Podcast Episode #14: Buying Short-Term Rentals in Italy with Brad Allen of BradsWorld

Transcript with Show Notes Embedded: 

If you want to read more about Brad’s life in Italy and business, get the October/November 2023 issue of Dream of Italy where Brad is featured!

Brad Allan: What I am really surprised at is the incredible difference in the cost of living here vs. the US. If you think that house prices here are that much lower- and they are- wait til you see medical care.

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 Bell’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 gonna be a great ride. Andiamo!


Kathy: Okay. So I am so excited to have one of my favorite to me, he’s a YouTube star. I don’t watch a lot of Italy on YouTube. I go there for an escape to other topics, but I found Brad Allen through his YouTube channel, Brad’s World. So welcome Brad. And where are you today? Thank you. 

Brad: Oh, I’m excellent. Yeah, kind of a crazy day here in Italy. It was a big storm and the rivers were flooding, and I was going to see a 700-year-old palace that the owners contacted me about showing on my channel, and it was unbelievable. This thing. They’ve owned it for 400 years. The same family, Bonvisi family. 

Kathy: Wow. What town is that near? Where is that? 

Brad: It’s in Bagni di Lucca. Bagni di Lucca. It’s a hot springs town. Yeah, just outside of town. Oh, it was phenomenal. 

Kathy: If I was in the market for a palace, I love Hot Springs and Lucca. Wow. And why were they selling or it’s just time? Those are hard to keep up. 

Brad: Just they had a personal reason to sell. So it was time to move on from the palace, but it was phenomenal, the grounds, everything about it. And of course to us so inexpensive, less than a two-bedroom condo in Austin. 

Kathy: How much was this palace, this house? 

Brad: 680,000 euros, 6,000 square feet, five bedrooms, three baths, two huge living rooms with Murano, glass chandeliers, walk-in fireplaces, all you don’t want to do that, but big enough, you could almost stand in them, a swimming pool in a separate garden and a spa and the cellar. Oh, it was phenomenal. Yeah, it’s just a crazy place. And 25 minutes from Lucca

Kathy:Lucca is adorable and just mean, I don’t even know if adorable is the word, but just the home of Puccini. Of course, we actually filmed there recently to talk about Puccini, but it’s in a fantastic city. A lot of American expats are looking at it. But let’s back up a little and let me find out who this guy is. So Brad, tell me your story, where you’re from and what your career was and what landed you in Italy. 


Brad:Sure. So I have done a lot of remodeling with a lot of apartments in the US. Took not so great apartments and turned them into it as special of apartments as I could. And I also owned a furniture chain of furniture stores called Build A Sofa and did that for a quarter century, but mainly it was the apartments. And when I was finishing my last project, the whole time I was doing the project, I was saying to myself, when I’m done with this, I’m done. It took five years to do it, 50 units, and when I’m done, I’m done. And I’m going to Italy and I’m taking all that I do here to Italy with me and buying some really nice places. And that’s what we’ve done. We live here full-time now in Southern Tuscany in Montepulciano, and we have four really pretty palace apartments that we renovated and rent out. It’s been wonderful. It’s better than you can even imagine. It’s going to be. Honestly better.

Kathy: Like a dream of Italy. 

Brad: Yeah, you can keep dreaming because no matter how good you dream it, it might even be better than that. It’s really something that wasn’t super hard to do and it really is better than you think it’s going to be. It is just phenomenal living here. 


Kathy: I’m intrigued. As we’ve spoken before, I’m intrigued with this “not super hard to do.” And I do think many things about moving to Italy are not hard. Some are harder. So tell me, what was the process of making this decision? I know you traveled to Italy, loved it, and what was the process like and why do you say it’s not so hard? 

Brad: We have traveled here for years, years and years, maybe not as many as you, but at least 15 years we’ve been coming consistently to Italy and elsewhere in the world. But we always came back to “Where would we want to live once we want to leave the US?” and Italy was top of the list. I say it’s not so hard because I think we put a lot of stuff in our mind that this is going to be so hard and a big change. But I tell people you do so many things in your life that really truly are hard. Getting a divorce or seeing a loved one die or going, putting yourself through school, working, all these things. Moving to Italy is like a vacation compared to any of those things. 

I mean, yes, there are things that you have to do. You have to pull documents together. You need to make sure that regardless of which visa you want to get, whether it’s the elective residency visa or the remote working visa or the teaching visa or the student, whatever it is, you need to make sure that you qualify. But it’s as simple as pulling your records, sending them in, and if you do qualify, they’re happy to have you here. They’re happy to have, just in our example, they’re happy to have people that have consistent income that can come in and help support the country, help add benefits to the country. And at the same time, we get so many benefits here by being here and we’re just starting to discover. So that’s why I say it’s not so hard. If you don’t qualify, then of course it’s going to be more difficult.


