I recommend against buying properties that need extensive renovations. I especially recommend against it if you are going to be out of the country for the duration of the renovation or if you do not know anything about construction. It is very hard to manage a renovation from outside the country and the result will almost certainly be of lower quality and more expensive build then it would have been with you on the site.
The risk of getting scammed
Italy is full of wonderful, friendly and loving people. It is unfortunately also full of dishonest people who are willing to do anything to earn money. It is a deeply corrupt country that fights a war against organized crime. Organized crime that is heavily invested in the construction industry since it is an easy industry to make money in if you have the right connections.
Add to this the fact that contractors have a bad reputation in most countries for being unreliable and trying to cut corners where ever possible.
With both these things in mind it easy to understand why I recommend against renovating the house if you can not be there to supervise the construction. You simple make yourself into a too easy target. If you are unlucky the contractor might take your money without doing any work. You will return to a house that look the same. If you are lucky the house might get done but you where overcharged for the construction since you weren’t there to keep track of the materials used etc.
The total cost will be higher if you are not there even if you find a 100% honest contractor. The contractor are likely to work in the way that are easiest for him even if this results in more wasted material. You will need to be on site to make sure that your interest is the number one priority.
Hiring a manager
Hiring a project manager to over see your project in your absences might seem like a good solution. And it can be if you find a good honest project manage. But that can be hard. Adding a bad project manager can leave you in a situation that is worse than not having any manager at all. All to many project managers spend little time on the site and many trust the contractor as long as they make progress. There is no guarantee that a project manager will cut waste and make sure that the project is finished effectively. There is in fact no guarantee that your project get done at all. Especially not if you trust the project manager to pay the contractor. The project manager can embezzle the money and never pay the contractor. Or never start the project at all, never hiring a contractor.
A contract mananger is in other words no substitution for being on the site yourself. Especially if you lack experience. The less you know the more likely people are to take advantage of you.
Hiring a project manager is a lot more expensive than doing it yourself.
Never pay a percentage?
Some project managers charge a percentage instead of a fixed fee. Never agree to this. This gives the project manager an incentive to not keep cost down. I also do not recommend paying them a monthly fee because that give them an incentive to work slower then possible. The best option is usually to pay the project manager a fixed fee. Perhaps with bonuses if certain results are achieved. Completion date, standard of construction etc.
Expats are not more honest than locals?
A common mistake is to chose an expat to project manage for you. Especially if this expat has limited experience in the past. There is no guarantee that an expat will be more honest then a local project manager.
Does it feel like I am painting an unnecessary bleak pictures? Like I am trying to scare you out of renovating an Italian house? Good. That is my intention. I want you to be acutely aware of all the problem that can arise if you chose to renovate a house. All the problems other expats have faced before you.
Why? Because I do not want you to take this decision lightly. Can it be a good idea to renovate an Italian house. Definitely. Can it be an easy process. Definitely. But is important that you are aware if the problems that can arise when you make the decision to renovate.