmhouse in San Casciano dei Bagni, a rural region known for its hot springs about 40 miles southeast of Siena. He loved the panoramic views of the region from the hilltop, the large outdoor swimming pool, the kitchen with its huge central island, and the “warm and cozy” palette of the décor, he said. With just four bedrooms, the nearly 5,000-square-foot house had slightly less space for guests than Mr. Eklund originally wanted, but it had been recently restored and was the only house he saw with central air conditioning and heated floors. To make it perfect, he said, he would add outdoor furniture and do some landscaping. The asking price was $1.5 million.

After seeing the property, Mr. Eklund felt sure it was the one.

“I found it,” he told The Wall Street Journal by phone after the showing. “I’m actually crying in the car—super emotional. I’m completely obsessed.”

Mr. Eklund, who calls himself spiritual, said that the purchase seemed meant to be, and that he could envision himself retiring at the property. It was the same overwhelming reaction he recalled having when he first saw his family’s estate in Connecticut.

Mr. Eklund submitted an offer on the house, but the deal was complicated in part by travel restrictions, since he wants his husband to see the property before they buy. They may hold off until next year to move ahead with a purchase to see how the market is then, he said.

It’s not clear if the deals Mr. Eklund envisioned will materialize. Bill Thomson, chairman of the Italian Network at Knight Frank, said his sellers are standing firm on their asking prices despite the pandemic fallout, while Ms. Romolini said she’s seeing them loosen up a little in light of the circumstances.

Mr. Harvey said he’s not sure if this surge of activity will last, or if it’s simply a blip.

“What happens after this wave,” he said, “is anyone’s guess.”

Where To Move in California

Tips on the best towns in California:

Link to Article

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A comprehensive assessment of the housing and community of an area. This grade takes into account key factors of a location’s housing market, including home values, taxes, crime rates, and quality of local schools, in an attempt to measure the quality and stability of an area’s real estate market:

https://www.niche.com/places-to-live/search/best-suburbs-to-buy-a-house/s/california/

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A list of the more affluent towns – Mill Valley is #1, and Solana Beach is #10:

https://www.areavibes.com/best-places/california/

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My favorite list – San Diego is ranked #1:

https://www.thecrazytourist.com/15-best-places-live-california/

Top 30 Markets Affected

We are #24 on the Top 30 markets to be affected by the coronavirus, which is pretty far down the list – and we’re still relatively affordable when compared to other higher-end areas.

For those who are thinking of moving to a more affordable area and aren’t affected by the statistics, here are my favorites that still have a 2020 median SP under $300,000, in order of how they rank on the list:

Las Vegas – $283,000 (1st)

Miami – $275,900 (5th)

Orlando – $245,000 (6th)

Ft Myers – $235,000 (8th)

Fresno – $265,000 (12th)

Lakeland FL – $193,000 (13th)

Memphis – $145,000 (21st)

Jacksonville – $210,000 (25th)

Daytona Beach – $202,000 (26th)

Phoenix – $288,000 (28th)

And their surrounding suburbs might be an even greater value!

https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2020/05/20/cities-on-the-verge-of-a-covid-driven-housing-crisis/111782790/

Tiny Fest

It always seemed to me that if ADUs were selling for $50,000 or less, there would be lots of interest.  Literally the first one I ran into (below) at the Tiny Fest was priced at $50,000, and people were standing in line to experience this 8.5 ft x 30 ft home with kitchen and full bath (seen in right window).

https://backporchhomes.lpages.co/back-porch-homes-companion-gallery/

This one was tall enough that it had two lofts:

https://www.tinymountainhouses.com/

For those who want to do it themselves, these guys will sell you the kit for $63,000.  The vaulted ceiling added some extra luxury:

https://www.volstrukt.com/

This was my favorite granny flat because of the porch. The upgraded version costs $65,000:

https://prefabtinyhomes.org/

This was the deal of the day.  For $15,000 you get the building with full bath and the trailer:

www.bosstinyhouse.com

Here’s my tour of the homes:

Job-Market Rankings

Maybe more people would move if they knew the best job markets?  From the wsj.com:

The two hottest U.S. job markets in 2019 were growing Southern state capitals with vibrant music scenes and an influx of technology jobs.

