Transcript with Show Notes Embedded:
Lisa Byrne: The idea of fractional ownership is that you own a share in a property. Now, it’s not a timeshare, but you actually have deeded ownership in a property where you can stay for a month a year and enjoy feeling like a local.
Kathy McCabe: This is Kathy McCabe. Welcome to the Dream of Italy podcast. You know me from the PBS travel series, Dream of Italy, and the award-winning website and publication. Join me as we explore the sights and sounds of Bella Italia. From the canals of Venice to the piazzas of Puglia, from the fashion houses of Milan to the vineyards of Tuscany. Hop on! It’s going to be a great ride. Andiamo!
Welcome everyone to the Dream of Italy podcast. We’re back with a whole new season of episodes, and there’s all kinds of exciting things going on in Italy. New trends, extended stay, buying a home, moving there. Everybody post-COVID is dreaming about that. So, today I am thrilled to welcome my friend, Lisa Byrne. She’s the general manager of Vacation Perfect, and the founder of Italy Perfect back in 2003, right around when Dream of Italy was founded in 2002, which are apartment and some villa rentals in Italy, correct?
Kathy McCabe: All the best locations.
Lisa Byrne: Great locations.
Kathy McCabe: And before we really dive in, I want to let people know that we’ve partnered for a contest to give away four nights at one of your beautiful one or two-bedroom apartments in Florence. And to enter, if you’re a US citizen, you can go to Dreamofitaly.com/winFlorence and that will be up through February 28th. So, it’s a great way to make your dream come true and try out one of these apartments. Lisa, I’d love to talk about this whole evolution. We’ve seen it all.
Lisa Byrne: So true.
Kathy McCabe: Villa rentals and apartment rentals and how things have changed in these almost 20 years, especially that you’ve been renting these places in Italy.
Lisa Byrne: Things really have evolved. Kathy, as you know 20 years ago, vacation rentals were not as common a thing for people to do. I think our first ads were in alumni magazines, printed ads, and things have really evolved, and people have embraced the concept of coming for a longer stay and renting an apartment. And with the internet, it’s made it so easy to do, and our business has evolved with that over the last 20 years as well. So, we’ve seen a lot of changes.
Kathy McCabe: And where did you really start? Where were your first apartments?
Lisa Byrne: We started in Florence. I love Italy. I was actually born in Italy to American parents and always wanted to go back. Came to the States for college, and then stayed here in the United States. And we were on a family vacation there in 2003, and I thought, “I just need to figure out a way to expand my life and be able to come to Italy more often.” And we already had a vacation rental business with Paris Perfect and London Perfect. That was my sister who had started those companies, and she said, “You should get started and offer something in Italy. You can do that on the side and keep your day job.”
So I kept my day job. I was a PR consultant in the tech industry, and I started with one property in Florence through basically friends of friends knew of an apartment that the owner wasn’t trying to do it himself. He wasn’t getting very many bookings. And I put up a little website, and that’s probably where you and I first encountered each other with one property. And then through the network of people that I know and various owners, it’s word of mouth, so one owner was happy with the bookings we got him, he referred us to his friends, and the friends referred us to their cousins.
Kathy McCabe: Very Italian.
Lisa Byrne: Very Italian. They keep their properties in the family, and they tend them carefully. And so, we grew from there, property by property. And I personally go and I pick everything that we offer. I’ve seen every property, I’ve stayed in most of them. So I really know what we offer and make sure that the properties are good and well-located and we know every owner.
Kathy McCabe: So I was going to ask why people… Now, we have Airbnb and V-R-B-O, but I think they call it VRBO now.
Lisa Byrne: Yes.
Kathy McCabe: They rebranded. Now, we’re inundated with ways to book. Why should someone still go to an agency?
Lisa Byrne: There’s still such a value that agencies like Italy Perfect provide. And what we find is when people find their way to us is they say, “Oh my God. I’m talking to somebody who speaks English, number one. Who answers the phone, who speaks English, and who understands what people are looking for more from a North American traveler.” And that traveler tends to plan far in advance. They are not just coming for a weekend stay, and they have logistical questions. “Oh, we’re going for 10 days or 14 days. We’re bringing our teenagers. We want to visit these various locations.” So we’re able to really work with them to tailor a stay that’s going to work best for what they have in mind. And if you’re going to book through a site, there’s wonderful properties on Airbnb and VRBO, and we advertise a lot of our properties through those channels.
