Venice has always defied the odds. As a tiny city-state, it ruled over the eastern Mediterranean for five centuries, and held back foreign armies for 1,100 years. Today, La Serenissima is weathering the Eurozone crisis better than most of Europe. Even though its primary housing market is relatively limited, the consistent demand for second homes from a wide range of Italian and international buyers provides support, particularly at the upper end.
Knight Frank’s Claire Hazle (020 7629 8171) saw increased market activity in 2011, and believes that ?the outlook for Venice in 2012 is very positive’. ?There’s always a lot of interest at the very top end, but we have also seen it at lower levels,’ agrees Ann-Marie Doyle of Venice Sotheby’s International Realty (+39 041 522 0093; www.venicesothebysrealty.com). ?Venice isn’t subject to the factors that make other places go up or down. It is attractive because of its history-it’s not going to go out of fashion.’
?Our main clients are Italians who would like to have a pied-à-terre for their own use, but also as an investment with short rentals,’ explains Benedetta Vianello of Savills’ associate Views on Venice Estates (+39 0412411149; www.vovestates.com)). ?We also see buyers from France, the UK, Switzerland, the USA and Germany, many of whom buy for the same reasons.’
Stock is traditionally low in a city with little new development, but last year saw a welcome change. ?We have seen a good increase in the number of new instructions in the past 12 months, particularly for well-located city-centre pied-à-terres,’ explains Miss Hazle. A number of excellent-quality properties are currently on the market, making it an excellent time for buyers to make a move-especially because pricing now is generally more sensible than in the past. The Agenzia del Territorio, Italy’s equivalent of the Land Registry, reports a 3.1% decrease compared to the 2007
market peak (although, overall, prices are still up 23.7% since 2004).
?1.78m This spectacular two-bedroom, split-level apartment has a great terrace looking directly across to Giudecca and is located in Dorsoduro, one of Venice’s smartest areas (Knight Frank 020 7629 8171)
Today, says Signora Vianello, a pied-à-terre can range from ?5,000 to ?10,000 per square metre, depending on where it’s located, what condition it’s in, whether it has any views and whether it’s close to a vaporetto stop. According to her, the very best location in town is the Dorsoduro neighbourhood, and ?in particular, the area of the Accademia, Zattere and Salute church’. San Marco also remains one of the most exclusive sestieri, according to Knight Frank. ?Properties within striking distance of the central square command the highest prices per square metre-about ?6,000 to ?10,000 restored-and secure the strongest rental returns (3%-5%),’ comments Miss Hazle. Discerning buyers, she adds, tend to look around the Fenice theatre and Sant’ Angelo, near Piazza Santo Stefano.
Across the water, the island of Giudecca has also made it onto the second-home map. According to Mrs Doyle, ?10 years ago, no one wanted to go there, but then some new developments drew interest’. She believes the same is likely to happen with the Lido, a narrow, sandy island south of Venice, which was the playground of Goethe, Byron and George Sand, and has been the backdrop of the city’s international film festival since 1932. The Lido currently offers ?a bit more value for money’ than the city centre and has an attractive mix of properties, especially the grand Art Nouveau palazzi.
Venice’s glitziest development is also being created at the Lido: the conversion of the early-20th-century Grand Hotel des Bains into 58 luxurious apartments and four villas looks set to become one of the city’s most prestigious addresses. That said, Mrs Doyle urges buyers to be flexible about location. ?It’s less important than elsewhere, as Venice is very small,’ she explains. ?I wouldn’t go beyond the Arsenale and Via Garibaldi, and would probably avoid some parts of Cannaregio, but most areas of Venice have interest. Even Santa Croce, which is the furthest from San Marco, is lovely.’
Far more important is the type of property you buy, especially if you’re thinking of letting it out. ?Apartments need to be attractive, have some special feature and have good views or a terrace,’ says Mrs Doyle. Which is why she doesn’t recommend buying there if your budget is less than ?550,000, ?or you’ll end up with a place no one wants to live in’.