Make sure you follow the correct procedures to smooth the process of buying property in Italy
By Christopher Nye
There is no restriction on buying property in Italy and it has some of the most breathtakingly beautiful older property in the world, at surprisingly cheap prices (especially if you’re up for a bit of renovating).
But it also has an unmotivated and creaking bureaucracy so if a problem occurs, for example with old buildings without planning, it can take an age to sort out. It is important, therefore, to engage an independent solicitor from the start.
Italian estate agents’ (agenzie immobiliari) hefty fees of 3-8% plus 22% VAT are shared between both buyer and seller, and so keen are agents to prevent private deals being done that they will normally accompany all viewings and may offer very limited information online.
It is a good idea to make sure from the start exactly what you will pay as a buyer as there can be charges for, for example, conducting extra viewings that in some countries might be a normal part of the service.
Buying privately holds extra risks but is certainly possible with the aid of a good lawyer, and opens up many more property options at lower prices. Prices are often ramped up for foreign buyers, but while it can be worth negotiating hard over prices, an offended vendor may refuse to sell.
The biggest online source is property-italy.immobiliare.it, which operates in eight languages. Gate-away.com is an Italian portal aimed at foreign buyers.
Estate agents are regulated and licensed, and there are several professional organisations to look out for, including AICI, FIMAA and FIAIP.
For property bought through an estate agent, there are three stages to the process. First is the proposta d’acquisto, which is signed along with payment of a (normally returnable) deposit of up to 5% to take the property off the market while the buyer’s lawyer makes initial checks on the property’s status.
All being well, the sale will be formalised in the preliminary contract, contratto preliminare di vendita. This includes details of the property, boundaries, rights of way etc, as well as the date of the handover. On signing this the purchaser normally pays a further deposit of at least 10% of the purchase price, known as the caparra confirmatoria. The buyer would now need a legally valid reason to back out or they would forfeit their deposit (if the vendor unreasonably backs out they could be forced to repay double).
In Italy the notary (notaio) acts for both parties, organising searches and deeds. They are neutral and impartial, enforcing what is legal rather than what might be fair, which is why the buyer needs an independent lawyer.
The final step is the deed of sale (atto di vendita), drafted by the notary, translated if either party do not speak Italian, and signed at their office. The balance is paid at the same time, along with taxes and fees. At this point ownership is transferred and buyer receives keys to the property. Deeds are issued a month later.
Buying costs are high, at 7-18%, depending on whether a primary home and whether you take up Italian residency. Most professional fees are subject to 22% VAT.