Article Line Long1
Lifestyle

Caitlin’s Made A HUGE Shift In Her House Hunting Plan – Welcome To International House Hunters: EHD Edition

My whole family is buried in a tiny, quiet, 330-year-old cemetery just outside of Chestertown, Maryland. The notable exception and still-living member is my mom, Brenda, about whom I frequently overshare. Today is no exception. (You thought I was going to come back from our holiday break and write a normal lede? That I’d just jump right into an update post without a weird and personal anecdote that makes you think, “she thought this was the right tone to hit on a Friday morning? I have to drink my coffee and read about this girl’s dead family before I start mentally planning my weekend? What does this have to do with house hunting?”)

And to be fair, that’s probably the rational response. But a few weeks ago, when my mom and I passed through Chestertown on our way to scrape algae blooms off headstones with our fingernails (festive, huh?), Brenda hit me with a new question for the first time: “if it’s still light out when we’re done, do you want to see the places where dad and I used to live?”

DUH. Of course I did. So after we’d finished scratching gunk off granite, wiping down graves with bottles of water and paper towels (her), and hammering big holiday arrangements on top of each plot with long, old nails (me), Brenda drove a little deeper into the country. She pointed out former homes and told me stories about old landlords or the neighbors who used to watch me when I was a baby. And then, nonchalantly, as we were about to make a right turn, she gestured at an old gate guarding a long driveway up ahead and said, “that was the mansion we bought at auction.”

“the mansion”

And if you’re like, “hey, what the **** is Brenda talking about,” please know that I WAS IN THE EXACT SAME BOAT. The story – which had somehow never come up between us in the 30 years I’ve been alive – went like this: in 1992, my dad dragged my mom to an auction for an enormous 18 acre, 14 room, 9 bed, 6.5 bath, mid-1800s money pit. (Adjusted for inflation, even I, in 2022, would have been able to buy this home and its surrounding acreage with my current budget.)

The mansion – or the “manor house,” as the auctioneers called it – was just a portion of a 115 acre estate that had formerly belonged to a world-famous aviator. The airplane magnate – who even graced the cover of Time Magazine in the ’20s! – had passed away in the 1960s and the entirety of his property had fallen into disrepair. His land was split into 5 separate parcels and was being sold for pennies on the dollar.

The manor house (lot 2 of 5) was affordable, but it was also a massive, years-long renovation project – especially for a couple with two full-time jobs, one cancer diagnosis (my dad’s), and a 6-month-old newborn baby (me, obviously). My parents were not dissuaded. “Let’s buy this house today,” said my dad. “Okay,” said my mom.

Now, if you’re familiar with my own house hunting journey over the past few years – from the similarly, uh, let’s call it…project-heavy? hill house, to the 1970s time capsule, to the sight-unseen offers – my father’s cavalier approach may ring a liiiiiittle bit of a bell. The rollercoaster may sound familiar, too – my parent’s offer was accepted, but the contract fell through after a brief legal battle (the seller no longer wanted to sell). My dad passed just a year later; Brenda and I moved in to a new build home. The manor house, in a lot of ways, is my mom’s own version of the hill house – a home that almost was – but her story had unfolded 30 years earlier.

an aerial shot of the property

There’s been some interesting scientific research which suggests that folks can be genetically predisposed to inheriting set levels of happiness or resilience or optimism. I don’t remember anything about my dad – I was too young when he died – but I seem to have inherited something else from him: a one-track mind with a real determination to complete a complicated, nightmarish, rewarding renovation project. (Along with a desire to rope Brenda in on said project – though her willingness to stand by me as I fell in love with money pit after money pit now kind of makes sense, doesn’t it? History doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme…and I’m here with some genetically-inherited unfinished business, apparently.)

Which brings us to the real point of today’s post – because guys, finding a fixer-upper in the continental United States didn’t seem challenging or confusing or stressful enough. WE’RE GOING INTERNATIONAL. (Yeah, we. Me and you. All of us. We’re in this together now.) Let me catch you up to speed on what’s happened over the past year, yeah?

I’m Priced Out of LA (At Least For Now)

I know concepts like “being priced out of a market” can be kind of big and abstract, so I wanted to pull some actual, real-time numbers for you. You know how many homes are on the market in my price range in Los Angeles right now? And we’re talking about a huge search radius here – from North Hollywood to Pasadena to Boyle Heights. (If you’re not from LA – this is a far bigger stretch of area than I’d been searching in previously.) Anyone wanna take a quick guess?

SIX. In a city with between 4 and 18 million people (you know, depending on what you consider to be LA), there are SIX HOMES available under $575,000 in my newly-expanded 130+ square mile search radius. But it gets better (or bleaker, depending on how schadenfreude-y you’re feeling):

  • 1 is a cash-only probate sale.
  • 1 is tenant-occupied.
  • 1 is a cash-only probate sale AND it’ll be delivered tenant-occupied.
  • 1 is cash-only for investors.
  • So then, there were 2…

And they’re fine. I’m sure they’ll make one of the 18 million people in the greater LA area very happy! They’re just not the right home for me, you know? I love Los Angeles – I’ll be celebrating 10 years here at the end of May, and I want to stay for the rest of my life – but unless I (a.) win the lottery or (b.) find a rich benefactor, buying real estate and laying down my permanent roots here just doesn’t seem like it’s in the cards for me. But seeing as I’d like to, you know, own a home before I’m deceased, I figured that I should start changing up my strategy.