But those are advertising channels. Nobody at Airbnb or at VRBO has actually seen your property. And because of the limitations of the interface, you don’t actually get to exchange information like a phone number and say, “Could I call you and ask you a few questions?” It’s all done through their platforms, which are great and serve a great purpose. But if I talk to a client or one of our other team talked to a client and they say, “We really want to see Rome, Venice, Florence, Amafali Coast in 10 days in August.” And we can say, “What do you really have in mind?” You really want to see all of Italy. You look on the map, it looks like a small country.
Well, you’re going to lose the better part of each day, and you’re going to have two very cranky and hot teenagers in tow who by the third stop are just not going to care anymore. They don’t want to see another church or monument. And so, we will help them to say, “Think about it differently. Maybe stay a bit longer and do a day trip somewhere so you don’t have to pack up the whole family and think through all the logistics.” And that’s the type of advice that we provide through both our phone contacts and our blog and our newsletter and our FAQ to help people get the most out of their stay, the same way a travel advisor does as well.
Kathy McCabe: Yeah. And I think there’s a huge trend, and I always refer people, even though I’m providing a magazine with tons of information, it’s not meant to take the place of a person. And many of the people that I refer to, they have been to all the properties, they have done all these things, and there’s so many things you don’t think about I think especially with apartments. Is there an elevator? Are the stairs really steep? The WiFi, if someone needs really good WiFi. Occasionally there are issues of how thick those walls are. And just is the location wise? And so it’s a big investment, it’s thousands of dollars.
Lisa Byrne: It’s a lot of money.
Kathy McCabe: So I always recommend and have recommended your agency. We’re here to talk about I think… I love trends, and obviously this is still journalism, but I worked at USA Today in their travel section, and when I worked in covering politics and news, we love trends, we love what’s new, what is the new way to enjoy and lead, and you have a new project, new and old because you’ve done it before in another country, fractional ownership.
Lisa Byrne: Exactly. Yeah.
Kathy McCabe: And this is an apartment in Florence, so tell me first of all, what fractional ownership is and how it’s evolved from renting a villa, renting an apartment for a couple weeks.
Lisa Byrne: Great. I’m so excited to talk about it, because it is a new trend in Europe. The idea of fractional ownership is that you own a share in a property. Now, it’s not a timeshare, but you actually have deeded ownership in a property where you can stay for a month a year and enjoy feeling like a local. And this trend is something we’ve been tracking for a number of years. And starting in 2018 in our Paris Perfect business, we would get visitors who would come stay with us year after year, and many of them said, “Oh my god, my dream is to own something.” And the same for Italy. “How could I ever buy something in Italy?” And some people do manage to achieve that dream of Italy, so to speak. And it can be very, very expensive to buy something in a city like Florence.
So, what we did was we looked at the concept that had a rebirth in the United States. It was a popular concept initiated in the 1980s in ski resorts, which is to co-own something. So, the concept of co-ownership, where you would buy a share in an apartment that you own, you own that, it’s a deeded share, you can sell it if you decide you have other plans and want to do something else. Or you can deed it to loved ones. Should something happen and you want to pass it along, you can do that as well. So the concept, we launched it in Paris in 2018. We have since 100% sold out eight co-ownership apartments. And we’re just finishing our ninth, and we launched at right before Thanksgiving and we are 90% sold out on that one.
We had people who said, “Oh my God, you’ve done this in Paris. We’ve stayed with you in Paris. We love Paris. We’ve stayed with you in Italy. Why don’t you do this for Italy?” So, that had been in the back of our minds, so we started thinking about it. And we decided Florence would be a great starting point for us. We began looking for an apartment, found something wonderful that we knew we could turn into a beautiful apartment. It needed extensive renovation and reconfiguration, so we brought in our team, our contractor in Florence, our interior designer who’s done a wonderful job on our Paris Perfect fractionals to totally reinvent the apartment.