Austin, Texas, topped the list for the second consecutive year, according to a Wall Street Journal ranking of new data collected by Moody’s Analytics. Nashville, Tenn., jumped to the No. 2 spot from seventh. Both cities anchor metropolitan areas of around two million people.  The Journal worked with Moody’s Analytics to assess the labor market in 381 metro areas. Each region was ranked on five metrics: the unemployment rate, labor-force participation rate, job growth, labor-force growth and wage growth.

Austin—a tech hub and college town—remains attractive to workers thanks to low unemployment and high wage growth. Nashville has low unemployment and high labor-force growth.

Apple Inc. is among companies bringing jobs to Austin. In 2019, it started construction of a $1 billion corporate campus with a capacity for up to 15,000 employees. It already has 7,000 workers in Austin.  Amazon is building a campus in downtown Nashville with the goal of hiring 5,000 people, adding to the city’s growth spurt in recent years.

Denver moved up in the ranks to third place from ninth. Seattle and San Francisco also moved up to round out the top five large metropolitan areas.

Among smaller metropolitan areas, Boulder, Colo., beat out Midland, Texas, for the top of the list. Two other Colorado areas—Greeley and Fort Collins—made the top 10.

Vanlife

Two San Diego women have created an app for travelers that’s gaining a sizable following of nomadic young people living out of vans.

Inspired by a social media phenomenon, Breanne Acio, a former San Diego State University lecturer, and public relations worker Jessica Shisler teamed up in 2018 to pave the way for the drifter movement known online as “vanlife.” They created a mobile application, aptly called The Vanlife App, that’s just secured the two women spots in a competitive Techstars accelerator program for promising startups.

The app currently connects longterm travelers with one another while on the road, solving the problem of loneliness that weighs on this group of individuals. The downside of a nomadic lifestyle is that you have no community, Shisler said.

“You’re constantly in places you don’t know and around people you don’t know,” Shisler said. “You’re never a local.”

For those who haven’t heard of it, “vanlife” refers to a recent bohemian trend of people buying cargo vans, old ambulances, school buses and other boxy vehicles, and converting them into livable apartments on wheels (think of it as a do-it-yourself RV). Many vanlifers are also “digital nomads” who work remotely online, such as freelance writers, software developers, or content creators. With no strings tying them to specific cities or towns, they wander from destination to destination for months on end.

Link to UT article

California Net Migration

The number of people moving is half of what it used to be.

The gap between who’s left California by major van lines, and who’s arrived, is now at its widest in 13 years.

Every January three major van lines put out data on their state-to-state moving business. Such interstate moves by van lines are a shrinking migration niche for folks with deep pockets. Corporations have shied from paying the pricey tab for professional relocation services. Not to mention that Americans overall aren’t relocating like they once did.

Inbound moves: The state’s real problem. Americans may visit the Golden State, but don’t want to live here. So just 19,196 inbound van moves last year vs. 22,492 in the previous year — down 15%. Last year is 37% below the 16-year average. Census data for 2018 showed the total number of Californians arriving from other states was the lowest in five years.

Outbound moves: Departures, a focus of the grand California “exodus” discussions, are falling, too. Last year’s 23,595 outbound van moves were down 8% in a year to 25,618. Last year is 27% below the historical average. Census figures for 2018 show Californian’s total departures rising for the seventh consecutive year.

The “net” result: Last year California suffered 4,399 more outs to other states vs. arrivals, the largest since 2006, and up from 3,126 in the previous year. Since 2004, California has averaged a net van-line outflow of 1,731 a year. By Census math, California’s total “net outmigration” was at its widest gap since 2009.

Link to Article

Where to Move

Would more people leave California if they just knew where to go?

Here are my favorite links to get your research started:

Best Places to Retire – 2020:

https://realestate.usnews.com/places/rankings/best-places-to-retire

Best Places to Live 2020:

https://realestate.usnews.com/places/rankings/best-places-to-live

Money Magazine, Best Places to Live in the U.S., 2019:

https://money.com/collection/best-places-to-live-2019/

Best 100 Places to Live, 2019:

https://livability.com/best-places/top-100-best-places-to-live/2019

Sunset Magazine, Best Small Towns – 2018:

https://www.sunset.com/travel/travel-tips/best-small-towns-to-live-in

 Charming Small Towns Across America:

http://www.countryliving.com/life/travel/g2294/must-visit-small-towns-across-america/

15 Best Small Towns in California

http://101usa.com/top-15-small-cities-in-california/

Best Towns in California to Raise a Family:

https://wallethub.com/edu/best-worst-cities-for-families-in-california/15993/

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