Embrace the ebb and flow of a waterfront property in Venice


With its dreamy waterfront property and uncharacteristically long rental season, Venice hits the spot as an aspirational destination for wealthy buyers. So, is now a good time to snap up a Palazzo, asks Stephen Penn?

To build a city where it’s impossible to build a city is madness in itself - but to build there one of the most elegant and grandest of cities is the madness of genius.”

These immortal words from famed writer and thinker Alexander Herzen, can only be about one place – Venice. Nowhere else quite captures the sense of history, music and unparalleled beauty like this floating city of wonder.

Now, with the La Biennale di Venezia Expo running from May to November and a much-anticipated focus on new architecture, all eyes will soon be on the remodeling masterplans of certain districts, not to mention the expectant lift in property values and yield potential going forward.

In days gone by, Venice was all about pomp and circumstance – a gilded haven for wealthy merchants and traders thanks to the production of luxury materials including lace and glass on the nearby island settlements of Burano and Murano. Oversized palazzos decorated the Grand Canal, announcing their “see and be seen” status, and business was conducted on an indulgent scale.

Today, much of the island materials trade has dwindled away, but the statement residences remain, now enjoying a new lease of life as private homes and high-culture event spaces for acquisitive overseas buyers. As property values go, Italy’s most expensive real estate can be found in the city’s central watercourse neighbourhoods, with an average price of around €4,400 per square metre.

Now, however, increasing numbers of historic homes are coming onto the market, as Italians, still recovering from the 2008 – 14 economic downturn, put sentiment aside and sell off their bricks and mortar heirlooms.

“In the past, Venice was all about appearances,” explains Ann-Marie Doyle, director of Venice Sothebys International Realty and Venice Prestige. “What better way to boast about your wealth than to show it off with a statement home to tell the world how well you have done.”

To some extent, it’s a way of life that still holds store today, albeit with the present day challenges of property renovation.

Today, every step of the restoration process of any building is under the watchful planning eye of the UNESCO World Heritage Organisation. For one company however, such challenges invariably create magical makeover outcomes.

“The heritage authority is heavily involved with all renovation projects as city buildings are listed,” explains builder Giovanni Alfier. “Rules need to be adhered to, but this can make for an interesting process – finding creative solutions to century-old build problems, aspects arising you would never foresee. By the end – you’ve learnt a huge amount about the fabric of the building you are working on.”

It’s a mindset shared by architect Allessandro Golfetto, who is leading the charge in the restoration of a large Palazzo on the Grand Canal. Despite the painstaking planning process and difficulties transporting materials via boat, the project schedule so far, he explains, has been “surprisingly smooth.”

“The heritage authority ensure that all building work is very controlled from day one” he explains “As a result – when it actually comes to the construction stage – it’s invariably smooth, well most of the time at least.”

Properties within the city limits currently being brought back to their former glory, include The Imperiale Palazzo, originally built in the 1600s by the Grimani family. A home left dilapidated for many years, renowned London-based architect, John Simpson - best known for the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace – has undertaken the painstaking work of restoring the spectacular frescoes and stucco.

The property is available for rent through Venice Prestige. For those seeking a home to purchase with a modern twist, the 15th Century Palazzo Molin del Cuoridoro, located in San Marco has been restored to a high-style finish, converted into 17 contemporary apartments – with only 4 remaining for sale through Venice Sothebys Realty.

Yet, despite the growing number of renovations underway across the city – buyers rarely ‘flip’ properties for a quick return. Explains Ann-Marie: “The process of buying and the complexities of restoration mean there are too many hoops to jump through, which means a committed long-game investor audience.” As to the future – with several exciting projects set to hit the market in the coming months, it seems now is the time to invest.

Ann-Marie continues: “Investors who buy in Venice feel a connection to its history, culture and heritage. There’s a passion in every single building – and long may it continue.”

For property sales inquiries with discretion guaranteed, contact Venice Sothebys by going to www. venicesothebysrealty.com.

For rentals, contact Venice Prestige at www.veniceprestige.com.


  • Agents charge the buyer and seller 3% each. Buyers must also pay a registration tax on the cadastal value.
  • Outside space is a must, whether that be a courtyard or an altene – a wooden roof terrace. The weather in Venice is delightful during the spring and summer months.
  • Access to a private water gate can increase a property’s value exponentially. As most travel in Venice is done by boat, close access to a waterway is desired, and your own personal access offers a sense of ease and elegance.
  • The floating city is famous for doing exactly that. Views of the water (on multiple sides) easily take a home to the next price level.
  • Ground floor properties run the risk of flooding – a new flood barrier is expected to be opened by 2020.

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