Kathy: So you’re on an elective residency visa, which means you show passive income. And I think it’s more of a challenge for people who still need to be working. That’s the hard part for getting a visa. And you can get this elective residency visa, even though you are basically creating a company or buying properties in Italy? 

Brad: You can’t do it just by buying a property. However, if you buy properties to give you enough passive income that it can get you over the threshold, which is approximately 36 or 38,000 euros a year. I know. I think it’s 35. Let’s call 35. And then if you’re a married couple, it’s 20% more, so around 40,000 for a couple. If your rental income equals that, that would be your passive income and you’re allowed to make that passive income here. 

Kathy: Fascinating. So was this part of your plan that you were going to renovate these buildings to be part of that passive income qualification? 

Brad: No. 

Kathy: You already probably had it.

Brad: Yeah, that was separate. 


Kathy: But just so people know, that might be an option. So they would have to buy them before they apply for this visa?

Brad: Correct. Yeah. Or if you had rental income even in the us, any sort of passive income, dividends, interest income, your social security, disability, I believe all those things would qualify as passive income. 

Kathy: Yes. And if anyone is interested, who’s listening, who’s watching? I know a great lawyer who happens to have, he’s Italian and lives in America and goes back and forth. He has a PhD in taxation, but he understands all the passive possibilities and even setting up your own trust that passively pays you. I can’t speak exactly for how that works, but it’s not as hard if you really sit down and think, for instance, I wrote a book that’s passive income. I have TV shows I license. That’s passive income. We all may have things we are not sure that we have. So that’s how you’re living in Italy currently. But tell me the last few years, what was the buildup to the full move? 


Brad: We started actively looking for properties, actively looking for properties about two and a half, three years ago. It all came about with Covid and that really put, as it did for so many people, so many wrench in the works. But we started actually making offers, I believe at the end of 2021, maybe in October of 2021. And it always takes time to get things, the offer accepted and closed. And then everything I bought had to go through a governmental review because they were historically important buildings. So if you buy a historically important building, you can go through the closing, but then there’s a 90-day cool-off period where the government has first right to buy the building at the price you’ve agreed to with your seller. And if that happens, you don’t lose any money, but you get bumped out of it. Now, according to my notary who’s done millions of sales, not literally, but he’s the biggest notary in Montepulciano, it never happens. The government never takes that option. The last thing they need is to buy more buildings, but you have to wait usually 90 days.


Kathy: I’ve learned many things from your YouTube channel, but I think the hardest thing for a lot of people is, and maybe I’d be living there now if I knew exactly where. It sounds crazy, there’s too many choices, but also you were looking for a place, not only you were going to live, but where it would be a good place that tourists come to that you could rent nightly and you chose Montepulciano and tell me why personally and for this professional endeavor. 

Brad: Sure. So professionally, I felt it had the right mix of price versus bookings, for want of a better word. So there’s cities where you’ll be Rome. Let’s just talk about Rome. Okay, 

Kathy: Break it down. 

Brad: If you’re in the city center, you’ll be booked 365 days a year, more or less. 

Kathy: You actually will. You will. 

Brad: Yeah, you’ll But a two bedroom, two bath, a decent one’s going to cost you 800, 900, a million dollars, but you’ll get a great return on it. In Montepulciano, the prices were a lot less, but we still book a lot and we get a very good price because there’s not an incredible number of rentals available for, nice ones, for rentals. So you get a good return on the nightly rent. You’re rented out maybe 300 days a year, 280, 290. We really just die off in January and February after the day of Epiphany or I think, it’s also called King’s Day. I’m not super religious, but I think after King’s Day until the beginning of March, it gets pretty slow. Now that being said, we already have bookings in the end of January and in February for next year, we have bookings…


Kathy: I’m coming. You’re like, “You should come. But I’m pretty booked!” But that amazes me to have, and I believe it. This is what I do for a living. Everyone’s going to Italy all the time. So you have the 10 months a year, and then I think I’ve had amazing trips to Italy. In fact, the sun is coming out here. We filmed in Modena last February. We had five straight days of sunshine. You never know. I’ve had a great month in January in Florence. So you have people who may also be coming in January or February, but this is interesting what you look for and you decided I’m going to move over. You decided to go high-end? 

Brad: Yes. 

Kathy: Why? Because there wasn’t a lot in the market or it’s a high-end place. 