I Reconsidered My Priorities

This process may also be known by its more colloquial name, “the reality check.” I started to consider searching elsewhere – just like Ajai did, after her year-long search in LA – with the hopes of keeping my apartment and balancing my current rent with a mortgage on a “vacation” property. I ran the numbers, planned a budget, and came up with my own list of nice-to-haves.

if only i could be as decisive in my dating life!!!

This is where I landed. The gist, in case you can’t read my handwriting was as follows: affordable, architecturally interesting, warm, and not in the middle of nowhere.

Now feels like the time to clarify that my goal for homeownership has never been to diversify my investments or to accumulate wealth or to climb some sort of socioeconomic ladder – I simply want a stable place to call my own, forever. And for that reason, I started to think that maybe this idea for a vacation property was better – you know, prioritizing a smaller, more manageable destination that I’d be able to share and enjoy with friends and loved ones. It felt like a more – I don’t know, fun, maybe? use of capital when I compared it to buying a home just for me.

But true to form, I’ve never been great at thinking small (which, from here on out, I will blame on genetics). If I was going to invest in a property to share with my friends – most of whom already live in some of the most dynamic and beautiful cities across America – why not just do a quick check search in, uh, some actual vacation destinations in other parts of the world? No harm there, right? (Those will be my famous last words, I think.)

I Did My (Admittedly Boring & Unglamorous) Research

So in April, I threw myself deep in to learning the ins-and-outs of international real estate. I wasn’t trying to pull a Say Yes to The Dress here – like, when you fall in love with something totally unattainable and spend the rest of your life yearning for the impossible – so I’d pick a destination and then pull as much information as I could find about the seven following questions. If you’re interested in buying internationally, I found these to be the best places to start, too. It’s high level and by no means totally comprehensive, but hopefully it’ll be a little helpful as a jumping off point 🙂

  1. Where can I buy? Some countries allow foreigners the same purchasing rights as citizens; others limit the property type, size, or locations available.
  2. How long can you stay? Oh, Schengen zone. Ah, 90/180 rule (read: you can stay 90 days every 180 days). That was okay for me – I love LA and don’t need to move permanently! – but it may affect where you choose to search.
  3. Is financing available at all? Transparently, I’m looking to buy in cash (and it’s possible – for way less than I’d spend on a comparable property in America!). But there are lots of options for financing, too. Most folks work with local lenders (albeit with terms much different than we’re used to here in the US). There are also a few international banks who offer foreign mortgages in a select group of countries. But beyond that – and maybe most importantly – do you have the risk tolerance for fluctuating currencies? Will you be okay if the value of the dollar falls?
  4. What are the long term costs? As someone who is pretty intimately familiar with the property tax structure of LA, this one was a big sticking point for me. What do the usual, boring, recurring, long-term costs look like in your area of choice?
  5. How much would the international renovation process cost? Yeah, you do need to be pretty far into a process to find the folks with whom to have this discussion. Fortunately, I did make it pretty far, and I have a great benchmark number to reference (if you’re interested in the area where I landed, at least).
  6. Are there any benefits to your new location? Whether you’re looking for tax breaks, programs that help finance green renovations, paths to citizenship, or visas, there are a lot of incentives out there that can help you achieve your goals (whatever they are).
  7. What does weather look like? Simple? Yeah. And while an island home sounds amazing in theory, I don’t have the mental bandwidth to worry about hurricanes or sea levels or wind in a home that I’d only occupy part-time. So for me, zoning in on areas with temperate, mild climates became the name of the game.

Noticeably – and maybe foolishly – absent from my list is the question, “what does the rental market look like for tourists?” Turning a profit isn’t a priority for me – I think of this more as an investment in my own happiness vs. an investment to generate financial returns – but also…I’m still young and idealistic, so who knows? Maybe one day, I’ll come around. 🙂

So…We’re Going Global

I’m going to go ahead and give you the full Brenda experience here. (Because what fun is having a child if they don’t just blindside you once in a while?)

Here’s what happened: after months of research, I’d homed in (punny, I hope?) on southern Italy. Impossibly, it somehow checked all my boxes AND THEN SOME. Affordable fixers, a temperate climate (errr, temperate-ish. Full disclosure: Sicily did clock its hottest temperatures ever last year), airport and ocean proximity, walkable towns, and INCREDIBLE architectural interest. Beyond that, the townspeople I’d emailed were friendly, the property taxes were affordable, and the incentives and tax breaks for folks working on renovations were unprecedented. But that was August, and this is January. So what the heck happened???

a close up of the shot that captured my heart

This freaking pandemic, you guys. CAN’T WE ALL CATCH A BREAK? Like I had mentioned to Brenda in the earlier texts, Emily had surprised us with the first week of September off (one of the many perks of a kind boss!) and I’d hoped to cash in on some miles to fly over and check out a few sub-$50k USD fixers in person. The one you see pictured had captured my heart – and funnily enough, it was actually a hop, skip, and jump away from the town where that world famous aviator was born, which now feels like a very full circle moment – but I put my plans on hold after a surge in cases in the area led to a “do not travel” notice. While I’m vaccinated and comfortable flying, I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of being stranded for an indeterminate amount of time.