And we launched it this fall. It’s had a wonderful response, and it’s a co-ownership situation where each person who buys buys four weeks a year. And you’re probably going to ask me, “How does that work?” So, it’s called a sports rotation. Each person gets a choice of two weeks, it goes through 13 owners, and then they get the second choice of their next two weeks. So, that in total you have four weeks a year. We found that most people didn’t want to commit to a back to back four weeks.
Kathy McCabe: That’s interesting. So, you found that they would rather come twice a year.
Lisa Byrne: Usually twice a year. They wanted to have two different seasons. Now in some cases, once the ownership pool has been established of the 13 owners, owners often can trade weeks among each other. If somebody says, “Oh, I’ve got the first two weeks in May. I’d really love the four weeks in May,” they may contact among themselves each other to say, “I’ll trade you weeks.” Or in some cases owners may say, “I’ve got two weeks this September, but my daughter’s getting married, so we’re not going to come. Do you want to trade weeks?” So they often do that. People wind up always getting a good pick of weeks. And as you know with Florence, there’s really no bad time. It’s a wonderful city year round.
Kathy McCabe: It can be. I spent almost a month one January, and I was very lucky. The weather was really nice, and it’s such a relief there’s not so many people.
Lisa Byrne: I know. January’s one of my favorite times to go to, too. In February as well. It’s going to be chilly, days are short, but I love the fact that it’s quiet. There’s no lines for any of the museums, and the restaurants are all available. You don’t have to make a reservation that time of year.
Kathy McCabe: You feel much more like a local. And we’re talking a lot about this concept of extended stays, and people want to feel more like they’re not vacationing, like they’re living. And by having an apartment and a kitchen, and I think also just returning to the same apartment multiple times… Like we talk about how you can go to the bar and you’ll meet the barista, versus you’re coming back to the same place like an owner. So I know one of the first questions for people will be cost. Around how much does it cost to be this 1/13th owner of an apartment?
Lisa Byrne: The cost per share is under $200,000, and we’ll provide the contact information so that people can contact us for the details of that.
Lisa Byrne: Yes. There’s a section there for contacting us, and we’ll get right back to you within one business day with all kinds of detailed information about the property. You can see a video on our site, you can see all the photos. And then, they also pay an annual dues, which covers everything. That covers the cleaning, the maintenance, it includes a cash reserve for the condominium association if the condo decides that they need to do work in the communal areas of the building. So, it covers all of those expenses. And the apartment is fully furnished down to the teaspoons and the espresso cups and the Nespresso machine. So when you come, you are coming to your own home where you feel at home right away. We have a wonderful service in Florence that can offer services if you want help organizing a tour or a cooking class, an excursion to the Tuscan countryside. But it’s so true, Kathy, as you mentioned, you get to know the locals. There’s a wonderful coffee bar down the street. There’s a great hairdresser around the corner. There’s incredible restaurants, because it’s the Oltrarno side.
Kathy McCabe: Oh, I have some of my favorite restaurants in Italy.
Lisa Byrne: Yeah. Trattoria 4 Leoni, which is a favorite that has two wonderful… I’m sure you know-
Kathy McCabe: What is that famous…
Lisa Byrne: Magazzino.
Kathy McCabe: What is their crazy…
Lisa Byrne: It’s the tripe. Is it the one with the-
Kathy McCabe:Yes, the meatball.
Lisa Byrne: Yes, yes. And right there on the opposite side of the piazza is Trattoria Leoni.
Kathy McCabe: And the gelato place.
Lisa Byrne: There’s the Gelateria della Passera. You can’t miss it, because there’s always a line.
Kathy McCabe: I love if you walk up a little, San Niccolò has amazing restaurants, and DreamofItaly.com, I think we had an issue all about all these parts of the Oltrarno.
Lisa Byrne: Oh, we love that area.
Kathy McCabe: And it’s easy, you can walk to the Ponte Vecchio. Florence is small. There’s obviously bigger parts of it, but for the things you want to see, it’s pretty easy to get around.
Lisa Byrne: It is. You really don’t need to take public transportation. Once you’re there, you can walk everywhere. Everything is really very, very walkable. So, that location, we just love it. The Ponte Vecchio is one block from the apartment.
Kathy McCabe: Oh my God.
Lisa Byrne: It’s very, very convenient.