Brad: Yeah. Well, the first one we bought bought high-end because you never know if you might end up just living in it. I mean, we don’t have a track record doing this. So the one that we first bought was over 2000 square feet, three bedroom, four bath with a huge terrace ground level, which is as you get older is awesome. And so we bought that one first. And I didn’t want to just be in a cheapy turn and burn, we really took our time and renovated our apartments and put in high-end antiques, 200, 300-year-old mirrors and chandeliers. And that was the market we wanted to go after because I feel it’s going to be, always be a strong market just from a business standpoint. 

Kathy: It will. And what did you think of the pricing when you were looking? Was it negotiable? Did you feel the need to negotiate or how is that different, that initial process than in America?

Brad: When you have a good agent, you’re going to find pocket listings. It really is the country of, I know a guy that knows a guy. It really is.

Kathy: I know it. Even in everything I do, it’s like, who do I know? Who knows? Yeah. 

Brad: So my agent, knew people that were selling their units, they weren’t online. They weren’t on the different listing websites and they weren’t with other agencies. So I didn’t feel that I needed to… I also felt that they were priced right. I think that’s very important. How do you know they’re priced right? You got to look at a lot of stuff. But I felt that they were priced right. So in all the things that I bought, and we closed four deeds, four different properties, I came in a little under on one ’em because it did not have a kitchen, but it had been pretty much remodeled. And the remodel costs were pretty much already figured into it. So I wanted some money to buy the kitchen that wasn’t there. But everything else, I paid full price. And we got lucky because in 2021, the Euro came down. 

Kathy: I remember.

Brad: When it came down, Americans started snapping things up because everything was suddenly 15% off, 20% off. And we got lucky in that it was coming down. We booked our prices, we made our offers, and then the euro came down in our favor. So it worked out great because the prices didn’t have a chance to go up because everyone was starting to buy. Things we’re selling, and therefore supply and demand prices started to go up. 


Kathy: I know many people who bought in 2021, it was, or 2022, including, we have a new season coming out. One of the episodes is Americans who were buying in Abruzzo and they all bought around then. And for them it was like Covid that pushed them to make a change in their life. But the big question is finding the real estate agent. How did you find yours? Can you give us a name and can you give us some tips? 

Brad: Sure. So in Montepulciano, I used my agent Marta Piccinetti. So Marta was great. She worked for an agency that I had contacted, had a listing that I didn’t end up buying. And then she’s an independent agent, but she works with different agencies and they had her showing this property. We hit it off great. And her husband’s a local architect in that town. He’s on the board at the University of Florence for architecture. He’s a big hitter and he’s a great guy to have in your pocket. You need good geometras and architects and lawyers and accountants. So it just worked out. And she had this listing for this beautiful apartment and we ended up grabbing it and then another and another and another.


Kathy: Incredible. And how does it, you were telling me one day the MLS, and I know this, it’s not, again, it’s who you know because there’s no MLS system and you can see all these places on different sites, same places on different sites. It’s a more of a free for all. 

Brad: It is a free for all, it’s really the wild west here because people will, an agent will see something online. An unscrupulous agent will see something online, cut and paste the photos and make their own listing as an advertisement of that property. And if someone happens to call them about it, then they’ll reach out and try to find the owners and get the keys because they don’t have lock boxes here. That’s just not a thing here. So I can’t call my agent Kathy and say, Hey, I saw this house over in the hollows. Let’s go over there and take a look and you pop the box, get the key out, show me and we’re done. You got to find out where’s the owner at? Are they on vacation? I need to get the keys. They don’t have the key. It’s a lot more, it’s different. Let’s just say it’s different. It’s very different. Yeah. Frustrating. 

Kathy: Yes. And I think that’s, even people, we’ve done some workshops on real estate and visas and everything, and it’s all making good recommendations of lawyers and real estate agents. And I know something you’re doing now with Brad’s World is you’ve got real estate agents contacting you. Go, tell me about that. You go and look at places and so you’re kind of developing a list of agents too. 

Brad: Yeah, I have a list. I have four agents that I work with in Tuscany and all the way down through Rome. And everybody speaks English very well, which I think is important because it is just too complicated here to try to do it yourself in a foreign language. It just really is. There’s excellent agents here that don’t speak English and maybe they speak French or maybe they speak Spanish. I mean, I have viewers all over. But for me and most of my viewers, it’s important. I think that they speak English and that they’re good and they have a good team. And I think I’ve cultivated some good agents with that and also need properties that have properties that have great value to ’em. They may not be cheap, but they have great value. 


Kathy: So what do you look for when you say great value? What are those things that stand out for you? 

Brad: A lot of house for the money. I just did one that was 149,000 euros south of Rome, a town, hilltop town called Rieti

Kathy: I saw that one video. 