In the interim, I familiarized myself with the process even more. I chatted with local designers and architects to grab a renovation quote for the property in question, which came in around $700/sq meter. For my fellow Americans, let me break it down for you – that’s about $65 per square foot. (Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either.) The cost of the home? About $23,000. The cost for a full 1,400 square foot renovation? $91,000. Even with overages and taxes and potential emergencies and cross-contintental flights, this was still more affordable than the vacation properties I’d looked at in America by a number of multitudes.

Let me be clear: I’m not waltzing in and suggesting that buying dilapidated homes halfway around the world is easy or affordable (or that it’s even a good idea, TBH). But I am willing to trade comfort and ease and even my mental sanity in exchange for a long-term reward, so working towards this makes sense for me.

After my September plans fell through, I had hoped to fly out on our next EHD break: the week off between Christmas and New Years. Mileage redemptions are even better in the winter, I told myself. It’ll be even better! Maybe I’ll even be able to bring Brenda! My mom and I had spent our last pre-pandemic New Year’s Eve in Quebec. Perhaps, I hoped, we’d be able to spend our first post-pandemic holiday in Southern Italy. And, uh, I’m pretty sure you can guess how that one turned out. Pandemic: 2. Caitlin: 0.

So, Like, What’s Next?

Well, uh, the house I fell in love with – the one that I’d sent to Brenda, the one I’d hoped to visit first, the one that I’d gotten estimates for, the one I’d assembled a team around (and trust me, it takes a village!) – recently sold to another buyer. WOOF, RIGHT?

It’s okay, though. Have you ever felt like you’re moving in the right direction? Not to sound too ~woo woo~ (she wrote, after writing the wooiest woo woo post of all time), but my gut tells me that I’ve just been headed towards the big payoff. All these weird and niche experiences have been building up to…well, something. I’ve continued to search in Italy, have a few properties in my sights, and have built up my language more than I thought possible (9 months of daily practice, thanks Duolingo!).

I’ll get there when I get there, I guess. And when I finally do find my spot and get those keys, I can’t wait to force Brenda to stand by my side to witness the complicated, nightmarish, rewarding renovation project that she should have gotten to experience all those years ago. I mean…I do have some genetically inherited unfinished business, after all. 🙂

THAT’S IT FOR ME TODAY. But I’ll be back later this month with a full roundup of all the best sources and IG accounts I’ve found which compile affordable, old, architecturally interesting houses for sale worldwide. (That was actually supposed to be the topic of this post, but, well, sometimes your fingers are flyin’ and then you’re accidentally 10 pages deep on a personal essay. C’EST LA VIE. Or, more appropriately, COSÌ È LA VITA.) As always, I appreciate you indulging me. Please let me know if you have any burning questions – I have nearly a year’s worth of research up in this noggin!!! – and feel free to drop any advice or words of caution if you’ve been through this process.

Here’s to all of us finally getting what we’ve been working for in 2022. Happy Friday. Sorry for making you listen to my story about my dead family (hope the payoff was worth it). xx

Opening Image Credit (the bathroom): Design and Model by Caitlin Higgins | Styled by Emily Bowser | Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Caitlin’s First MOTO Reveal – A Vintage Bathroom Gets A Modern Update

0 0 votes
Article Rating

WANT MORE OF WHERE THAT CAME FROM?

Never miss a single post and get a little something extra on Saturdays.

153 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Sina
7 months ago

Some people wait for their favourite author to drop a new novel, I’m waiting for Caitlins house hunting updates. I just love your voice so much. It is always funny to read but still full of interesting information. I wish you all the best for your future endeavors!!

C
7 months ago
Reply to  Sina

Same!

Elaine
7 months ago
Reply to  Sina

This!

Emily
7 months ago
Reply to  Sina

Me too!

Rachel
7 months ago
Reply to  Sina

Yes! Can’t wait!

Sunny
7 months ago
Reply to  Sina

And so well written. Caitlin is always a pleasure to read, no matter the topic!

Becca
6 months ago
Reply to  Sina

Same! I’m here for this!

Maya
7 months ago

We did something somewhat similar– we bought a huge old house sight-unseen (for cash) in Europe (in our case, southern Czech Republic), with the money we earned from selling a tiny apartment we owned in a more expensive area! My husband and kids have EU citizenship so we live here permanently. There’s definitely a huge learning curve in a European renovation. For one thing, all of our walls are meter-thick solid masonry + stone, so to do anything like install new electricity or radiators, you have to actually jackhammer into the walls. Structural issues are the biggest thing to look for in the house you buy– a few cracks in the walls are normal, but I would be nervous buying anything with the ceiling curving down like the room in the picture. Check for woodworm etc and get someone you trust (maybe from a local expat property owner group) to check the house thoroughly. I can’t really imagine doing the renovation remotely, though at the same time in some ways it would be much easier than living in it while it happens! All labor costs are much cheaper than in the US in the area where we live– a super… Read more »

Maya
7 months ago
Reply to  Maya

P.S. Another country you might want to consider: Croatia! Europeans all seem to vacation there, and it has a warm climate and affordable real estate, very near Italy. They have what is called a “digital nomad visa” that would allow you to actually live and work there for 6 months straight, though you would then have to take a break of 6 months (returning only after 90 days as a tourist) before living and working there again.