Kathy McCabe: I’m thinking of another gelato place.
Lisa Byrne: La Carraia. It is. It’s two bridges down.
Kathy McCabe: Yeah. I just went a couple months ago.
Lisa Byrne: That one’s been around for a long time. And it’s cool because you see both locals. There’s a high school across the street from it. So when school gets out, you see all the high schoolers lined up there, and then locals and tourists alike. That’s a really good gelateria, too.
Kathy McCabe: I think a lot of people get confused though how this really differs from a timeshare. If you can reiterate for me, so you’re an owner actually of this property?
Lisa Byrne: Yes. You own a share in the LLC that owns the property. And so, it doesn’t require you to have an Italian bank account. It’s a US LLC that you own a share in. Unlike a timeshare, it’s not that you have a set weeks a year that you can stay. That rotates every year. So in the order of priority in which you commit to buy, that rotates. So if you were the first buyer to say, “I want to buy a share in this co-ownership property,” you would have the first pick of the first two weeks. And then it goes through the next 12 buyers. So, no one has really a bad pick. And then it goes to the next…
Kathy McCabe: Then it repeats again.
Lisa Byrne: And then, each year it shifts by one. So then, buyer two in the second year of the ownership, they get first pick. And that’s not something that timeshares have. The other thing is, again, with a timeshare, you can’t sell a deeded share in the property. So, that’s a difference as well.
Kathy McCabe: How would someone sell it? Say they have a change in their life and they need to sell it maybe a couple years after buying it.
Lisa Byrne: Yes, we can help market that. And the nice thing is because we’ve been in business for 20 years, we have a very large following. We have almost a hundred thousand newsletter subscribers. I think we’re at 70,000 now, and that’s been growing by leaps and bounds that subscribe. It’s a combination Paris, London, and Italy newsletter. It’s the Vacation Perfect newsletter. We have a very large following across our social media as well through Italy Perfect, and then Paris Perfect rentals and London Perfect rentals. So, at our disposal we have a built-in client base of people who love travel and love Italy. So if somebody were to want to sell, we are happy to work with them on the marketing. And we keep a waiting list too of when we have a property that has sold out, for example in Paris, and we have nothing new to offer, we get people who inquire and say, “I’m really interested in buying.” If we have nothing available, we keep them in mind. And then, we contact them as soon as a share becomes available.
Kathy McCabe: What has surprised you? I was amazed that you’ve done, since 2018, 8, 9 of these in Paris and now in Italy. What has surprised you about this?
Lisa Byrne: That’s been interesting is how mobile people are. Now, maybe that’s not a surprise because that is a trend we’ve seen happening more and more. But we’ve seen how many people are very comfortable living in multiple locations, that this idea that you can live very comfortably in multiple homes, and many of our buyers have multiple homes. That they have multiple homes or even multiple co-ownership properties, that’s been interesting to see. So for many of them they’ll say, “Well, this isn’t really a new concept. I have been thinking about this.” Another thing that’s been interesting is while co-ownership exists in Italy, and we know properties in other locations in Italy tend to be more either coastal or in the countryside. We don’t know of many opportunities like this in a city like Florence. I think there have been some in the past, but it’s certainly not been in any of the research we’ve done-
Kathy McCabe: I think we did an article in 2012. I’ve been sort of following this. There aren’t that many. There’s a handful, but again, I don’t know of anything in Florence currently. And many of them are in the countryside, and I’m not sure, the one that I’m thinking of, if you get the same place. It might be a group of villas, and you get whatever’s available that week that you want it, which is good. That’s great for some people. Others, you get to experience new places. But I think it’s an exciting opportunity. The other thing about work is so many people who work remote, they’re not necessarily taking two weeks vacation off to go if they can put in a couple of hours. And I noticed you very purposely put in a built-in desk.
Lisa Byrne: Yes. We put in a desk in the second bedroom so that if you did need to do, let’s say, a Zoom call, you can close the door and conduct business. And we have found that that’s been something we have started adding into all the fractionals we’ve done in Paris, is a small workspace. So, that’s been very popular so that people can say, “I’m going to be abroad, but I’m still going to be able to be available for a call or a follow-up.” So that’s been an important thing. The other thing that’s been interesting is a stay in an urban market like Florence. And being in a city, you don’t need a car. So if you’re going to do an ownership situation in a more rural location, you have to think through the logistics of having a car for the whole time.