Brad: Wasn’t that amazing! It was an amazing place for 149. And it had a cantina and a big terrace, and it had a big deck below. And I mean, it was just phenomenal. That’s the best example. I mean, that’s what I look for, something like that. If I had said that was 250, he’d be like, that’s amazing. It’s only 250. So at 150 it’s really amazing. So a lot of house for the money is what I look for. I mean, the place I taped today was 6,000 square feet and all full of Murano glass and all these other things. And yet it’s the price of a one-bedroom condo in Denver. 

Kathy: You’re telling me! America’s gotten expensive, and that is one of the big draws to move to Italy to buy property in Italy. And I know that you probably ended up paying cash for your places because it’s hard to get a mortgage. Is that basically what you found or hard for Americans? 

Brad: Yes. If you’re non-EU, if you’re not in the EU, it’s very hard to get a mortgage here. The only way that I found was through one bank that if you moved a stock fund, bond type cash account into their bank, and it was a big bank, I can’t remember the name, but it was a big national bank, they would loan against your own money, which it’s like a Schwab or T Ameritrade, whatever account where you can borrow against your funds. But that’s the only way, because they can’t check. They don’t know Brad Allen from the hole in the wall. My FICO score, no matter how high it is…

Kathy: They don’t care. 

Brad: So I know there’s loan agents, brokers out there that are advertising, they can get American loans here. If anybody out there listening has found a way to get a loan here, please reach out to me because I haven’t heard about it. The people that are watching my channel, not one person’s ever written me, and I say this all the time, just let me know if you know a person that can do it because I got a billion dollars worth of business they could have. 

Kathy: Sure, sure. But the thing is the prices are so low. I think you had a 50,000 euro place on the channel. 

Brad: Yes. Yeah.

Kathy: So it’s doable if you’ve saved something, these are doable for many, many people. 

Brad: Many people. And it doesn’t have to be in Calabria. It doesn’t have to be in the hinterlands of Sicily.

Kathy: That’s what I’m curious about. This place was in Tuscany. 

Brad: The, what’s that? 

Kathy: This 50,000, 49,000 euro place that you showed us was in Tuscany? 


Brad: Yes, that’s right. And actually a friend of mine just bought a house for 47,000 just outside of Montepulciano, I mean less than 15 minutes in an old town. And it is 700 square feet. It has an olive grove that is deeded to it on the back and a yard. And he has a cantina and he paid 47,000 for it. And he needs to do some new flooring, but it’s not a total train wreck. The problem is when people get into having to run new piping, all new electrical, new wastewater pipes, breaking up floors if it has a floor. And I don’t think people realize all that’s involved in doing renovation. The properties are cheap, but renovation work isn’t as cheap here as the difference between the price of property here versus say in the US. Your plumber. Just case in point, I just finally got an electric bill from my electrician for 7,400 euros for renovation in one of the apartments. So I mean, it’s not cheap. They’re not 10 bucks an hour. 


Kathy: No, no. And I wonder if they’re in demand as much as they are here. And so would you recommend the person renovate or not renovate or how to base that decision? 

Brad: Say it again? 

Kathy: Would you recommend the average person take on renovations in Italy or to try to get a finished place? 

Brad: Okay. Yeah. So there’s a lot of good DIY stores here. There’s Leroy Merlin, there’s OBI, and they sell pretty much everything you’re going to need. I would be cautious about trying to do electrical because it’s a different system here. Even like the light fixtures had different connectors and things, but basic DIY stuff, like maybe laying tile, painting, putting in cabinets, those types of things. If you’re comfortable doing the us, you should be comfortable or wherever you are, you should be comfortable doing it. Here it is all the same and the stores are very complete. 

Kathy: Sure, sure, sure. So the interesting thing is, one of my favorite videos, one of the ones I was so jealous of is the place that you live in now that you actually rent. Right? Tell me about that. Tell me about renting. 

Brad: Yeah, Mr. Buy-a-Place in Italy, rents. So we bought all these apartments. We haven’t sold our house yet in the US, and we found numerous places we liked, but everything because we check ’em out good. Everything had issues we weren’t comfortable dealing with. And we do have a couple up our sleeve right now, but we haven’t pulled the trigger on it. And we make so much renting our apartments here, we didn’t want to stay in them because if you can rent a nice house like we did for 700 euros a month, why stay in your apartments? 

Kathy: I can’t get over that.

Brad: Why stay? 

Kathy: You’re making almost a night, you’re making that a night on your places at least. 

Brad: Exactly. Yeah. 

Kathy: Seven hundred euros a month. And tell me about it. 


Brad: Sure. So it’s on 50 acres, 20 hectares of noble grapes, which is the high-end grapes in Montepulciano. We’re only about five kilometers, five six minutes from the city center. We have 2000 olive trees. It’s a three bedroom, two bath. And my agent, my great agent, Marta there, her sister’s husband’s father… In other words, she knows the guy that knows, she knows a girl that knows the guy that knows the guy 

Kathy: It’s how it works!

