Interest in Milan is going beyond fashion week, as second home market booms in this ‘pocket metropolis’

Published in City A.M., Feb ’20

This week, the world’s fashionable people descend on Milan as the city hosts the third of the four international fashion weeks.

But the global crowd – and UK nationals in particular – are starting to show an interest in Italy’s second city that extends beyond the runway shows.

Once known for being dull and industrial outside of fashion week, Milan is fast becoming a favourite location for wealthy second home buyers.

According to property agent Knight Frank, Milan has overtaken Rome as the number one location for high-net-worth individuals applying for Italian visas – and the UK is one of the most common home nationalities.

So why is Milan proving so popular?

The Bosco Verticale towers at COMIA’s Porta Nuova in Milan

“It’s cosmopolitan, really it is the only international city in Italy and it has the best leisure offering,” says Lodovico Pignatti Morano, managing director at the Italian arm of Sotheby’s International Realty.

This extends beyond the luxury boutiques: Soho House and New York’s Core Club will open in Milan this year, the latter being Core’s first outside Manhattan.

Antonio Fuoco of JLL Milan describes the city as a “pocket metropolis: compact, secure and inexpensive” – and a move to Milan can be a savvy one financially.

Since 2017, non-doms in Italy have not been taxed on foreign income provided they pay an annual flat tax of €100,000, making Milan more attractive to high net worths than cities like London and Paris.

Cheap and cheerful

Property values in the city have also fallen since Italy joined the Euro in 2002. “Fifteen years ago it would have been cheaper to buy in Munich or Berlin, but now that’s not the case,” says Pignatti Morano.

This makes Milan a good bet for buyers who are in it for the lifestyle, rather than an instantly high-yielding investment.

“What drives the market is the gap between the low price of property and the high average income,” says Fuoco. “On the best streets in Monaco you might pay €20,000 per square metre, but in Milan, it’s €12,000.”

Cultural differences mean Milan will never build reams of shiny tower blocks like London, but there are several major developments under way.

Apartments within SeiMilano

These include COIMA’s Porta Nuova, home to the HQs of Google, Amazon, and Alexander McQueen as well as 400 homes, which played host to the Versace fashion week show.

Its most recognisable feature is the Bosco Verticale, two ‘vertical forest’ apartment blocks designed by Stefano Boeri Architetti which feature more than 15,000 plants on their terraces.

Greenery is also a big feature of Varde Partners and Borio Mangiarotti’s SeiMilano, an ‘inhabited park’ with shops, offices, 500 apartments and 160,000 sq m of green space.

These verdant spaces don’t fit with Milan’s industrial image, but that’s fast being shed. Now, it’s a chic, cheap and cheerful pocket metropolis.

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