Maya
7 months ago
Reply to  Maya

Oh and one more P.S.– when we first moved here, I was actually chatting with a producer about appearing on House Hunters International. The funny thing is that they expect you not only to have already purchased your house but to have already moved in when they feature your “house hunt”! No wonder every person on the show finds a house on their first try, haha.

Susan
7 months ago
Reply to  Maya

Regarding Croatia- I’ve never been there but I recently read Gabrielle Union’s newest amazing memoir and she’s got a terrible story about an experience visiting there https://people.com/movies/gabrielle-union-details-a-terrifying-racist-incident-in-croatia-in-2019/

Maya
7 months ago
Reply to  Susan

Omg that Gabrielle Union story is horrifying. That’s kind of what I mean by Europe not being “progressive” in the way Americans expect– in our village everyone recycles and we have universal healthcare, but at the same time there are a lot of racist and sexist attitudes that people in the US probably don’t say out loud anymore. I’m Jewish and have directly experienced more antisemitism here than anywhere else I’ve lived, though at the same time people have been very welcoming and kind to us, and they probably would have even more negative attitudes toward Polish or Russian people (so it’s not just racism per se). You’ll find much more liberal attitudes in much more expensive places, kind of like in the US. Personally I’d rather live in a rural area here than a rural area in the US (like the town where I grew up), because at least here I don’t understand most of it!

6 months ago
Reply to  Maya

A few Black influencers I follow have written about this and recommend Portugal as a progressive country in the EU, FWIW.

Tricia
7 months ago
Reply to  Susan

I come from a Croatian family and yeahhhhh. This rings kinda true.

C
7 months ago
Reply to  Maya

Maya: just went through your IG account and loved it.
If you don’t know her already, I think you would very much enjoy following @designmom: she and her family have been working on a long, intense, beautiful renovation project on an old house in France. She does amazing IG stories going into every detail of it and it’s *riveting*. Really impressive to see the level of care that goes into it—the opposite of a flash makeover. Your project gives me similar vibes!

And Caitlin, congratulations on this brilliant idea, I can’t wait to see what comes next. Good luck! In bocca al lupo!

Maya
7 months ago
Reply to  C

Aww, thanks so much!! I’ll definitely check her out!

Heather
7 months ago
Reply to  Maya

Hi Maya, my best friend and her family moved near Cesky Krumlov about 12 years ago and they have been slowly renovating their properties through the years. It was crazy to me how cheap the costs of of homes, renovations, and labor were. Yes, they definitely build their houses much different than in the US. I love going to visit her.

Maya
7 months ago
Reply to  Heather

Heather, Český Krumlov is such a gorgeous area!! We were looking there originally.

Alice
7 months ago

<50K, <30min to ocean, <1h to the airport? This is more than “mission impossible” for France, at least. You cannot even get a land big enough to build a house

Bo
7 months ago

Wow ! Never saw this coming but love Italy and the Italians so hurray for you. Could turn into a consulting business , too, maybe? As a redhead (as befits someone with your name) do you get extra notice? Mistaken for Irish? Looking forward to updates.

Jenny
7 months ago

I am here for this Italian vacation house! It sounds like an absolute dream. Can’t wait for the next chapter in this adventure.

Emily
7 months ago

This is so fun! I always love a Caitlin house hunting update. I’ve very loosely toyed with the idea of purchasing a vacation home in Europe so I’d love to hear all the details. Also, can we get a Duolingo review?! I’ve tried the free trial a few times and I’m always curious how much language you could actually learn.

Maya
7 months ago
Reply to  Emily

I used Duolingo to develop some basic Czech before we moved here, so I have a bit of feedback! (First, though, Czech is a notoriously difficult language– Italian is a lot easier, so you might have better luck with it!) It was very helpful to me at first. I did the whole Czech course before we came here, and I found I could have very basic conversations. It’s great in terms of giving you a lot of exposure. Now, a few years later, I’ve worked through the entire course again, and it’s interesting how much more I see how– I realize how I didn’t understand what many of the lessons were trying to teach me (since they don’t really come with explanations), and I also see how the robot voices are often the wrong gender for the person speaking. Duolingo also doesn’t do a good job of conveying formality, which is really key to a bunch of languages (including Czech). However, it’s an easy way to get a lot of basic exposure, so I definitely recommend Duolingo! You don’t need to pay for the app- you can access everything useful without paying. If you really want to learn a language,… Read more »

Kirby
7 months ago

OMG I grew up right outside of Chestertown, MD! I know exactly where that giant manor house is, I used to play in the park across the street. Just another reason this is my favorite blog, I suppose 🙂 serendipitous! Always so strange to hear that someone else knows about my tiny hometown hahaha! But anyway Italy is so beautiful, what an exciting prospect!!! Please keep us updated; I can’t wait for another installment in your house hunting saga.