Brad: He owns this farm that had three casale, that’s a country home, a small country house, and it had three on the property. One had been completely renovated, and we went out there and we liked him, he liked us, and so he didn’t want to mess with trying to weekly rent it anymore. So we just took it. It was fully furnished too, by the way, at that price just to be even more incredible. And I’ve tried to fix it up some. I trimmed a hundred olive trees in my driveway, and so my boys could run around and I could watch ’em. And you know what I saw since I last talked to you? I saw a badger that was about this big running through the grapevines out in front of us when we were walking. So I mean, it’s full of wildlife. Wild boar. 


Kathy: And tell me about your boys are your dogs. And we have this in common. We just adore our dogs. Tell me about them and how did they like Italy? 

Brad: They love it. I sent you some photos. You’ll see they smile and you can actually tell that dog smiles!

Kathy: My late dog, I have a picture of him and he’s like, I’ve never seen this expression. Like damn. 

Brad: So I got big bernadoodles. They’re freakishly large, a hundred pounds and 80 pounds, and they’re great boys. They’re brothers from the same litter. And they were, even when they came out of mom, they were always together. And so we got ’em both. Yeah. So we got ’em both.

Kathy: And what are their names? 

Brad: Charlie and Kona. 

Kathy: Okay. Charlie and Kona. 

Brad: King Kona, he’s the big one. And then Prince Charles, he’s the really sweet…It’s like a boy band. 


Kathy: Tuscan royalty! And so they have, wow, that’s incredible. What a life that you have created. And maybe we can talk a little bit about renting because I always think people, even myself, I probably just go and rent, but I always am talking about it like I’m going to go buy and it’s not the easiest thing. Not that you can’t resell, but it’s not as mobile movement of selling places in Italy and you want to try a place out. But the interesting thing I think we talked about last time we chatted is not a lot of real estate agents want to help you find a rental. 

Brad: That’s correct. I think part of the problem is the price. I think if you went to a real estate agent here and said, look, I’ll pay you 2,500 euros, if you’ll help me find a rental, they would be into it. Because I don’t think people realize how little people here actually make, I mean a good salary in Italy is around 1800 euros a month. A month. So if you were to offer someone, it may be an outsized portion compared to what the cost of the rent is. It doesn’t matter. Figure it in for the whole time and it might be 5% and pay someone to bird-dog it for you. I think that’s a good option. You will find listings on idealista.it. Just for example, they have a rental. You can find rentals from five, six, $700 a month. But if you’re not here, I think you need someone to help you close it down, so to speak, to make the introduction. And I think that might be a good way, find an agent and just offer ’em a cash bonus if they can get you a rental. Maybe it’s only a thousand Euros, whatever it is… But if you’re renting something for a year and it’s 500 euros, that’s 6,000 a year. What’s another thousand? It’s still only…

Kathy: It’s like one trip. It’s what you might pay for one trip and great hotels, you have a place for a year. And I think it’s also who you know, right? To find the rentals, you kind of have to be there. 


Brad: And I think another good idea is pick a slower month, January, February, March, maybe November especially unless you’re up in the Alps, it never gets that cold here. I mean it can snow a lot, but it doesn’t get super cold and come and enjoy the quiet months. Then you can go on Airbnb. I’ve seen stuff at a 75% discount on Airbnb when you’re renting for a whole month or 60 days. And then take those 60 days. You won’t even have to have your visa. You can stay that long. Take those 60 days to find your rental, walk around towns and find For Rent signs, use Google Translate if you don’t speak Italian and talk to people, usually someone around that talks English or whatever your language is. Well mainly English. So you can have people help you, make a good friend that does speak English here and have ’em help you and buy ’em a nice dinner when they help you find a place.

Kathy: Yeah, go to the cafe or the bar every morning in a few days you’ll have your people, you, your little community. And I always say a lot of the advice when we do talking about expats is: live there, go there for a few months, see if you like it. If you’re there in the winter, you’re there in the worst time. I don’t think it is. I think it’s the best time, but you’ll know what it’s like when there’s not a festa every night in the summer and all kinds of things to do if you’re going to live there year-round, you’ll sort of have a sense of, okay, here’s what it’s like in the summer, here’s what it’s like in the winter. So I wanted to ask you, everything’s gone well, I can’t say everything has gone up in Italy in the way it has in the us. I was back and forth a lot this year and I still think food is still way cheaper in the US and things like that. But how are utilities for, so you have all these rentals, do they all have air conditioning and what’s that like? 


