Living in a former religious building
The demand for former religious buildings to be transformed into residential dwellings is increasing all around the world. Despite the global economic crisis, the interest towards this kind of real estate properties is growing. Many overseas investors are attracted by the Italian artistic and architectural heritage and are looking for ancient deconsecrated chapels and churches to transform them into charming and comfortable houses.
The supply of buildings which had a religious function in the past is high in Italy. They are usually located in the countryside. They are above all private chapels owned by noble families that now belong to people living abroad who prefer to sell them to avoid the high maintenance costs they should bear for this kind of properties.
Most commonly, deconsecrated churches are not situated in the main building, but in nearby annexes. In order to transform a deconsecrated church into a home, it is compulsory to change the use of the building. Sometimes, owners sell the approved conversion project only. Buyers will then devote themselves to the renovation of the building.
Former religious buildings are usually converted into luxury villas, but several dwellings can be made out of a large property.
Deconsecrated churches, convents, abandoned abbeys, old rectories, vicarages and private chapels can be found all over Italy, but also in the UK – particularly in the Cotswolds region. They can be bought at a fair price, but very often they need considerable restoration works. In order to convert an abandoned church into a stylish, warm and social home, it may be necessary to add windows or restored stained-glass windows, to replace the roof or the paving, to add a mezzanine or to make new foundations. Interior design may also be difficult.
Deconsecrated churches may become welcoming homes, but also excellent venues for concerts, recitals, parties or any kind of entertainment, thanks to their high ceilings and large rooms. They also may be used for holiday rentals. If they are located in the countryside, they may be transformed into a farm holiday residence. They may be converted in hotels, shops or ballrooms.
Tuscany, Lazio, Umbria and Emilia-Romagna are the Italian regions with the highest supply of former religious buildings on the market, but also in Apulia, Abruzzo and the Marche it is possible to find fairly-priced deconsecrated unrenovated churches for which it is not difficult to obtain a conversion planning permission.
Most offers can be found in Florence, Grosseto, Lucca and Siena – in Tuscany – Brescia – in Lombardy – Padual – in Veneto – Rome – in Lazio – and Brindisi – in Apulia.