Shannon
7 months ago

Love it! What sites are you using for your search?

Kayleigh
7 months ago
Reply to  Shannon

Yes, where does one search for an Italian fixer upper?

Carrie
7 months ago
Reply to  Shannon

I’m interested too!

Krista
7 months ago
Reply to  Shannon

I follow some great ones on Instagram just for funsies: @cheapitaliandreamhomes
@bargainhomesabroad
@cheappropertyeu
@yourcheapdreamhome
@mycheapitalianhome

Emily
7 months ago
Reply to  Shannon

Agreed! We’re searching in France currently but would love to know what sites you’re using to find some!

EJ
7 months ago
Reply to  Shannon

Also very curious!! I’m also deciding between buying a house in la for way too much money or buying a vacation home in Europe and I don’t know where to start looking.

Brenda
7 months ago

Riveting post!!! Thanks for taking us on the journey!

7 months ago

I am so here for this plot twist!

SP
7 months ago

I am so excited about following along on a European House Hunt! I have casually thought about buying a home in Italy for years. Some of the property is just so inexpensive that it’s very tempting. Also, I’m from the Eastern Shore and have many friends near Chestertown, such a cool coincidence. I absolutely love your posts Caitlin, can this be a weekly update thing?

iLa
7 months ago

I loved reading your post Caitlin! From your dead family to your hunt in Italy! I am Italian (north Italy) leaving abroad in a cold country (Norway), so I get why you might have choosen the South of Italy. In the last couple of years I visited Puglia and Abruzzo and I would totally suggest to look at them as well. Good luck with your search! I look forward to read your posts!

Nancy S
7 months ago

How exciting, I, for one, can’t wait to hear all about it!
I never would have thought of international! What a dream.

Kimberly
7 months ago

Caitliin, you never disappoint with your writing or your adventures. Cannot wait to take this journey with you.

Erin
7 months ago

I am always 100% here for a Caitlin post. What a ride!

Katy
7 months ago

I think you should legit think about writing a novel. You’re such a good writer and these stories are so fun to read!

Also, if for some reason you’re still open to other countries (I mean, you’re 9 months in to learning Italian so I doubt you are…) but if you are, Design Mom lives full time in France and it doesn’t seem like she has to deal with the same 90/180 rule. She also renovated a gorgeous old house. She’s surely written lots of posts about it. If you wanted to move permanently, the south of France surely checks all of your boxes.

Thank you for taking us on this journey. I love your chutzpah and it is a good reminder that boxes are made for thinking outside of. 🙂

Susan
7 months ago

Have you ever considered house hacking to buy a place? Google it and there are SO many ways to have someone else pay part or all of the mortgage. Maybe your heart is already firmly set on Italy but it’s worth considering since there seem to be so many ADUs or possible ADUs in CA, vs. here where there are nearly none. Also any house can have bedrooms rented out, or part of the space divided and rented. Doesn’t have to be forever but it seems like expanding your thoughts on how it can be done HERE beaides paying all the bills yourselfis also an option . Maybe you have considered it and moved on.

Em
7 months ago

I’ve never commented, but just wanted to say this is my favorite thing I’ve ever read on this blog. Thank you for this gorgeously written story, and can’t wait for the next chapters!

Maria Inês
7 months ago

I love Caitlin’s writing and I’m European so this post was a great Friday treat! Caitlin, did you consider other countries, like Spain or Portugal? The Portuguese market is a bit crazy right now, so I’m guessing the price tags weren’t very attractive but we have temperate climate and great beaches! I was wondering if one of the benefits of Italy was their new policy on sustainable renovations, where they pay 125% (if I’m remembering correctly) of the costs of renovations to make houses more energy efficient and green. Did you look into that? Also, I loved all the details about different costs of renovations in the US vs. Europe. Echoing Maya’s comment, how was it different to consider American house building vs. European (wood vs. masonry, large spaces vs. small)? Good luck on your hunt!

Meredith
7 months ago

Chestertown?!?!? You might know my cousins! This is a delight! I love imagining that Ty took photos of your family every year and Debbie plays upright bass with Brenda on the weekends and you enjoy eating at Germaine’s. None of this might be true but I’m loving imagining it anyway!

7 months ago

OMG I live for your housing updates!!!!

Victoria
7 months ago

I really look forward to these posts! Can’t wait to see what you buy!!

Beth
7 months ago

This is so exciting! I can’t wait to follow along on your journey. My husband and I are planning to buy a bit closer to the U.S. (tiny mountain town in Canada) and it has been a ride to go through all of the various tax, real estate, and compliance rules. We’re traveling in July (pandemic allowing) to visit the town, house hunt, and meet in person with our real estate lawyer (apparently all transactions there go through lawyers). I can’t wait (and am a bit nervous that my dreams will be crushed…).
I wish you the best of luck! It will all be worth it in the end. And if not, you’ll have quite a story to share. Hugs and strength from Austin!

