Sicilian town auctions off homes for the price of a Coke

Struggling to get on the property ladder in New Zealand? Perhaps a move to Italy is in order.

Dilapidated homes in the Sicilian town of Salemi are being auctioned off at a starting price of just €1 (NZ$1.77), CNN reports.

The only catch is you have to have to provide the local council details of how you plan to renovate it, and pay a €3000 deposit - refunded once the work is complete.

The homes were originally constructed in the 1600s, hundreds of years before many Kiwi homes with heritage protection were built, but were damaged in a quake in 1968. 

Thousands fled Salemi following the quake, and it's taken years for the city to legally acquire the homes and get the homes ready for auction.

"All buildings belong to the city council, which speeds up the sale and reduces red tape," Mayor Domenico Venuti told CNN. 

Salemi's €1 auction follows a similar scheme in Sicilian town of Sambuca last year, where a number were sold to foreigners who didn't even come to look at them first. Sambuca too was hit hard by the 1968 quake.

"Before launching the scheme we first had to recover the old parts of Salemi where the houses are located, upgrading infrastructures and services from roads to electric grids and sewage pipes," said Domenico."It was a long process. Not only did we carry out thorough maintenance works to secure the risky crumbly areas, we also had to recover many properties to residential use."

The city was ready earlier this year, but then COVID-19 arrived - hitting Italy hard. Sicily avoided the worst of it, but has still had about 17,000 cases amongst a population about the same size as New Zealand. 

There are about 30 current cases in Salemi, out of a population of 11,000 - about the same size as Hawera or Wanaka. 

While they've undergone various re-stylings and renovations over the years, most of the homes reflect the times in which they were built - two or three stories, with families living upstairs and the animals staying on the ground floor. 

The median house price in New Zealand is currently $685,000 according to the Real Estate Institute of NZ, and almost $1 million in Auckland.