Posted: Oct 30, 2014
Benvenuti in Italia

For the month of October I combined work and pleasure by visiting the fabulous country of Italy. For nine days I was a member of a group of 22 Brokers, Realtors and Senior Officers; past, present and future, from the New York State Association of Realtors (NYSAR). After the NYSAR group returned to NY, I traveled on my own for sixteen days.  During these 25 days I visited six offices franchised by my company Engel & Voelkers (E&V), saw numerous properties for sale both by Engel & Voelkers and other real estate agencies and met with two dozen agent members and Officers of Federazione Italiana Agenti Immobiliare Professionali (FIAIP), one of the two national real estate governing organizations. Oh yeah, and the gracious people, countryside, cities, music, food and drink of Italy.  It was wonderful. 

Presidential Liaison


The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has a program that encourages international real estate engagement called Presidential Liaison (PL).  PL's are U.S. Realtors who volunteer to represent NAR interests and policies to 25+ countries around the world.  


I contacted the PL to Italy, Gabrielle Di Bianco, offering my help for if and when Agents from Italy come to the U.S. To my pleasure, I discovered Gabrielle was escorting a group of 22 Realtors from New York to Italy in October. To my even greater pleasure, both Gabrielle and the Education Director for NYSAR, Priscilla Toth, (who made reservations and coordinated U.S. Realtor to Italian Agent events) said, Yes I could go along.  


Since my company, Engel & Voelkers, has 28 offices throughout Italy I began the process of contacting E&V offices that were in the NYSAR itinerary plus other offices and Agents with whom I had established informal Facebook and email relations.


Away I go - Key West to Atlanta to Paris to Naples, IT and then by bus to Sorrento on the southern tip of the Bay of Naples.


Sorrento and the Bay of Naples


Our hillside hotel provided an unobstructed view of Sorrento, the Bay of Napoli and the islands of Ischia and Capri to the west.  From this base we first visited the rocky Amalfi coast to the east; the cliff hanging towns of Positano, Amalfi and the hilltop city of Ravello. The white washed homes we toured in Amalfi that were For Sale were literally carved into the limestone cliffs. Prices for the homes, some simple some renovated, began around 2 million euro.


Ischia - Capri

Capri Harbor from Ana Capri


Second up was the Isle of Capri.  The real estate market on Capri, much of which is a second home market, is characterized by rising prices due to the exclusivity of the properties.  Engel & Voelkers Ischia-Capri has its office on the neighboring island of Ischia.  I had been in contact with our License Partner in Ischia, Mariano Iacono. Wouldn't you know, the day I wanted to go to Ischia the ferry was not operating!! 


Darn the bad luck!  Now I must spend the day on Capri! Though full with tourists, Capri, on the Bay, and AnaCapri, literally UpperCapri, offer amazing views, amazing homes and Rodeo Drive shopping.


A handful of us rented a private 30' boat for a tour around the island.  Towering above us were secluded homes, fortresses, including those built during the time of Tiberius.  It was difficult to imagine building homes on such precarius perches now, much less 2000 years ago.



As should be expected, our road quickly led to Rome.  There is no pause in the life of Rome, one of many cities worldwide that never sleeps.  My NYSAR group had an excellent end-of-day gathering, an aperitivo, with FIAIP members at which I discovered what was to become a trend - that many Italian real estate offices have within them or are formally partnered with contractors who provide construction, interior design, renovation, etc.

Statue of Moses


I had contacted our Engel & Voelkers Rome office and had an excellent meeting with the License Partner, Helio Cordeiro Texeira and his staff. Of great importance, in January 2015 The E&V Rome office is going to be upgraded to a Metropolitan Marketing Center (MMC).  This will significantly expand the ability of the E&V Rome office to market, brand and sell Engel & Voelkers in Rome.


We were only in Rome for two days. The main attractions were thick with tourists.  I recommend breaking away and seeing something different, like Michaelangelos' sculpture of Moses or the museums and churches that show the infamous painter Caravaggio. All are wonderful.

Florence - Firenze


Our hotel was only a 15 minute walk to the 18-month old Engel & Voelkers Florence office. The office is on the Arno River, only 10 minutes from the famous Ponte Vecchio.  Florence is the heart and soul of the Italian renaissance, is surrounded by the picturesque, rolling Tuscan hills and is the gateway to the famed Chianti region.