Jen
7 months ago
Reply to  Beth

How long are people expecting a pandemic to go on for? Spanish Flu was over and done with by now. The fair response would be, ‘Over-reaching Government allowing’.

also a Jen
7 months ago
Reply to  Jen

The Spanish flu epidemic in 1918 was when the world population was 1.8 billion. International travel took a long time, no airlines, and we were not so interconnected with trade and travel. Now the population is 7.9 billion and you can go from one side of the planet to the other in a day. No comparison, apples and oranges.

Maya
7 months ago
Reply to  also a Jen

Also- I know it feels like longer, but it has literally been less than two years since the world started to shut down for Covid. By most estimates the Spanish flu pandemic lasted two years.

Ariane
7 months ago

Really liked reading you!!!! What a rollercoaster ride! It’s refreshing to see someone with confidence!!!! I 🤞🏻 for you!!!

Lauren
7 months ago

Brb, off to immediately search for my own international fixer upper!

Brittany
7 months ago

Los Angeles native here and I recently moved full-time to Italy (my husband is from Milan) — we’re living in Como. We didn’t purchase because the homes here are substantially more expensive than southern Italy (thankfully, not LA pricing though) and difficult to sell. Most homes sit for 3-5 years for sale, so we’re waiting until we know exactly where we wish to settle. Then, we will buy and renovate. It’s definitely a more difficult process to renovate here than in the US. My in-laws had to repair a roof and the roof was literally holding the walls of the entire building together, so it had to be done in phases and cost 100,00€ alone. Definitely get multiple bids on what you choose to renovate so you don’t run into expensive surprises. That being said, I love life in Italy! I know there are tax breaks for living in southern Italy, but I believe that’s only for a retirement visa, though I could be mistaken. Italy is one of the more difficult countries to immigrate to within Europe, but it’s well worth it. I absolutely love life here and the culture. Cannot wait to see where you wind up buying… Read more »

A.B.
7 months ago

These are the best. Go for Italy!

Celia
7 months ago

Love all your house hunting posts. I have traveled a bit in Italy and I strongly advise a full tour of Sicily before you invest. It’s lovely there, but some towns are much more isolated than they look on a map. The hills are steep and the roads are winding. It can take an hour to go 15 miles as the crow flies. You will need to own a reliable car there, no matter which location you choose. Also, as you mention, it’s crazy hot in summer and fires are an issue. I would not consider any property that isn’t within walking distance of a beach, but that’s just me. There are some gorgeous towns (Noto comes to mind) that are within easy driving distance of beach. But each town has its own personality and you want to find one you really like. You aren’t just buying a house in Italy, you are joining a community.

🥰 Rusty
7 months ago

W.O.W!!!🤯
Caitlin, write a damn book!
Italy? You must have a thing about hills too? Ha!
Well, I’ll gave to go out snd buy me so e stainless steel knucjers fir this ride!!! Bahahaha!!🤣🤣

On another note, I’ve been watching a US show called “Cheap Old Houses” and I’m constantly talking at the TV in disbelief of the cheap.old.houses.
They’re sooo gorgeous and sooo cheap!!! For real.
Just wondering whether you’ve checked those out, huh???

🥰 Rusty
7 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Bluddy numb hands! Sorry ’bout all the typos. Gah!🙄

Pinny
7 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Rusty, you may enjoy the blog and Instagram of Daniel Kanter. He restores (truly restores) old houses in Kingston, New York. One of his houses was featured on Cheap Old Houses. He really has a can do /make do approach to his projects.

🥰 Rusty
7 months ago
Reply to  Pinny

Thanx Pinny!! Looking him up…the bame is very familiar!💞

Rebecca
7 months ago

Your story resonates with me in a multitude of ways – but wanted to reach out to say how relatable and touched I was to read about your Christmas plans cleaning up gravestones and leaving flowers. My father passed away last year unexpectedly (COVID) and it was just a heartwarming lede and intro into your new house hunting journey! Like you, I have inherited his can-do spirit and tendency to jump first and worry about the details later – good luck!

Siel
7 months ago

As a European I would love to read post from an EH editor living in Europe! But no pressure, you make your own decisions. 😉

Kelly
7 months ago

This is a fun follow for those interested in European real estate: https://www.instagram.com/cheappropertyeu/
I also second following Gabrielle Blair @Design Mom (https://www.instagram.com/designmom/). She has very thoroughly documented her family’s reno in France including costs, visa issues, etc. Good luck on your new adventure, Caitlin! It sounds like you come by it honestly!! <3

Julie Tarman
7 months ago

Awesome decision – I’m excited to follow along! My husband swears some day we’ll buy a little retirement / vacation place in Spain. I definitely recommend the magazine International Living – they showcase a lot of cool places around the world for expats as well as answer practical questions about costs, visas, health insurance, etc.

T.
7 months ago
Reply to  Julie Tarman

EscapeArtist.com also has a lot of really good information.