Kathy McCabe: Yeah. And it can be pricey when it’s an automatic. I don’t drive stick, and every time I thought I was going to learn, you don’t want to learn in Italy. I’ll tell you, last summer it was pricey.
Lisa Byrne: And I’m amazed at how brave you were to drive.
Kathy McCabe: I’m very brave. I love driving, but it is a blood sport in Italy. And I will tell you, my late mother was always traveling with me. She’d be like, “Erg!” And it’s not for everyone. You got people who buy a place in the countryside of Tuscany, and they really aren’t comfortable driving. It’s not for everyone.
Lisa Byrne: The elusive walk to town villas are very hard to find. That’s this dream that everybody has that you can walk to a town, and those are hard to find. But in Florence, not only do you not have to have a car, but if you have friends who visit you, for example, there’s a two-bedroom apartments, you can have guests come. You don’t have to be the chauffeur, where it’s like, “Okay, is everybody ready to go? We’re headed out. Who else wants to come to the store with me?” You have a sense of independence, whether it’s-
Kathy McCabe: Yeah, that’s really nice.
Lisa Byrne: Or family. I have adult kids. Now, they sort of have their own lives, but if they choose to come on vacation with my husband and me, when you’re in a city like Florence, they have independence. They don’t have to rely on me to drive them.
Kathy McCabe: I would say even teenagers, if you’re comfortable. Florence is very safe. And that’s that difficult age when they want to do their own thing, too. And when you’re in a house in Tuscany, there’s only so many options.
Lisa Byrne: They’re stuck home with the parents.
Kathy McCabe: Okay, so first of all, if it’s deeded, you can sell it and then you own it like a house. So if you pass away, you can give it to your children.
Lisa Byrne: Yes. Most people put it in some kind of a trust so that there is a plan in place of what happens to it should they pass away. So, a benefit is you actually have an ownership stake in a property in a city like Florence where they’re not making anymore. It should go up. We can’t predict on that, but overall, long-term trends show that-
Kathy McCabe: Oh, I know. Everyone I know regrets not buying an apartment in Florence.
Lisa Byrne: Yes, yes. Because there’s no development. There are some buildings that have been redone, but there’s not additional apartments being added to the very, very small historic center area. Outside of Florence, yes. There is growth, but not within the core historic center.
Kathy McCabe: Now, I’m curious. Those four weeks, what are my options now? Can I give it to friends? Can I allow other people to stay there? Can I rent it out? Do I not need to go if I don’t want to go?
Lisa Byrne: Thank you for that. That’s a great question. So if you don’t want to use your weeks, you can loan it out to friends, or you can rent it through Italy Perfect. So, you let us know if there’s weeks you can’t use, days you can’t use. We would then offer it through our rental program, and our rental program is very robust. Because we’ve been in business for 20 years, we have a large following and many people who come back year after year and rent through Italy Perfect. So we have a built-in marketing vehicle to help-
Kathy McCabe: And we’ll be showing photos. It’s a beautiful apartment and the terrace. I’m a person who… I like air. Any place I go, any hotel or apartment or villa rental, I want outside. Outside.
Lisa Byrne: That was our number one criteria, was when I started looking, I knew it had to be within the historic center. And when you mentioned the San Niccolò area, I’m thinking of San Trebbiano, all great areas, but we know for our travelers, those are 10 to 15 minutes too far a walk for some people. So, we wanted to really keep right within that prime historic center area. It had to have a terrace. And as you’ll see from the photos, this has a very nice size.
Kathy McCabe: It’s a big terrace.
Lisa Byrne: It’s not a little balcony. It’s a good-sized terrace.
Kathy McCabe: What floor is it on?
