The authorities of the Italian resort town of Forte dei Marmi have introduced a ban for selling real estate to Russian millionaires. As Mayor Umberto Buratti explained in his interview with The Guardian, a large number of Russians are willing to pay up to 100 thousand Euros per season to rent a villa. This made the real estate prices market unmanageable, and forced local residents to leave the city.
"We want to safeguard the character of the town instead of seeing it turn into a place with no ties, as anonymous as a motorway service station," Buratti said.
"The locals were the first to profit from the rising house prices by selling up and buying houses in the hinterland," he said. "That is why there will be a ban on selling the new houses for 20 years."
According to The Guardian, local estate agents expect up to 500 Russian families to descend this summer in Forte dei Marmi despite the economic crisis. They are ready to splash out up to €100,000 at a time to rent villas for the season. Many of them would not mind buying a house at the resort.
Meanwhile, the newspaper notes, the income of most of the population of Forte dei Marmi is very moderate. Local residents are not willing to pay “London prices” they see in expensive boutiques that open in the city instead of traditional Italian stores.
In addition, the Italians who are proud of the history of Forte dei Marmi and the unique style of the town complain not only about huge profits of the Russians, but their bad taste as well.
The town’s history goes back to the 16th century, when a pier for ships carrying Apuan marble was built there, hence the name of this town. In the 19th century, thanks to the development of maritime trade, the construction of prestigious hotels was started in the town, followed by the construction of beach facilities in the second half of the 19th century. European nobility, diplomats, businessmen, industrialists, entertainers and celebrities came to Fort dei Marmi for vacation and built their summer residences there. The ban on construction of buildings higher than two stories preserved the view on the Apuan Alps and the sea.
At some point in time Michelangelo, Thomas Mann and Giacomo Puccini used to work here. Now, as the Mayor mentioned in his interview with the London newspaper, the nouveau riches spend tens of thousands of Euros on corporate parties, and the ancient streets are flooded with numerous prestigious cars, including Hummers and Ferraris.
Italians are frustrated with the displacement of traditional Italian shops with expensive boutiques, The Daily Telegraph reports. “I want local artisans to work in the historical city center,” said Milly Moratti, a member of Milan's municipal council. “Since my childhood I remember tailor shops and a bakery with amazingly delicious focaccia bread. Now there are only designer shops here .”
Ekaterina Thain, partner and Director of Residential Property Chesterton, told Bigness.ru that there are indeed very many Russian clients in Forte dei Marmi, but not all of them are billionaires. There are many simply wealthy individuals among them who choose this resort because of its beautiful countryside, a spacious promenade along the sea that is great for riding a bicycle or roller skates, and luxurious, wide, and spacious beaches.
“Here people like to relax with their families, or rent a house for the entire season for the children who stay with their mothers or grandmothers, where the parents come on weekends or vacation. For example, a popular place Portofino near the coast is also in great demand. The place holds record prices for real estate, but this location is less popular among Russians because of the very rocky coast, and houses located on steep rocks, which is not very safe for families with young children,” she says.
According to the specialist, Forte dei Marmi is also very popular for rent among Russians. There are families who have been coming there for years, and who have formed a tight circle of friends for both children and parents. Also, most families are attracted to the flat shore, which is safer for children.
“But the majority of Russians prefer renting in the Forte dei Marmi and buy villas within 20 - 30 minutes drive from there so that they can reach all the restaurants, shops, market, but live in seclusion. In addition, the supply at the real estate market is very limited and normally villas for sale are overvalued. If the quality of the building is very good, the price can be very high, even for wealthy buyers, “said the expert.
The specialist believes that the restrictions on the purchase are fair to introduce, but if a person wants to buy, there still can be a way.
“The rental market provides very large incomes to the local population. Renting a house for 3 - 4 months a year, the renter can live on the profits for the entire year. The influx of wealthy citizens positively impacts the trade and restaurant business, which is also good for the local population. I think the more affluent citizens reside in the city, the greater the amount of taxes collected, and therefore, more money to maintain a historical center in order. I doubt that the bans would seriously affect the market, “summed up the specialist.