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I quit the rat race to buy an 85p house in a holiday hotspot – we are living the dream & the best part is the neighbours

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A COUPLE disillusioned with the rat race and searching for a “better quality of life” quit their jobs to buy an 85p house in a holiday hotpot – and haven’t looked back since.

Jefferey Pfefferle and his partner Leon McNaught actually bought not one but two properties in Italy and are now “living the dream”.

Jeffrey Pfefferle and his partner Leon McNaught paid £27,651 for two homes in Mussomeli, Sicily

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Jeffrey Pfefferle and his partner Leon McNaught paid £27,651 for two homes in Mussomeli, SicilyCredit: Jeffrey Pfefferle
One of the properties the couple purchased cost less than £1

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One of the properties the couple purchased cost less than £1Credit: Jeffrey Pfefferle
The first property they purchased came fully furnished and considered a ready-to-occupy home

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The first property they purchased came fully furnished and considered a ready-to-occupy homeCredit: Jeffrey Pfefferle

The duo first heard about the €1 (85p) Italian property scheme in 2019 after they read an article on Mussomeli’s bargain sale.

Despite initially thinking the offer of cheap housing was “potentially a scam” and “too good to be true”, the couple took the plunge in 2021 after the COVID pandemic forced them to put their plans on hold.

Jeffrey said despite their initial scepticism, he and Leon hopped on the plane to see what it was all about. 

“We said to each other that in the worst-case scenario, we were going to make a vacation out of it if it turned out to be just buzz,” he said.

Little did they know they were about to embark on a life-changing journey and in 2021, Jeffery and Leon bought two abandoned homes in the Sicilian town of Mussomeli for a combined total of £27,651.

Although slightly more than the initial €1 asking price, the second property is considered a ready-to-occupy home in need of minor fixes.

Pfefferle, originally from Southern California, and his British partner McNaught, never imagined how their life would change in a short amount of time. 

He said the move to Mussomeli gave the couple an opportunity to take a closer look at their lives.

“We found that the things we value in life are abundant in Mussomeli,” he told CNN Travel.

“It’s a place that offers a quality of life that predominantly values people above money. A place that embraces a slower pace, giving more priority to the important things.

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“We are surrounded by a community that have shown us extreme caring and kindness. 

“It’s a place that has taught us that time is our utmost prized possession and that time is meant for living, and living it to the fullest with those we love and care about.”

With a missed flight between Rome and Palermo, Jefferey admits he went into panic mode.

“Luckily we were able to catch another plane later that same day,” he said.

“We really fought for it from the start, and it changed everything in our lives.”

Once in Mussomeli, the pair were lucky enough to be given a private tour of available properties.

Jefferey, a retired former entertainment manager in his late 50s, said it was the people that “shoved us over the edge”.

“Locals were stopping us in the street, asking, ‘Why Mussomeli’? It struck us how everyone was so incredibly nice,” he said.

Initially, the couple decided to buy a turnkey home which required minimal repairs for less than €30,000 (£25,500).

They then stumbled across a €1 home along the winding cobbled alleys near the centre of the old town, close to the one they had just bought.

With a garage attached and an appealing price range, Jefferey and Leon snapped that up too, without a single glance inside.

The centuries-old 1,100-square-foot main house, the first property they purchased, is spread over four floors, with the kitchens, bathrooms and storage rooms on the higher floors.

How does the one Euro house scheme work?

DEPENDING on the region, a number of towns and villages across Italy have offered the cheap €1 properties to encourage people to move to the area.

There are around 25 regions who are taking part, each with a number of properties.

Many of the areas have a dwindling or aging population and hope to build the community again.

The properties range from small houses to larger villas, but are all in a very rundown condition.

The conditions for buying each property also vary, but the majority of them need large renovation works which are part of the scheme

According to Maurizio Berti, who runs the website casea1euro.it: “The houses are owned by private individuals who often want to get rid of them so as not to pay taxes and heavy taxes. 

“We are talking about dilapidated or unsafe properties that need major renovations.”

Conditions include notary fees, paying an additional three-year buying guarantee policy of €5,000 (which is refunded when it expires) as well as starting the project within two months once permits are given.

The houses are put to an auction where people can bid on them so they technically aren’t all €1.

While some do sell for €1, on average houses sell for around €5,000 euros, although some are up to €20,000.

Some of the schemes even offer to pay you money for buying a home if you can boost the economy with a new business venture.

It also has two entrances, front and back, on different streets.

The home came fully furnished after the previous owners left behind antique furniture, plates and blankets.

They have plans to remodel the two bedrooms into three smaller ones and spruce up the kitchen.

While they bought their properties because of the people, rather than the location, Jeffrey admits the panorama from their premium house’s top floor kitchen is “a million-dollar view”.

The smaller home bought for €1 is also spread across four floors.

Jefferey said the inside had been gutted by the previous owner.

“Our architect says it’s an easy fix, a blank canvas,” he said.

“The electrics are fine, the plumbing done. Once it’s fully renovated, it will be liveable.”

The older homes, however, are not without problems and with the repairs taking longer, the couple said it helped them appreciate the laid-back vibe of Sicily. 

“Everything is slower compared to the US timeline,” Jefferey said.

“Don’t expect a repair overnight, it takes longer but if something is not working, and is crucial like heating, then locals are super-fast and extremely available.”

He recalls one chilly night when the windows of the main home were not closing all the way.

Jefferey called the real estate agent who, two days later, sent a team of seven locals over to have them fixed.

“That’s the people, the community: If somebody needs help, they’re there. I can’t believe it.”

Jeffereey and Leon were sold by Mussomeli's people and beauty

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Jeffereey and Leon were sold by Mussomeli’s people and beautyCredit: Alamy
The Mussomeli castle is one of the areas most picturesque locations

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The Mussomeli castle is one of the areas most picturesque locationsCredit: Alamy

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