I met the License Partner Winfreid Mauthner, a formally trained architect, his wife Suela Musmuca and Agent Enrico Stefanori. Enrico showed myself and a Realtor from New York a surprisingly large, top floor apartment very near the historic district.  It needed some modernization but once done would be a superior space for living and entertaining in the historic district. I was incredibly impressed with the inventory of properties held by Winfried and Suela to buy and rent in Florence and in the surrounding areas.

Siena Toscana

Piazza del Campo


Ahhh Siena.  A medievil town of narrow streets, stone roads, many international schools and access to the heart of famous Tuscany. There are numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites in and around Siena including the Piazza del Campo, Val d'Orcia and Val d'Elsa, with San Gimignano.


Engel & Voelkers Siena has an incredible inventory of restored villas, castles, churches and wineries. Properties that include small vineyards or olive orchards. Each of the four properties I saw, all in the Tuscan countryside, including a restored villa with vineyards and wine processing, labeling and shipping, were fantastic.


The E&V Siena office, one of the original six E&V offices in Italy from 2006, is tucked quietly into the historic district yet from it, License Partners Antonella Carlucci and Pietro Di Vita have significantly impacted the real estate market of the region. Antonella and Pietro are known throughout the region for their engaging personalities, impeccable service and high standards. As they say "You dream about Tuscany, we find it". 



From rustic Siena to the bustling metropolis of Milan. And yet away from the thriving city center of finance and fashion I found a quieter Milan, with tantilizing Saturday food markets, an engaging "Old Town", historic universities and fabulous tributes to the arts, from La Scala to Da Vinci.


License Partner Roberto Magaglio greeted me like an old friend and thoughfully shared his success in developing and expanding Engel & Voelkers Milan into a shop that sells uniquely modern and elegant properties. His superior service quality and tailor-made marketing strategies have led to establishing three residential and one commercial shop.

Lake Como, Lecco, Lake Lugano and Cernobbio

Hillside portion of Cernobbio


In 2006, Cernobbio was the first Engel & Voelkers office to open in Italy.  The town spreads broadly from the lake front up steep, forested hills that offer unobstructed views of Lake Como. Cernobbio and the surrounding areas contains predominantly second homes with stable prices and well valued properties. Modern and historic lake view villas offer private and secure respite from busy lives.  I took the 12 minute bus from Como to Cernobbio and 20 minute ferry in return. 


Managing Director Yasemin Rosenmaier, one of the original agents in 2006, provided a "then, now, future" vision of Engel & Voelkers Lago di Como.  Clearly, partnering the prestigious brand of Engel & Voelkers with other prestigious brands in the area has kept this shop on Top.


Cosmopolitan Milan with its train and international airport connections, is only 40 minutes away by train.

Lake Maggiore, Laveno, Verbania and Stresa

Laveno, Lake Maggiore and Verbania


North country. Deep blue lake, steep foothills of the Alps, bright skies and crisp autumn air. Though my northernmost visit, Lake Maggiore retains a moderate climate year round, with an early spring and a temperate winter as the Alps block much of the cold from the north.


It was my great fortune to meet each of the three License partners for Engel & Voelkers Lake Maggiore, Mauro Lozza, Massimo Lozza and Alessandro Lotito. My second good fortune was to meet Agent Joanne Barley who not only invited me to an end of Regatta season (sponsored by E&V Lake Maggiore) awards party but took me to a showing of one of her lake front apartments and toured me the area.


The region is a mix of primary and second homes with a notable presence from Switzerland and Germany. In town properties are typically close, otherwise lake front and lake view properties have plenty of land, heated pools and wonderful views.


The real estate market throughout a large percentage of Italy, urban and rural, has yet to find a bottom.  As in the US from 2006 - 10, many sellers are overpriced and are chasing the market down, unfortunately losing money along the way.  Many sellers are under motivated as they do not "have to sell". 


Second, many sellers want to list their homes for sale non-exclusive; that is, with multiple agencies to ensure widest visibility for their property, hoping one agency can get a better price then another. This harkens back to when listing information was not shared among agencies.  Agencies are now more open to share information even though Multiple Listing Services in Italy are not as dynamic as in the US. 


Third, mortgages for foreign buyers are difficult to obtain from Italian banks and cash buyers should expect to prove the 100% legitimacy of their cash.  Regarding cash transactions, please use a professional currency exchange agency like Moneycorp to minimize currency fluctuations.


Fourth, my gut feeling is, well-heeled, foreign buyers will continue to be a high percentage of total sales throughout Italy.  As best as I can see, this means a company with international presence and name recognition.  I would bet on Engel & Voelkers to be that company.


If you have any comments or questions, please contact me here.


And finally, thank you, thank you one and all for making this such a fantastic experience. Good luck!