Art & Culture Business

An investor's guide to buying a castle

Words by Noah Charney

01 July 2020


To say that a man's home is his castle is normally just a figure of speech. But for some people, it is more than that. Europe is speckled with castles, many of which are in disuse, run-down and in various states of ruin. Others have been nationalised and become museums. But there is a third category: castles that are owned privately as family residences, and sometimes also combined with a museum - a brilliant way to breathe life into historical monuments that might otherwise simply fall into disrepair. For the intrepid potential homeowner, there are scores of magnificent castles on the market, and that fantasy of living like a lord is within reach.

Of course, owning such a property comes with its own set of issues, distinct from more traditional housing options. All edifices labelled as castles, palaces or manor houses are protected by cultural ministries which supervise and limit what sort of changes can be made to the exteriors and to important interior rooms. This means that what you can do with castles, particularly, how much you can renovate them to suit your modern needs and personal preferences, will depend on the understanding and flexibility of the local bureaucracy.

But the dream of living in a castle can be realised at a surprisingly reasonable price in many cases, if one considers the price of buying the property alone. Buildings labelled as castles, or otherwise palatial homes, will often have a surprisingly modest price tag, because owners will most certainly have to pour in huge amounts of money - often far more than the asking price for the building - to maintain and renovate the structures, and render them habitable.

Penny Mosgrove, CEO of Quintessentially Estates, says, “We find that many of our clients looking to purchase castle properties want to take up on an investment and make it into a hotel or family home.” Lots of castles though restricted when it comes to renovation, make fantastic venues for weddings and unique events. But Penny adds, “The key is that clients love the idea of a ‘money-can’t-buy’ property – especially if it’s to be a family home for generations to come. The legacy of owning a castle is not to be underestimated and hard to match”.

We tend to romanticise the past, but castles were machines of defence and war, and until the late Renaissance, they were anything but comfortable. New builds made to look like aged castles offered far more control, not to mention impressive living environs - in comparison to partially-ruined castles themselves. But if the roll-up-your-sleeves proposition of renovating a castle doesn’t intimidate you, then it is worth having a look at what sort of palatial properties are available on the European market scene at any given moment.

Here is a sampling, with some thoughts on their relative advantages and disadvantages.

There happened to be 71 castles and manors for sale in Italy alone when we enquired for this article. Those that are already renovated tend to be in the range of £4 - £5 million and upwards, whereas those that require renovation are generally centred around £2.5 million. Some of them offer thousands of square metres of interior space and huge swathes of land. Compare that to a small flat in central London, and the prices start to sound more than reasonable. The ‘steal’ of the bunch, if one can call it that, is a castle near Turin, with 2275 sq. m of living space, for ‘just’ €1.6 million.

Spain also has its fair share of beautiful castles available for purchase, notably the remarkable equestrian and hunting estate of Castillblanco in Sevilla that holds permits for big and small game hunting. It’s a stunning 12-bedroom, 10-bathroom semi-furnished property that could well serve as a private residence or a boutique hotel, if you were so inclined. It’s in perfect condition and built around two courtyards in typical Andalusian style, complete with vast gardens, and luxurious finishes, including a heated swimming pool. Attached to the main building, there is a “Cortijo” with a separate guest apartment, a hunting gallery and three staff apartments. Additional constructions are dedicated to farming, agriculture and cattle breeding, specifically German Angus; a large stable block with offices and storage rooms - and the farming machinery is included in the sale. If all this isn’t enough, the estate also offers two vet clinics equipped with the latest technology, and a private heliport and water supply. The asking price, given the castle’s extensive facilities, will set you back a cool €36 million.

Penny Mosgrove of Quintessentially Estates further explains the logic behind such an investment, “Ultra-high net-worth individuals love to have a castle as a fourth, fifth or even sixth home, to showcase large unique art collections; it’s all about enjoying a different status and owning a unique and interesting place. These are the clients who can afford the high running costs for these large and old properties.”

If the wilds of Scotland appeal to you, then consider The Craig, which twice hosted Mary Queen of Scots. It’s ready to move into, fully furnished, and quite a deal at £1.67 million.

Searching off the beaten path can lead to truly surprising asking prices. The spectacular Podčetrtek Castle in Slovenia is on sale for just €370,000, but it was last renovated - wait for it - in 1874. Still, that price tag would merely buy you a parking space in some cities, and here you get a 2626 sq. m. castle, built in 1261.

You could also opt to rent a modernist palace in the Alps, such as the King’s Hunting Lodge, designed by the much-admired Slovenian Jože Plečnik who also renovated Prague Castle for the King of Yugoslavia. Its current rental fee is €700 a month. Perhaps we’ll take two!

For practical expert guidance on finding your own castle residence and for in-depth insight on the market, please contact our team of property specialists / [email protected].

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