Brad: Yeah, so I can say that the last month that I had for was in August and for our biggest apartment, which has four AC units in it, and for another apartment that has two, so that’s six what we call split systems. So that’s the ones, the long white ones that are on the wall, ubiquitous here, they’re everywhere. And then you have the heat transfer outside. And we were pretty fully booked, I’d say at least at 75% those months. That month in August, the electric bill was 342 combined for the two apartments. 

Kathy: Not bad. Not bad. It’s not bad. And for people buying who intend to rent it out, I think air conditioning is essential. It would be great. And then is it pretty easy to put in or not really? 

Brad: It is. When you’re in the historic or the centro storico or the historic center of towns, you have to be very careful where you put your heat exchanger, the big fan box that goes outside. If you walk all the way through Montepulciano, you won’t see one in the whole town because they’re all hidden away on of all the streets. So you need to get it approved, but they’re not hard to put in. Usually it just involves punching a hole through the wall to run the cables and the power and getting it wired up. It’s not a difficult thing. Less than 2000 installed. And it is, I hate to say it, these are our palace apartments have walls that are 18 inches thick inside. And I’ve had people comment on my YouTube channel, well, you don’t need air conditioning. The walls are so thick, it cools down at night. It was getting up to 42, 43 degrees, that’s a hundred and five… 

Kathy: It’s been hot. 

Brad: You just can’t…

Kathy: It’s gotten hotter…

Brad: All my Italian friends are putting in have already put in their homes. They’ve never had to have it before. 

Kathy: I know, I know. Those 18-inch thick walls, is your wifi in there or how does that work? 

Brad: We use what’s called a mesh system in the bigger apartment. So it’ll divide up the signals without degrading it. A lot of those cheapy things you can buy on Amazon, they’re like 20 bucks and you plug one here and you plug one there. Those will cut each time, cut the signal in half. But a mesh system keeps the full strength and that’s what we use and it works perfect. We don’t have any issues with wifi except today here because we had a horrific storm here in Lucca and that’s why I’m sitting in my agent’s office here doing this. 


Kathy: I like the art though. Beautiful. Yeah. And do you have sort of a formula of when people are looking for a rental property rent out how much they should be making back, how long it should take ’em? Or are there any magic numbers or ratios or things that you found? 

Brad: I think it should be something like a low-risk investment because while real estate here isn’t maybe as liquid as your penthouse apartment in Miami, it does hold its value. If you buy, right, if you buy in the right place, it’s going to hold its value. So I think if you can get a good return, like a six, seven, 8% return, you’ll be able to do that with a good rental after all expenses. And that means every eight years you should recoup the full purchase price of your apartment. I think that that’s a good goal to have. Now if you want to start using it, like our friends that just, I mentioned Bob and Heidi, they met up with my agent, Marta, I introduced them and they bought this villa and they’re going to use it sometimes and when they’re not using it, they’ll be able to rent it for $4,000 a week. And the question is, how many of those weeks, of those 20, 22 weeks a year between beginning of May and the end of October, do they want to take or can they just bring a sweater and come in October and make all the money? So it depends. But I think 6, 7, 8 years to recoup your purchase price would be a good goal. It also depends. I don’t want to work on a daily basis. I love what I’m doing on YouTube. I enjoy helping people. I actually want to be the guy that knows the guy.

Kathy: Already are. You already are. Complimenti.

Brad: This will be my dream job and I’m super happy that people really appreciate it. 

Kathy: Well you know what you’re doing. It’s so similar… My job. You’re just connecting people to joy. You’re bringing joy, you’re bringing dreams happen. And there is such a huge satisfaction in that in helping someone complete that. 

Brad: The emails I get are so gratifying.

Kathy: Yeah, you’re so generous.

Brad: I’m sure you get emails every day. 

Kathy: I do, I do. And you’re very generous and every time I’ve emailed you and I see the generosity of your information, and a lot of people have fear in this world, so do I, but it’s evaluating what really is scary, what is not, like how we started this conversation. 


Brad: I tell people, maybe you decide that it’s not right for you. It’s not something that can’t be undone if you decide you didn’t like living here, especially if you buy a property that’s rentable. Okay, so now you have a good investment. You can come see it once in a while, but you don’t have to live here all the time. Or maybe you’ll live here half the time and buy an inexpensive place in Spain or Slovakia or Croatia.

Kathy: There’s a lot of combinations. And I know people who lived there maybe 10 years, and then when they got much, much older went back to the US. It is not a life decision forever. You can play with that. I’m trying to think of what else. I would love to, I could talk to you all day. What have you learned? What are some big little things you’ve learned? What has surprised you both about your new life and the YouTube channel? 


Brad: As far as the life here goes, what I am really surprised at is the incredible difference in the cost of living here versus the US. If you think that house prices here are that much lower than what you…and they are, they’re incredibly, incredibly lower here. Wait till you see medical care.

