Deciding to move to Italy with her Italian husband and three children, Tami Schrader chose Florence for her international school. The family moved from London last July and are renting in the Gavinana area until their renovation project is complete – a former orangery near the city walls in Porta Romana.
“The International School in Florence was the main factor, but we loved the small, compact town with its cosmopolitan community,” says the East Coast American who taught the International Baccalaureate program in the UK. “The center of Florence is too touristy, too hot in summer and lacks green spaces – we wanted to have a big garden and a swimming pool.”
Not all Tuscan shoppers feel the same. Demand for housing in Florence’s historic center has remained high since the start of the pandemic, particularly in the area south of the Duomo, where major attractions are clustered around Piazza della Signoria, the Uffizi Gallery – the Italy’s most visited cultural attraction in 2021 — and the ancient Ponte Vecchio which seems permanently clogged with tourists.
In July, a property there sold for just over €9 million at, according to its sales agents, Knight Frank, the highest price per m² ever recorded in Florence: €21,428. The property, a 420 m² penthouse, is located in Palazzo Portinari Salviati, a prestigious family home converted into high-end apartments and hotel suites on Via del Corso, with a view of the dome of Brunelleschi’s cathedral.
The most expensive houses in Florence usually sell for around €10,000 per m², but the average figure in the second quarter of 2021 was between €3,500 and €4,600 per m², according to the Agenzia della Entrate, the Italian tax authority. . The total number of sales in Florence, at 5,433, was 9.4% higher in 2021 than in 2019, according to IMO, Italy’s economy and finance ministry.
Bill Thomson of Knight Frank says the buyer of the penthouse was motivated by taxation, in particular the flat tax of €100,000 per year on foreign income for new residents. “Tax-driven buyers will often start in Milan or Rome, as this is where many of their tax advisers or notaries are based, but some end up in Florence when they discover the lifestyle it offer.”
An American couple recently bought a three-bedroom pied-à-terre in a converted palace in Borgo Pinti for 3 million euros after frequent visits to the city. The strength of the U.S. dollar was a factor that drew more American buyers to Florence, Thomson says, noting that high-end buyers “never seem particularly affected” by rising mortgage rates across the continent. He has “another couple of more than 5 million euros” of current contracts.
It’s too early to tell whether international buyers will be hurt by the policies of Italy’s new right-wing government, although local buyers may be helped by promised tax cuts and higher state wages.
During the 2020 travel restrictions, when many Airbnb apartments were empty, some owners in Florence sold, says Thomson. According to short-term rentals analyst AirDNA, in the historic center, the number of rental advertisements in August was still down 36% compared to August 2019, although its figures show that demand has recovered. .
A number of apartments in the historical Center with price reductions can be found at idealista.it. “Sales below 1.5 M€ slowed due to the drop in tourism [last year] and its impact on some Airbnb owners has had a negative impact on the market but also because take-home pay is low in Italy,” says Thomson.
As in Venice, there have been talks of a new local law to limit short-term rentals – to 90 days per year and two properties per owner. “There is a risk that buyers betting on yields will be caught off guard if this is introduced,” he says.
Families looking for space will look south of the Arno towards Porta Romana, the entrance to the walled city of old Florence, Via San Leonardo and Piazzale Michelangelo, on a hill with panoramic views of the city. It’s possible to find villas, rather than apartments, in these areas: expect to pay around €4,000 per m² if they need to be renovated, says Diletta Giorgolo Spinola of Sotheby’s International Realty.
The old narrow streets behind the city walls in Pian dei Giullari, as well as Bagno a Ripoli and Poggio Imperiale, are suitable for families with children at the International School of Florence, where the number of pupils has increased by 10% since 2019 Schrader has only enrolled two of his children in school this year; she is waiting for a place for the third, who had to go to another school.
She describes her real estate search as “difficult”. Free-standing homes with land tend to sell – and rent – quickly through discreet networks, says Jeremy Onslow-Macaulay of agent Casa & Country.
“It’s hard to find them. This year we had more requests for a three-bedroom townhouse on Via San Leonardo than any other property – it sold for just under the asking price of 2 million euros.
French-American Alexander Zeleniuch has been a tenant in Porta Romana since moving to the city in July 2020 with his artisanal coffee business Ditta Artigianale. He will move into a new two-bedroom apartment he bought in Manifattura Tabacchi, in the northwest of the city.
The former tobacco factory designed in the 1930s by Pier Luigi Nervi – who helped design Milan’s Pirelli Tower – is the city’s biggest regeneration project and includes the Polimoda fashion school (chaired by Ferruccio Ferragamo , son of Salvatore), artists’ studios, a theater and a hotel.
Sold by the real estate agency Savills, two-bedroom apartments start at €570,000, between €4,000 and €6,000 per m². Zeleniuch appreciates that he pays a premium. In Novoli, the neighboring district, the average price is €3,600 per m².
“I’m circling downtown for work, so I wanted to live somewhere a bit remote and quieter to retreat to,” he says. “Easy to cycle into the center, but too far to walk.” A new tram line, due to arrive in 2025, will stop outside the development and connect it better to the centre.
After 34 years in the city, arriving as an art school graduate, Jane Harman and her partner finally left the center to settle in an old stone villa and studio 25 minutes east of Pelago. Her job as a furniture restorer brings her back to town every week or so.
“I sold our little house near the Artemio Franchi [football] stadium very quickly earlier this year – we were thinking of moving but the pandemic pushed us faster,” says Jane, from Glasgow. “Now we have the best of both worlds, peace and quiet but not excessive isolation. Tourism in the center looks like it has rebounded this year.
In 2021, the average property price in Florence was €2,772 per m², 0.4% more than the €2,761 in 2019, according to the IMO, the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance. .
Florence is cheaper than other major Italian cities. According to Knight Frank, 1 million euros buys 111 m² of prime real estate in Florence, compared to 87 in Rome, 80 in Milan and 56 in Venice.
Purchase tax on resale properties is 2% of book value for primary residences and 9% for secondary residences; the commission of the real estate agent is 3% each for the buyer and the seller.
What you can buy. . .
Apartment, Saint-Marc, €850,000
A 158 m² apartment a few steps from the Sant’Ambrogio market and Piazza del Duomo. The two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment has 4.8m high ceilings, frescoes, wooden floors and views of the Duomo from the patio doors in the living room. For sale with Frankish Knight.
Apartment, Saint-Marc, 1.3 M€
A three bedroom, three bathroom apartment overlooking the Giardino Della Gherardesca in central Florence. The property, which measures 240 m², has undergone a complete renovation and features frescoes and mosaic floors. Listed with Home & Country.
Apartment, Piazza d’Azeglio, 2.7 M€
One of 10 newly developed apartments located in a 19th century palace, this property comprises three bedrooms and five marble bathrooms. Within walking distance of the Sant’Ambrogio market, it should be completed in December. Available via Frankish Knight.