Chat with David and Gary: From the UK to Marche
I greatly enjoyed my Chat with David and Gary of D&G Design. These two interior design, restoration, and travel experts shared many words of wisdom. Like them, we, at Live in Italy Magazine, can’t offer real estate advice (or 1 Euro Home buying tips). We greatly encourage you to ask the experts and work with them. David and Gary have built their dream home in le Marche. After seeing the home’s potential, they took a leap of faith and decided to move to Italy permanently.
If you are interested in knowing their experiences of buying a house in Italy and restoring a property, don’t miss reading (and soon watching our interview). Let us know what you think about their advice by commenting on our YouTube video once it’s published or below this article. We’d love to hear about your experience too!
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(1:15) Where are you both from?
David: I’m from Bath, but also from Puglia in Italy.
Gary: I’m from a town called Bristol, just near Bath in the UK, in England, and I don’t have any Italian blood in me. I’m English, but I think I must have been Italian in a previous life.
David: My parents are from Puglia. They decided to move to the UK, and I was born there, but then they moved back to Puglia. I grew up there until I was about sixteen.
(2:50) What were you doing (professionally) in the UK before moving to Italy?
David: I am a historical building restorer. My work includes restoration and conservation of historical buildings, monuments, castles, churches all throughout the UK.
(3:35) Are there strict guidelines when restoring a historical building?
Yes, especially when you’re working with historical buildings. Every council and government has its regulations.
(4:00) Were you always in design too Gary?
Yes. I’ve been an interior designer for almost ten years, but I was also working in the travel industry. I have always worked abroad in different countries. Sometimes I was tour leading and guiding. In Italy, I am able to combine both of my passions: design and being in a new country with a different culture.
(5:00) How did you meet?
David: We met in Bath ten years ago. It was a beautiful sunny day which was unusual for May.
(5:30) Had you not worked professionally together before?
Gary: Yes, we never worked together until we came here.
David: I did work here before after contacting a company in le Marche and was asked to join the team. I worked on a medieval floor in a church which was amazing. So, we decided to come here.
Gary: Even though you’re from Puglia, you didn’t know this region.
David: The only place I knew was Ancona which is the big port and used to be the big capital.
(6:40) What was your first impression of le Marche?
It was wow! It was so undiscovered. We were like “wow” it’s got everything that Tuscany has, but also a stunning coastline. It’s a little jewel with beaches and medieval hilltop towns. It’s very authentic and, like Tuscany, without the tourists.
(8:10) What initiated the idea to leave behind what you had and move to Italy?
David: It was when we found our house. On the weekends we found that the best way was to explore the region was to drive around by car. That’s when we came across our town and the house that we would eventually buy.
Gary: It was similar to Tuscany, but more affordable. Much less expensive. You get more for your money here.
(9:50) Tell us more about D&G Design and bringing it to Italy.
Gary: It was when we were restoring our house. This is a region where you don’t hear English spoken a lot. All of the people that we used like the lawyer, engineer and all the builders didn’t speak English. I thought about how I would do this as a non-Italian and without David. There’s also a lot of red tape. This is when we started thinking that we could help other people.
(11:26) Tell us about your blog and tours.
Gary: Sometimes I get behind because you have to be visible. It’s good because it showcases what we do in a quick way. People love to look at ‘before and after’. That really speaks for itself. We do that on Instagram and Facebook as well. But also offer facts about this region. We want to tell people why you should buy a house here. That has to come across on our website and paint a picture of what life is like in le Marche.
(14:10) Tell us about your “Move to Italy Retreat”
Gary: One of the ideas that we had when we started D&G Design we realized that there was a lot of things to know, and people needed to see the region. We wanted to offer a program that people could come for a few days and get all of the information they needed. Most importantly was to make the right contacts, so when they go back home they can ask an English-speaking lawyer. It’s so important to have the face-to-face meeting.
When you buy a house it’s very emotive. Doing it abroad is more stressful than buying one in your own neighborhood. So, we thought that we’d put together the “Move to Italy Retreat” and line up all of the experts to meet anyone who is interested. We also introduce them to local food and wine. We really love hosting these events and our customers get a lot from them as well.
(16:30) When booking your experience, is the client responsible for their own accommodation?