Kathy: Oh yes.

Brad: Yes. You’ll need a doctor!

Kathy: I know you’ll have a heart attack for everything you’ve ever paid!

Brad: It’s unbelievable. I mean, you go to the dentist, it’s $50 for a cleaning, and I had to have a crown popped. I had to have the crown put in and they cleaned my teeth at the same time- it was 50 bucks. And we had a CT scan, we had to get some imaging done here, $200 for two CT scans with one with contrast, and an MD consult. That was with the MD consult. And everything was fine, by the way. So these are the things that really surprised me. I think our cost of living here will be much less than half of what it was in the US because you don’t have property tax here. I mean, they have it, but it’s not like property tax in the us. 


Kathy: So what do you pay on, say your bigger apartment? 

Brad: Our biggest apartment is valued at about 800,000 euros. That’s the really big opulent one. Our property tax is right around one thousand euros a year. My house in Texas is $2,000 a month. It’s a tax, it’s an income tax. Texas has no income tax. Texas has a huge income tax. They call it property tax. And then the healthcare tax, if you’re, you’re self-employed, you know what it’s like trying to find an insurance policy. You pay thousands a month for a couple and then you have to chip in when you go see the doctor. 

Kathy: No, everything costs something. I mean, I have the policy, but it’s literally my emergency. I pay for everything. And I know you have the dogs. When I had my dog and brought him to Italy, the thing I really almost fainted because I spent, I loved this dog to the ends of the earth. He had the best vet care in America. I spent tens of thousands of dollars and he went to one vet in Italy, had everything done, the antibiotics, the x-ray, the sonogram, the consult, brilliant veterinarians, I don’t know everything under the sun. It was less than $200 and it would’ve been thousands here. 


Brad: And they want you to be healthy here. My wife Olivia, won’t mind me telling this story. She’s a survivor, she’s a cancer survivor. And when they found that out, when she was going through this imaging recently, which everything was fine, they said, as soon as you have your permanent health card, we’re putting you in a program. And every six months we’ll do a screening just to make sure everything’s still great. Blood work, occasional imaging. And you’ll be in that for as long as you’re here, as long as you want to be in it. 

Kathy: Wow. Yeah. 

Brad: The way it should be. 

Kathy: It’s the way it should be. 

Brad: An ounce of prevention. So that’s the stuff that surprised me about living here and getting here and how much more relaxed I am. The thing that surprised me about Brad’s World is how much I enjoy getting those emails and texts and comments that I get. It’s really satisfying. I mean, I spent a lifetime making money, but getting those emails is really special. 

Kathy: I understand that. And it’s also, you’ve created this community and I think again, you’re helping people. One of the reasons I wanted to interview you was just, here’s a new way to think about moving to Italy because lots of people do have some experience with owning maybe a second home, have done a little bit of this before or may have the money to buy a second place when they move, or even renting out that initial place. And I think it was just an idea. I’ve talked to people that started tour companies or create art or what’s your dream and how do you fund it? And I think that this concept that you have is a great one. And interestingly, I believe from one of your videos, I know all your places are within what 200 meters?


Brad: They are. Because when I had my sofa company, which we still have, but I don’t work there actively. I had stores in San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, Irvine, Dallas, Houston, Austin. I will never do that again. When I had apartment buildings there were Kansas City, Oklahoma City, southern Oklahoma. It is too hard. I wanted everything within two minutes walking. And it’s a place where you can do that in Montepulciano. So I say keep it tight because even though I’m in Lucca now only two hours from our house in Southern Tuscany. When you have to get here, two hours is a long time. 

Kathy: So that’s a good tip. And my last question, I could talk to you forever, but I know people can also watch the YouTube and maybe we’ll do a follow-up. I definitely want to meet when I come to Tuscany next and I’m not renting or buying a place without talking to you! So yeah, you’re in Montepulciano, definitely a tourist haven. And I’m curious what other places, and they’re on your YouTube channel, what other places do you think people should consider buying or good places to live, good places to rent, areas of Italy, towns you like? 

Brad: So I’m in Lucca tonight, a friend of mine, my longest surviving friend, 40 years we’ve been friends. She’s in town, she’s retired and she wanted to see where we live now, come and visit. But I wanted her to see Lucca because Lucca’s great, because Lucca’s flat. Lucca has everything and it’s busy and it’s near the sea. There’s beautiful old places.

Kathy: I’ve thought about moving to Lucca. It’s on my list. Yeah. 

Brad: Lucca, you’re familiar with Treviso just north of Venice? Beautiful town. Verona, I think is great. Smaller town.

Kathy: Verona. I have friends who live there and a cousin who lives there. Verona is a beautiful place to live.