Lisa Byrne: It’s on the fifth floor, which is sixth floor US. And the building had to have an elevator. You probably also know that there’s some wonderful properties out there that are so tempting, but if they don’t have an elevator, that gets old very quickly especially with luggage. So, the elevator’s tiny. It’s a typical Italian elevator. We always say one person, one suitcase at a time, or two very friendly individuals, but it works. It’s an elevator. It gets you up to the fifth floor. So, you’re up high. It has nice views. You can actually see the top of the Pitti palace to the right, which is just one block away. And you can’t quite see it, but if you lean far enough out, you see the Vasari corridor, which is the ancient corridor that Vasari built for the Medici family to travel privately from their home, which was-
Kathy McCabe: And I’ve never been there the right time to do a tour of-
Lisa Byrne: You have to. Yeah.
Kathy McCabe: I think they are reopening it again. I did the boat under the Ponte Vecchio, which is-
Lisa Byrne: Oh, I wanted to do that, but I was-
Kathy McCabe: You have to do it, because it’s staggering. And I did it with my Florentine friend, Federico, who’d never done it. And you’re under the bridge, and it’s so quiet.
Lisa Byrne: I’m going to do it in the spring.
Kathy McCabe: Do it at sunset. We did it during the day in the morning, but that’s something people can do when they’re there at their fractional, their co-ownership. We have an episode on Florence people can watch. And I did want to remind that people can enter for four nights at one of your apartments to win at dreamofitaly.com/winFlorence. And Florence is fabulous with the markets. If you’re not in a hotel, you can cook, you can buy fresh vegetables, the meat, the butchers, and then all the cultural events. Not just for Italians, but there’s the British Institute. Even in the winter, especially in the winter, there is a lecture or an event.
Lisa Byrne: Concerts. A classical music concert.
Kathy McCabe: I’ve gone by myself, but say a couple or a single person buys one of these fractionals. Florence has so much going on. Especially expat, even expat circles.
Lisa Byrne: There is. There’s a large expat community. There really is. And there’s also walking and hiking. So you can have the combination of a city experience, and you could just walk out past the Boboli Gardens or up by San Niccolò and you feel like you’re in the countryside right up there by Piazzale Michelangelo and the San Miniato church. So, it really has a big variety of something for everyone, and it’s not an intimidating city. Especially after COVID, Italy is just so happy to see tourists back. They understand their business is based on tourism, and people there have always been so hospitable. But even more so, they are just thrilled to see visitors back in their city again.
Kathy McCabe: I think at this point when we’re recording this, you’re not sold out of it yet. You’ve sold a number of shares, and then once that sells out, is this something you are going to continue to do in Italy?
Lisa Byrne: We probably will. We’re thinking about that, and we’re always watching to see what property comes on the market. And if the right thing came along, we would likely continue with this. So, it seems like it’s gotten a great reception. For a first time effort in Italy, we’re really pleased with the response we’re getting, and we’re going to keep looking for the perfect properties that are out there. If we see the right thing, we’d probably jump on, and it’s hard to find. It’s hard to find good properties.
Kathy McCabe: If there’s multiple kids that inherit an apartment, everything has to be cleared. It’s a lot more of a laborious process. But one thing I wanted to talk to you about, because we’re also moving into content about people buying in Italy and staying longer, the realities of buying a place in Italy, and I was just talking to a real estate agent and I told him about you this morning, he’s an American named Sean Carlos, who’s licensed in Italy, and you can’t usually get a mortgage. So, if you want to buy that apartment, it’d whatever it is in cash to buy it. So, it’s not impossible, but there’s a lot of challenges. So for this, somebody might be able to afford this in cash, because I think we were talking, you can’t really get a mortgage for this.
Lisa Byrne: That’s right. They would need to pay cash, or in some cases if a person chose to, they could do a home equity loan. But that would be up to them and potentially their financial advisor, but it’s less complex.
Kathy McCabe: And usually it’s a bank account. Doing any kind of renovations, keeping up with it. So, even you think, “Oh, there’s maintenance fees, too.” Well, hello, if you have a house in Italy, you’re going to have those fees as well. And there may be a lot more surprises, too, because it’s older. I’m sure you’ve done all your due diligence on the structure and the possible things. And then, I don’t know that people use it as much as they think they’re going to, or if you’re not a citizen or you don’t have a visa, you can’t do more than half the year. And it’s a wonderful idea. I like this, and it’s even a tryout kind of thing. Like, “Oh, yeah, we really love it here. We do want to move up into buying a whole place.” But there’s a lot of hurdles for buying your own place that I think this takes care of.
