I bought a one-euro house in Sicily – now it’s worth more than £250k

 (Meredith Tabbone / SWNS)
(Meredith Tabbone / SWNS)

A US woman bought a "one euro" house in the Italian village where her grandparents grew up - and turned it into a £250,000 dream home.

Meredith Tabbone, 43, heard councils in rural Sicily were auctioning off abandoned houses with a one euro starting bid in a bid to regenerate the village.

The financial advisor from Chicago snapped up a 1600s disused building - just "one big room" over a basement - in Sambuca di Sicilia.

The building had no electricity or running water, and the roof was thick with asbestos.

Bids started at just a euro, but she threw in a random offer of £4,400, and found out she was the successful buyer months later.

It cost Meredith 750 euros (£661) to hire a team to remove the roof in an environmentally-safe way.

Meredith then bought the empty home next door for £27,000 - and spent 46 months and £210,000 knocking them together to build a 3,000sqft four bed getaway.

She plans to stay in the house part-time - and calls it her "extended vacation home".

Since then, Meredith has bought two guest houses in the same village for £28k in total, and a disused building for £58k, which she's turning into a gallery and café.

She estimates her £230k investment in the original one euro house will be worth £3-400k when all the work is completed in autumn 2023.

Meredith, a financial advisor from Chicago, who is unmarried with no children, said: “The house was in very bad condition - but in many ways, it was everything I expected it to be and more.

"It had so much charm! It had such interesting architectural detail - you could really see the history coming through the walls. But it was a fixer-upper, to say the least.

“When we first saw the house - it was 750 square feet, it had no electricity, running water or windows - and it was thick with asbestos.”

At first, Meredith planned on turning the property into a small getaway house, but now views it as her dream home.

“It’s very large and intricate - there are four beds, four baths, an outdoor kitchen, a living and a dining area,” she said. “We’ve also installed an upper terrace, lower terrace, spa and wine cellar - as well as a fireplace and a pizza oven.”

Meredith Tabbone with her Italian passport (Meredith Tabbone / SWNS)
Meredith Tabbone with her Italian passport (Meredith Tabbone / SWNS)

Meredith Tabbone knew her dad Michael's side of the family came from Sicily, but didn't know any more until she began researching how to get an Italian citizenship in 2016.

She discovered his great-grandfather, Fillippo Tabbone, came from Sambuca di Sicilia, a small village in Sicily.

In January 2019 - one year into applying for her Italian citizenship - Meredith read an article about people bidding on one-euro houses in Italy.

On a “whim”, she placed a bid on a “run-down fixer-upper” in Sambuca.

 (Meredith Tabbone / SWNS)
(Meredith Tabbone / SWNS)

She found out she had won it in May 2019 and started work a month later. In August 2020, she bought the home next door via a private sale.

With the help of an architect Meredith converted the one-room building into a four-bedroom holiday home.

They installed doors, windows and walls - as well as burying electrical wires - to turn the building into a home.

She bought two guest houses nearby in March 2022 and another empty building in March 2021, and work is currently underway, due to be complete in late 2024.

Meredith's top tips for renovating abroad:

1. Be patient, the process will take time

2. Learn the local language if you can

3. Have fun with it!