Brad: And I like, I’m doing a lot of videos in Frosinone and Latina and especially Frosinone– it’s different. It’s so economical. I just did a house there last week, did the video, matter of fact, it’s posting tomorrow. It’s great. Six bedroom, four bath house on a full acre that’s totally groomed, newer build. It’s not an ancient house. Gate, six cars, parking room for a pool, $350,000. It’s magnificent. Two story. It’s almost as if you were in anywhere USA. That’s how the house kind of is, except it’s all concrete and stone. It’s not made out of particle board and sheetrock. So it’s a beautiful house. So I like that area. It’s so vibrant. Even the hilltop towns, they can be quiet, but the base down in the valley has everything you need. And you can easily find a house to buy for 60, 70, 80,000, a nice apartment finished, no work to do in that area. And you’re an hour and 20 minutes from Rome, or Naples. 

Kathy: People should be thinking about other areas. I did want to ask you, you mentioned a new build. So one of my challenges is I’m severely, I mean severely allergic to mold. So I can’t buy 300 year-old… even though you’re not seeing it on the walls, it’s just a dampness. Have you seen many new builds or are they out there or newer builds? 

Brad: They’re out there. There seems to be more interest in the older, classic two and 300-year-old places. And I won’t be able to remember the name of the law off the top of my head. In Italian, there’s a law here, just for example, around where I live, you cannot buy a piece of property and build a house. 

Kathy: No, I know, I know. But there’s, I’ve seen, I stayed in a hotel, Borgo 69 in Tuscany. And it was the old Tabaccheria and they kind of gutted it and redid it. And so it felt like a new build, newish build. So that’s all you could do. Kind of what I’d be looking for or a little bit why I’m a little gun-shy. And that’s the beauty, especially of Tuscany. It’s not overbuilt because you can’t build it. So the rentals that you have, I know you have a website if you could share that, people want to go direct to you. 


Brad: So if you go to tuscanpalace.com, you can see photos of all the places we’ve done. You can book direct. If you mention Brad’s World, you get a 10% discount. A little something. And we’re also available on booking.com and Airbnb. But if you want to see ’em, we have recommendations for the town. There’s so many great restaurants, which is another… people are afraid sometimes of being in a touristy town. But I tell you one “benny,” benefit to it is that you have 50 great restaurants, not just 50 restaurants, 50 great restaurants, wineries, wine shops, everything that you would need. 

Kathy: And I found that to be true. I spent a lot of time in Cortona, which there’s a lot of tourism. All the restaurants are incredible. So it’s not necessarily true. I think if someone thinks about one mediocre meal they maybe had in Venice, but some of these smaller Tuscan towns, even though they’re touristy, they’re just all the food is really, really good. And you have a lot of things to do. There’s concerts, there’s activities, there’s life…

Brad: And the nature. It’s so clean because just imagine Italy is so skinny and the wind is usually coming from the west. You have the whole Mediterranean sea cleaning the air, it comes in. There’s no heavy industry left, especially where we are in Southern Tuscany. And so the air is clean. I hike between towns, I’ll hike nine miles, 10 miles on what we call whitetop gravel roads through, I mean, it’s like a dream. It really is. I couldn’t be happier.

Kathy: I know, I know. I was in the Val d’Orcia this summer. I stayed in this hotel that was a little off. I have never, and I also live in Colorado, Denver. The air is not good. But it was the trees, the particular trees, it was like the best air I had been breathing in so long. And I think the water, the minerals, the air, these are all… the salt air when there’s so much coastline too. A lot of the reasons that people feel good. 

Brad: And I’ve already been able to get rid of one of my pills that I was taking in the US. I’m no spring chicken.

Kathy: Good for you.

Brad: Been able to starting to cut stuff down. You eat healthier. There’s everything. You don’t have to search out organic because pretty much everything’s organic. And the taste of the tomatoes. 

Kathy: The tomatoes! That’s a religious experience. And I’m from New Jersey and we have good tomatoes, but nothing like the Italian tomatoes. That’s the first thing I run for when I get to Italy. Well Brad, it has been such a pleasure to have you on. I know we’re going to keep in touch. Keep up the good work. Thank you. I’ll come and we’ll do a joint video. It’d be fun. Maybe we can look for a house for me!

Brad: Absolutely. I’d be happy to. And when you come to Montepulciano, you know a guy that knows everybody, so…

Kathy: That is the thing. Alright. Thanks Brad. 

Brad: Okay, ciao. A presto!

Kathy: Bye!

For more information about this podcast episode, show notes and a discount on brad’s rentals, visit dreamofitaly.com/14

If you want to read more about Brad’s life in Italy and business, get the October/November 2023 issue of Dream of Italy where Brad is featured!