Lisa Byrne: It’s less stressful and it’s a fewer hassles, much fewer than trying to buy your own. Now, there are those brave people who do buy their own place, they figure out how to renovate it. But you hear all those stories about… Just reread Under the Tuscan Sun. I know Frances Mayes is a friend of yours, and you read about what she dealt with.
Kathy McCabe: And she just added on. So I saw her, and this summer they added a pool, and it’s not like it got so much easier because she’s Frances Mayes. It’s hard no matter-
Lisa Byrne: It’s hard.
Kathy McCabe: Because you know what else it is? It’s the permits. It’s not just the contractors. It’s going to the city or the town. And Italy’s fabulous at some things and not at other things. So say you’re sitting here today, you have this dream. With you, you can get into it I guess in a couple of months.
Lisa Byrne: Oh, exactly. You could buy, and be there as soon as you can come.
Kathy McCabe: Right. With buying, sometimes it’s a long process to find the place. You find the place, maybe it needs some repairs, you have to get all the paperwork, move the money. And then if there’s any renovations, you’re talking a couple years sometimes, where I think for that immediate gratification that I think Americans are more used to than Italians. This offers this… I’m tempted. It’s just that turnkey.
Lisa Byrne: It is. We say, “All you need to bring is your toothbrush.” So, you don’t have to worry about all of the maintenance issues. We take care of those. The other thing to think about, too, if you’re going to renovate something yourself is costs have gone up, just like in the US in North America.
Kathy McCabe: Even finding people to work.
Lisa Byrne: Finding the labor costs, labor shortages, and also supplies. With all the issues of manufacturing shortages, prices have gone up. So, the nice thing is you know exactly what the price is, and you’re not facing a contractor who’s saying, “Well, I quoted you this six months ago, but now that you’re making a decision on that flooring or those tiles, price has gone up 20%.”
Kathy McCabe: And Italy, I will tell you. Gosh, it’s Dream of Italy, but the reality of Italy is it’s never easy to renovate a place. But in Italy, it’s all who you know and if you can trust them. And so, if you’re going to a place you don’t have local connections, it can be that much more difficult. So, this takes care of that. But I do have this idea. So, these 13 owners… Is there then a homeowner’s association? Let’s go through like, “Okay, I own it.” How does this work in the years to come?
Lisa Byrne: Yes, there’s a homeowner’s association, and they elect a board, head of the board, a secretary and a treasurer. And the board is the governing body, just like you would have in any homeowner’s association. We work with them regularly on any questions, issues, advice. A lot of times it’s like, “Hey, I’m coming in two weeks. Do you have any restaurant recommendations?” We can do that. Or somebody might say, “Hey, I noticed that the faucets dripping in the second bathroom,” let’s say. Let us know, we’ll get the plumber in there to get it repaired. So, there might even be things like, occasionally the apartment comes fully equipped, but somebody might say, “I really wish we had a blender. There isn’t a blender in the apartment.” Homeowner’s association, they’d submit it to the board. And that’s a minor expense, but it’s the kind of thing that as the 13 owners, they would decide, “Sure, we’re going to go ahead. Please buy us a blender. Everybody wants that in the apartment.” So, we would add that and just invoice them for that small expense.
Kathy McCabe: And then, do you stay involved as the… This is getting in the weeds, you’re the managers I suppose?
Lisa Byrne: We’re the management company. So, their annual dues pay for the management, which we do on a professional basis. We have a team there that is making sure that the flowers on the terrace are watered, that the apartment is deep cleaned several times a year, that any maintenance checks that have to be done, normal ongoing maintenance. When there’s a condominium association meeting, we have a representative who would speak on behalf because of course that would all be in Italian. So, if there were any building-wide matters that needed to be addressed, that person would take the notes, and then we would translate those and inform the board of any news in the building that they would need to know about.
Kathy McCabe: Interesting. So if people want to find out more, how do they get in touch?
Lisa Byrne: They can visit ItalyPerfect.com, so www.ItalyPerfect.com. And you’ll see a tab there on the sales tab, or they can email firstname.lastname@example.org. So, it’s email@example.com, and we’ll be happy to get back to them with more information. And one final point I was going to make too is a great thing now is the strength of the dollar.