Gary: No, they stay with us. The whole thing is taken care of. They have to fly here and book a car because it’s hard to get around here without one. Apart from that everything is provided. We stay in a 17th century restored agriturismo — a farmhouse. It has five bedrooms (so a small group), ten people. We eat and drink together.
(Gary then speaks about the agriturismo and Chef Paolo, the owner about locally sourced food, and more.)
We then go out on a minibus and look at houses, according to everyone’s budgets. In the evening, we have four courses and wine. There’s usually a speaker in the evening like expats who talk about their own renovations. They tell the good and bad about moving to Italy from another country.
We love meeting the guests at the start of their journey.
(22:00) Do you recommend working with a realtor?
Gary: I would always recommend that.
David: One of the main jobs is all of the checks on the property. Has it been built legally or habitable? The history of the property can be found out before it’s even listed.
Gary: That’s why we have them at the retreat. We know that if it’s on their website, it’s legitimate.
Note: The real estate agent in Italy represents both the buyer and seller.
(23:27) What are your top tips for buying a house in Italy?
Gary: I would say first of all, if you find a region or home that you like the look of, experience the area in each of the four seasons. Winters can be cold. You need to see how life is and how populated the town is and there is enough for you to enjoy all year.
Hire an real estate agent. Come to our retreats of course!
(25:15) How do you find a real estate agency?
Gary: That’s the thing because there are so many online. It’s hard without word of mouth. Online is a different ballgame. There are a lot of [social media] groups. People ask for recommendations, but you don’t know them. There has to be some caution. I think visiting the region is so important.
Try not to do everything online.
(29:00) What is your opinion about the investment potential of buying a property in Italy?
Gary: My personal opinion for this part of Italy, is that I would not buy a place as an investment. I think that you can’t flip a property here. I would invest in it only as a vacation rental.
(31:00) What do you think about the 1 Euro Home Project
David: I think the concept is good and for the area that these properties are located.
Gary: There are so many abandoned properties and ghost towns. There are pros and cons. We don’t have them in le Marche. Again, as long as you have the right people around you. Like the right estimates from the restorers, builders, and engineers etc. I think [with 1 Euro homes) you have about three years to restore it. You obviously need more than 1 Euro. That will cost some money because you’ll need to hire an engineer.
I think if you have the right people, it could be a good thing.
You have to see the village because it’s completely empty. It’s marketed to foreign potential buyers, so it won’t exactly be an authentic Italian village.
(34:00) Share some tips about restoring a property in Italy.
Gary: The first thing is getting a survey. You can go in with your eyes open and know what you’re going to spend (and add 20% approximately on top of the survey). They will give you an itemized list of what needs to be done to the property.
David: It’s good and clear. This is what we do. Then you can pick things that can be done in stages. At least you are aware of how much you are going to spend. That’s really important and there’s so many people who don’t do that.
Make sure that the property is actually built legally. So many people have bought properties and the checks were not done properly.
Gary: The engineer will find that out during the survey.
If you do the survey, you have bargaining power. You can then go back to the agent and seller and say things like, “this bathroom was built illegally” and there’s a fine, and then have them pay for it.
(43:00) What is your definition of an expat?
Gary: I would say that it is someone who has moved to another country.
You have to immerse yourself. In le Marche you have to because English isn’t widely spoken. If you need to go the local doctor, pharmacist, or get a haircut, you have to immerse yourself. It’s really welcoming here. People haven’t been tarnished by tourism. They get really excited when foreign people buy homes in their villages. It’s almost a compliment. They wonder why you’ve chosen their town.
David: I lived in Puglia, but I love it here. There’s a magic here.
Gary: You have to integrate and make the effort with people and in Italian. Don’t just congregate with other Brits or Americans.
(48:00) What do you miss about the UK and vice versa?
David: Maybe just chocolate. When we’re there, I miss our town here, our wonderful friends.
Gary: When I’m in England, I miss the friendliness. Brits can be friendly, but life is different. People here will say hello without knowing you.
(50:00) Generally speaking, what do you think foreigners are looking for in Italy?
Gary: I think most people that we’ve met are looking for a place to spend their retirement. They already know Italy and fell in love with it long ago. They’re looking for a simpler way of living, and authentic with friendlier people. The culture, history…
It’s a dream, but not a fantasy. I think when they finally get here, they pinch themselves.
Connect with David and Gary
All photos provided by David and Gary of D&G Design.