Buying a property in Italy
Buying a new home can be a long, stressful process, and one which can vary significantly from country to country.
If your move to Italy is temporary, than renting a property is probably your best option but remember that rent prices fluctuate significantly from region to region. You can expect to pay a premium in the most popular locations, but there are bargains to be found if you’re willing to put in the legwork. You can find rental listings for Italy online, in international magazines and Italian newspapers. Another great place to get an idea of the Italian property market is at a property exhibition. After paying an admission fee, prospective buyers can view homes, talk to estate agents and developers and chat with others going through the buying process.
Initially renting a property can also be a good idea for those intending to buy. You can get a realistic impression of whether the area/lifestyle will suit you before you make a hefty financial commitment.
If you’ve really thought about it, done some thorough research and still have your heart set on owning that dream home in the sun then we are here to help.
Whether you’re buying a property in Italy or Timbuktu don’t rush the process!
When buying or renting look into the procedures involved; in Italy the process can be lengthy and confusing and documentation will more often than not be in Italian. Don’t let yourself get caught out through not being prepared!
Make a comprehensive list detailing exactly what you want and don’t want from a property. Not only will this narrow your search field but it will make you really question whether a home is right for you.
Unless you’re already very familiar with Italy it’s a good idea to visit during the worst weather months. If you still love it then you know you haven’t been seduced by the lure of the sun. You should also explore the different regions. Spend some time in each and get to know the opportunities, costs and way of life they offer. Talk to locals and other expats as much as possible as they can be full of invaluable advice.
Once you’ve found the region for you, get an accurate picture of what kinds of properties are available and what you can realistically afford. Know the local property market as well as what you want and need from a house. Try not to have expectations which are too idealised.
Also, don’t get carried away if you do find a property you love. Take a week to think about it and find out as much about the property as you can. Buyers are far more likely to get stung if they don’t really know what they’re buying!
Many property sales in Italy are privately handled in that rather than engaging the third-party services of an estate agent sales are handled by the vendor and buyer. If you decide to use an estate agent you would be better off using one of the nation-wide estate chains rather than an independent local agent. This may seem like odd advice but sometimes local agents are biased towards certain locations/properties which means you could miss out in a good deal. You could also use an agent from your own country. Remember that agent’s fees can vary significantly – if you don’t put in the research it could end up costing you more than you expected.
When buying Italian property it is important to be aware of the different fees attached to your purchase. They are among the highest fees in Europe and the type/amount of fees you are liable to pay differs according to the status of the individual property (old/new, cheap/pricey, private purchase/agent managed purchase). Fees you may have to pay include land registry tax, value added tax, registration tax, mortgage fees, legal fees, notary’s fees, estate agents fees and utility fees. All are usually payable on completion of the sale. Make sure that you get written confirmation of what fees you face before you sign a preliminary contract.
Once you’ve found the property of your dreams the first paperwork you will have to sign on the road to buying it is usually the preliminary contract. The preliminary contract should contain all the major conditions and terms of the sale. Be warned that the preliminary contract is often written in Italian and once both vendor and buyer have signed it becomes a binding transaction.
The buyer may then be asked to pay a deposit or reservation fee, be wary if you are asked to pay a lot as the property isn’t actually secure until a purchase contract is signed, and a deposit is only refundable under very strict conditions. This is where the services of a lawyer can come in handy. Not only can they pick apart the preliminary contract before you sign it but they can reassure you as to whether the deposit you have been asked to pay is reasonable.
Many contracts contain conditional clauses – make sure you know what conditions you have to meet in order to complete the property sale.
Six to eight weeks after signing the preliminary contract your sale should reach completion. This is the signing of a final deed drawn up by a notary followed by the paying of costs.
As property in Italy is sold based on the condition that the state it’s in at the time of completion is acceptable to the buyer make sure you visit the property a few times during the sale process and be aware of anything that may have happened to affect its condition.
Once the property is registered at the land registry the sale is legally complete. Formal notification of the purchase must also be given to the local police authorities (the form for this is generally supplied by the notary).
Avoid the pitfalls
Some property buyers’ end up regretting their purchase and losing money because they made some easily avoided mistakes. Whilst we can’t guarantee you won’t have any problems, if you follow our advice your purchase should go a lot smoother.
Don’t buy a home that’s difficult to resell.
Don’t assume that an English estate agent will give you a better deal.
Don’t buy a home in an area you’re not familiar with – rent first.
Don’t rush the process.
Don’t buy a property that needs restoration without realistically and thoroughly working out the restoration costs.
Don’t deal in cash where possible and don’t hand over any cash before paperwork has been signed!
Don’t assume you won’t need legal advice – you will!
Don’t hire a lawyer that isn’t accredited and recommended.
Don’t forget to include the necessary conditional clauses in the contract.
Don’t take on too large a mortgage.
Don’t buy land to build a property on without making sure it has the relevant planning position. Don’t just take the vendors word for it either, check.
When buying property in Italy you MUST take independent, expert and reliable legal advice. Seek advice from an accredited, recommended lawyer who can speak your language as well as Italian fluently and make sure they have experience in Italian property law. Don’t be dissuaded by estate agents and don’t view it as a waste of money. If you don’t hire a lawyer and then end up in a sticky situation it can cost you a lot more!
A galoppino can also be hired to deal with the piles of red tape and obstacles blocking the road to property purchase. They can be especially useful if you don’t speak Italian. A galoppino’s services are usually reasonable and they are official, government licensed agents who act as a mediator between bureaucracy and you. That being said, make sure you only hire a galopinno with a good reputation and preferably use one that has been recommended to you by an impartial source.