Kathy McCabe: Oh, don’t I know it.
Lisa Byrne: So, we were talking about all the cost increases with renovations, but on the other hand, it’s a great time to either travel to Italy, whether you’re going to buy or rent. The dollar is very, very strong right now.
Kathy McCabe: And do people pay you in dollars or in euros?
Lisa Byrne: They pay us in dollars.
Kathy McCabe: Okay. Not that it matters, but it’s a wonderful time. It’s the best it’s been in 20 years. And I know because I’m paying all my Italian crew, and at one point it was like 97 cents, and then it was like $1.05 the other day. I’m like, “Oh my God! It’s so high!” But it’s not. And we’re on this post-COVID, “What are we going to do with our lives?” The work world has changed, retirement has changed, people stay working a little bit. And this offers I think this flexibility that I think it’s a really, really interesting option for people. And it’s not a timeshare. You really own something that. You have something to pass on. I think it’s a beautiful thing to pass on to your kids.
You’ll have memories in the same place, in the same apartment or villa. And then again, if you are watching or listening to this at the right time, you can enter to win four nights in an Italy Perfect apartment in Florence at DreamofItaly.com/winFlorence. That’s through February 15th, 2023. And of course if somebody’s listened but they’re not really quite ready to buy into a fractional ownership, they can rent a villa or an apartment with you. Not only Italy Perfect, but I know Paris… I want to go to Paris.
Lisa Byrne: Ugh, got to come to Paris.
Kathy McCabe: … I got to go somewhere else. And Paris and France, many people don’t know this, I was fluent in French, I worked at the American Embassy one summer. My first love was France and Paris. So I think even that fractional ownership in Paris is tempting. Do you have anyone who owns two? One in Italy and one in Paris?
Lisa Byrne: Yes, we do. A couple of the initial buyers own in both locations. And in Paris, we’ve had several buyers buy multiple shares. So they’ve bought not just four weeks, but they’ve bought two sets of four weeks. So, they’ve been very enthusiastic, and it’s been great to have the people who already own with us in Paris now buy with us in Italy.
Kathy McCabe: I think what it is, what I just thought of while you were talking, you’d never have the same experience twice in a place like Paris or Florence. It’s the season, it’s the cultural events, it’s the exhibitions, it’s the fashion shows. So it’s a place you can go back. You’re not doing the same thing every time, and you’re going in different seasons.
Lisa Byrne: That’s so true. And it’s also, you don’t feel that pressure like, “We’re here this one time, and we have to go.” You may just have a day where you sit out on the terrace and have a bottle of wine and go out for a lunch and take a nap. So, we have people who say they love that feeling that once they’ve come the first couple times, let’s say in this case to Paris, they can have a more leisurely pace, that they can slow down and really enjoy the best of life and enjoy just being in their own apartment. Just relaxing and reading a book, watching Netflix if they want to. But then, also venturing out just within the neighborhood to just do an errand, go shopping, visit a museum. But don’t feel like you have to see all of the Uffizi Gallery in one day. You could just pop in and see things for 45 minutes or an hour.
Kathy McCabe : And then you can also build in. You can go a week somewhere else in Italy, and then come to the apartment. So, each time you go, you could even build in other destinations in Italy in addition to your two weeks. So I think it sounds really exciting. If people want more information on this episode, they can come to DreamofItaly.com/podcast. And again, it’s ItalyPerfect.com to enter the contest if you’re watching, listening at the beginning of 2023. DreamofItaly.com/winFlorence. Thank you so much. I learned so much.
Lisa Byrne: Thank you. It’s my pleasure.
Kathy McCabe: Then I go and dream of Italy when we talk about it, and I’m kind of hungry and I’m like, “Oh, I need some Italian.” But it’s fun. It’s really fun to think about, and the world is changing and I think it’s really a new way to experience. And I like ease.
Lisa Byrne: It just makes it easy.
Kathy McCabe: But that’s why I don’t live in Italy currently. I like eating. I’m kidding. I’m kidding. But it’s very attractive for that reason especially. All right, Lisa, thank you.
Lisa Byrne: Thank you so much, Kathy.