Vera
7 months ago

Caitlin!!!!! Ahhh!!!!!!! ❤️
1) I’m so sorry for all the family you’ve lost, especially your Dad.
2) Your storytelling is beautiful and funny and riveting. As others have said, I will not be surprised if one day you write a bestselling memoir.
3) What a great plot twist. I’m sooooo excited to live vicariously through you as you explore options in sunny beautiful places full of gorgeous architecture. Please share every single detail possible.

Caitlin
7 months ago

Oh goodness, your mention of the Schengen zone brought back memories of the year I spent working for an international client in a Schengen country. We kept spreadsheets to ensure we didn’t exceed our 90/180 days and had to fly back-and-forth to the US to build up more time. It was a crazy adventure. Good luck on your house hunt!

Ggg
7 months ago

I fell in love with your bathroom and sent it to my mother (who was renovating her own bathroom at the time) and said “THIS IS PERFECT.” It’s my Favorite Bathroom, and some of your other rooms my Favorite Rooms, that I’ve ever seen on a design site. I should have intuited that you are also a young Millennial raised in rural Maryland. Very excited to see where you go!

Angela
7 months ago

I read an article about old houses in Italy being sold for a song if someone will renovate them! How exciting!

patty
7 months ago

I’ve read that there are some towns, I believe they were in the north of Italy, which were ‘dying’ so old buildings were offered for sale at very low prices with the notion of bringing the towns back to life. I love that idea. Northern Italy’s climate would be more pleasant as well. I love this idea for you and I wish you well.

Clare
7 months ago

This blog makes me really quite sad; first, I feel desperately sorry for folks from LA who can’t afford to live there (those prices are … unbelievable), but also I live in a beautiful part of the world where locals are being priced out (Scotland) because of foreign investors. Obviously it’s not one individual thing, but so many of my friends have struggled to find a place they can afford now in the place they’re living, working and paying tax, while there are hundreds of holiday homes/Airbnb’s listed – from Edinburgh to the Highlands and Islands. It just doesn’t seem right. Also problematic for me is that houses sit empty for large parts of the year when people in that area need a roof over their head. I know this comment isn’t in line with the bubbly upbeat message you’re trying to get across but I hope that whichever area you move to you also engage with the community there.

Maya
7 months ago
Reply to  Clare

I agree to a point, but there’s also something to be said for foreigners coming in to save old properties that would otherwise just collapse. Where we live in Czechia most locals don’t want to buy the old houses because they are less energy efficient and hard to fix up, so they often sit empty or crumble. I know the Italian government is actively trying to court foreign investors because it’s good for communities for those old properties to be saved. (Just don’t romanticize the challenge of renovating– there’s a reason why the locals don’t want these properties!)

Jessie
7 months ago
Reply to  Clare

That’s actually part of the problem in California as well – people outside the state looking for investments that are snatching up houses for ridiculous prices with the goal to either rent out or flip as soon as the market has increased enough for them to make a good return. Meanwhile people actually living in LA literally can’t afford to buy anywhere nearby, and struggle to find reasonable rent. Just thought I’d provide a bit of perspective that what you’re seeing in Scotland is also what people like Caitlin are going through!

Emma
7 months ago
Reply to  Clare

I’m astounded by the amount of positive and encouraging comments here. In addition to your important points, I just don’t think this is a good idea. It would definitely be interesting blog content but if this were my best friend presenting me this plan, I would try hard to talk her out of it. Sure, the property itself is cheap but what about everything else? Learning a language (or paying to have things translated), legal stuff, taxes, paying for international flights just to get to your house. That’s all separate from the renovation itself.
I know it’s boring but I think buying a condo (or even a duplex and renting out part of it) would be a way better plan and would actually keep Caitlyn on the path to eventually owning a single family home. A vacation home halfway across the world is just going to be a money and time suck and she’ll still be paying rent in LA. If she wasn’t set on living in LA it might make sense to buy property elsewhere (maybe Mexico?) but this is just silly.

Maya
7 months ago
Reply to  Emma

I don’t think it’s silly, per se, but I kind of agree with your other points. Moving internationally is SO EXPENSIVE and having an international vacation home sounds even more expensive to me. I personally think Caitlyn should absolutely move to Europe (I love it here), but it might be worthwhile to wait until she has a way to get residency and move full-time instead of buying a home she might never be able to live in.

7 months ago
Reply to  Emma

Life is about adventure and risk and loving what you do, not about safety. Yes, I hope she does due diligence but being open-minded to unusual opportunities is life-giving, not silly.

Lane
6 months ago
Reply to  Clare

Yes, a lot of foreign and domestic investments, some people buy unto an ‘th home that sits empty. A lot of vacation homes for Uber rich. Lots of rich Chinese and Russian investors too. It’s all about having. Capitalism is so great, yay. Be It’s not just LA, also NY, Vancouver, and actually all European capitals, lots of farmland around the globe. Depressing. Caitlyn is not the problem here.

Kate
6 months ago
Reply to  Clare

You make a great point Clare but the situation is very very different in Italy compared to the UK (I say this as a British person living in Italy). Italy actually has way more houses than are needed, especially in certain parts of the country which are severely depopulated, and certain types of houses, for example old houses in picturesque village centres, of which there are literally thousands and thousands accross the country. Locals often prefer more modern alternatives in more practical locations, and are not prepared to invest in rennovating old buildings. Combine this with people leaving the area to seek work and many of these beautiful villages are dying. So the reaction when outsiders arrive and invest in these picturesque old villages is often a positive one, Italians look very fondly on their old villages but are not all necessarily prepared to live in them!

