Nude property sales

Doing it nude. Italians are finding "nude" property offerings an attractive way to go.

TheMoveChannel reports that elderly Italians are being forced to do something they have never considered before: sell family homes to strangers at a discount on condition they can stay until they die.

"The cash transactions are called ‘nude sales' in Italy because in most cases the owners are stripped of ownership while retaining use of the property until they die. While they account for only 5% of Italian sales, they represent one of the few boom areas as the slump deepens," says the international property website.

There were 40 000 sales in 2008 compared with 18 000 in 2000, according to Scenari Immobiliari, a Rome-based property research Institute. "With an aging and increasingly impoverished population there is a compelling economic reason." TheMoveChannel quotes Mario Breglia, head of Scenari, as saying.

"Socially also, Italians want to die, literally, in their homes, not in retirement communities."

The sales also occur in France, where they are known as "en viager." The purchaser pays a monthly charge while the owner lives in the house. When the owner dies, the property passes to the person making the payments.

Bucks naked: the French experience. The values, says TheMoveChannel, take into account longer life expectancy using a formula whereby the older the person, the closer the property is priced to market rates. That means that buyers can profit from earlier deaths or lose out if tenants cling on to life.

But "history provides a cautionary tale". The site recounts the story of French lawyer Andre-Francois Raffray was 47 when he bought 90-year-old Jeanne Calment's apartment in 1965, expecting to move in with his family within a few years. Instead, she went on to become the oldest woman in history, dying at 122 in 1997. By then, Raffray had already been dead for two years.

You pays your money, you takes your chances.

Dressing to impress. Nude may well be the way to go in your property disposals if you pay minimal tax, thanks to your army of tax planners. According to South Africa's Sunday Times, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) is turning its screws on rich tax cheats - and visiting properties on the market could be one way to identify offenders.

While estate agents and interior decorators concentrate on "dressing" your property to maximum effect for show day, be wary of revealing too much. Dave King's woes with SARs, we are told, were sparked by an Irma Stern painting in his Hyde Park home.

King allegedly stated he earned R80 000 a year but bought the painting for R1,76m at an auction. Now he is fighting a "marathon" R2,3bn claim against the tax collectors. Still, you would have thought the size and location of his homely mansion would have been a bit of a give-away for those SARS inspectors.

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