Cynthia Gylov
7 months ago

Do you follow Cheap Old Houses on IG? They find great properties all over the country/world that may be able to help as well.

Vicki Williams
7 months ago

Love, always to hear of your escapades! Curious about two things, and maybe too personal so forgive and ignore if that is the case. Why do you call your mom Brenda? None of my business, I know but still…
Italy sounds wonderful, but far.
2nd curious, any chance you have looked into Canada? You know, closer to LA :))
Can’t wait to hear more however it works. How wonderful you have such a great relationship with this Best Friend! Brenda for the Yay!

Mera
7 months ago

The payoff was SO worth it, and I don’t think I’ve been as excited for something on the site before (and I’m SUPER into Emily’s home renos). Take me to Italy, and yes, let us all learn how to follow!!

Stephanie
7 months ago

Excited for you Caitlin! You may have shared this already, but would you consider a condo in LA? I live in SF and had to come around to the idea if I wanted to stay here I’d likely never have a single family home. But we have a lovely condo in a 3-unit building and it’s great!

Sara
7 months ago
Reply to  Stephanie

Was just coming here to say this. I’m in LA and the only thing we could afford was a condo. At first I was disappointed, but honestly I love our place and we’re having a great time slowly renovating it. After renting for SO LONG (and having to move out of 3 apartments in a row because the building sold…) I’ll take my little piece of security any day. This attitude that only a single-family is worth it and you couldn’t possibly bring yourself to live in a condo is …. I guess I just roll my eyes.

EJ
7 months ago
Reply to  Sara

I’m also in LA and bought a condo as my first home. Honestly, it just made sense!!! I’ve been in it for 5 years and now considering an upgrade to a house. But, I would never have been able to consider buying a house that is not a dump if I didn’t get into a condo first to build equity.

Sarah
6 months ago
Reply to  Stephanie

I would actually be really interested in hearing the answer to this question. I am in the opposite situation from Caitlin – I own a home on a big lot and am so extremely tired of the renovating and maintenance and dealing with a big yard. Condo living sounds absolutely dreamy to me – and honestly, unless you’re, like, a major gardener, so much more convenient than home owning! I cannot wait to downsize and just focus on the fun renovations like painting and redecorating, and spend much less time dealing with landscaping and siding and roofs and insulation!

Caitlin! Tell us, what is the big appeal of a single-family home? Zillow shows over 300 condos in LA in your price range. I’d be really interested to hear how you think about it.

Jamie
7 months ago

I love Caitlyn’s posts! I can’t wait to see where she ends up and how beautiful she makes her home. And you gotta love Brenda!

Melinda
7 months ago

LIVING for this Friday morning – wrapped around a mug of coffee – cackling to a Caitlin post. I love your voice, I love your youthful optimism, I love Brenda, I love all of this. Please never stop being you!

7 months ago

Caitlin, another incredible post and I am so invested in this journey for you! I love your writing! Someone get this gal a book deal that will be optioned into an indie movie (but who would play you and Brenda??) I can feel that you are on the cusp of something really exciting 🙂

Amy
7 months ago

My husband and I grew up in Chestertown. My family has been there for hundreds of years. St. Paul’s Church? We have a couple of family farms nearby. We also lived on Shorewood Road- ha! We live in Colorado now, but I love going home. I don’t think there’s anywhere more beautiful. The real estate there is relatively affordable (depending on what you’re looking for…) Good luck with your new adventure!

Roberta Davis
7 months ago

I’m glad you told us more of the story about your family. I was so curious but of course would never have asked! I’m sorry you never got to know your dad. Anyway, I agree- this has got to be hereditary! 🙂 My husband and I have considered buying a vacation home and always decided not to, for the reason that you can only be in one place at a time and then you’d always be worried about the other place. Also, there are some serious ongoing costs to having a second place. My former boss decided to apply for citizenship in Italy (his roots go back there). He bought a house in Abruzzo, in the town of Loreto Aprutino. It looks like magic there, and it’s about an hour from the sea and an hour from the mountains. He has an estate with 17 olive trees and countless fruit trees! And just decided to tear the house down and rebuild. He will retire there in about a year. Much more affordable than Seattle! My husband is always trying to get me to consider Panama, which is very friendly to US citizens and has a large ex-pat community. Me, I… Read more »

Mari
7 months ago

Perhaps some one has already mentioned this but wow it’s a little disheartening that someone who has all their financial ducks in a row and has dutifully looked at the details/logistics of US home ownership can’t break into the housing market. I’m in my late 20s, making solid money, and will probably never be able to buy a house in my home area (northern CA) unless I marry a tech baron or win the lotto. What’re young aspiring homeowners to do?!

Saima
7 months ago

Caitlin – Are you following @cheapitaliandreamhomes on Instagram?? Because that account has been keeping the Italian vacation home idea alive and well in my brain for the last 2 years…

Go To Top