BUYING A HOUSE IN ITALY
Buying a house in Italy can be the realisation of a dream.
But it is necessary to be aware of how to go about it, in order to avoid any unnecessary problems and surprises.
Having a bilingual lawyer in Italy assisting you in the negotiations and with the final transfer of the property can save you a lot of stress and help you get the house you want at fair conditions.
How you buy a house in Italy
A) Finding the property
The first step to purchasing property in Italy is to identify the property, usualy through an agency.
It is important to be aware of the fact that you have no obligation to sign anything in this phase.
Although the real estate transfer process is a regulated process, it is potentially biased against the buyer. An agent might try to rush you into signing a “simple” offer. If the offer is accepted you could find yourself already bound to going throught with a transfer you don't really want.
You should also verify and agree the fees of the agent. Again the assistance of a lawyer could be important in avoiding the risk of having to pay the agent's fees even if the conveyancing doesn't actually go through.
Infact, according to Italian law, unless the parties agree differently, the agent has a right to his fees even if the transaction doesn't occur, so long as a preliminary contract is signed.
2) Making an offer
Once you have chosen the property, bearing in mind what we have said, you can make an offer. This is a delicate moment and, as said, you must know what you are signing.
It is a good idea that already when making your offer, you maintain the right to choose the notary for the final act.
Usually the buyer must pay a percentage of the offered price, as a gesture of good faith.
Unfortunately, an offer of purchase is only binding on the buyer. The seller may consider other offers. It is therefore a good idea to specify a time limit in the offer document, so as not to be left hanging by the seller.
If the seller accepts your offer unconditionally, you already have a preliminary contract. Usually the parties agree the payment of a deposit before the final transfer.
3) The preliminary contract
A more detailed preliminary contract or a compromesso is then often drawn up, containing the sale price, the amount to be paid as deposit, the completion date, the land boundaries and details of the property, and any other relevant clauses.
Upon signing of the compromesso, the deposit is usually raised to 10-20% of the sale price.
Note well: At this point, in the event that
you decide not to go ahead the purchase, the seller may keep the deosit and/or seek to enforce the contract.
if the seller backs out, you may claim double the deposit and/or seek to enforce the contract in some cases.
A lot depends on what was agreed in the preliminary contract.
4) The final notary act
After this, the transfer usually takes up to eight weeks. The notaio (possibly chosen by you) or notary punlic, has the responsibility of performing due diligence.
When the title search has been conducted to your satisfaction (i.e. There are no surprises concerning the property, mortgages, planning permission,...), you make the final Agreement in front of the notary: you pay the final balance to the seller and sign the deed of sale or rogito (witnessed by the notaio). This requires you to present a valid identification document, and an Italian tax code that the notary or the lawyer can help obtain. If you do not speak Italian you may delegate (give power of attorney) to a bilingual lawyer or other bilingual person of trust to represent you at the notary act.
If you cannot be personally present, also, you can give a lawyer or other person power of attorney to sign for you.
The notaio will issue a copy of the deed and deposit copies to the tax office and Land Registry. The necessary government taxes must be paid for the sale to be officially registered. Registration protects from third parties claiming any other interests against it.
The notaio may also help ensure that the utilities are transferred to your name, and inform the local police of the change of ownership.
It takes an average of 15 days to complete all the to register the property.
A few tips.
1) Ask the agency right away who is the owner of the property so that you may run any checks in the land registries, and ask to be given a copy of land registry documents that identify the property exactly.
This way you will be able to run your own due diligence check that the owner you are dealing with is the actual sole proprietor, and there are no issues with property of the house.
Also you will be able to check that the property is in line with planning permission, and that there are not debts and mortages on the house. These are passed on to the buyer.
2) Also if you are looking at a flat, ask if the property is in line with payments fof common expenses. It is sometimes useful to ask who the administrator of the “condominium” is and check with him/her that there are no outstanding payments.
3) Italian estate agencies charge both buyers and vendors a commission – as high as 3-5 or up to 8 per cent to each side. It is therefore cheaper to avoid estate agents altogether if you can, but to do that requires local knowledge in the area where you wish to buy. The best thing is to negotiate the fee.
4) It is a good idea to get the assistance of a geometra (surveyor) to help in the purchase of the house as for land planning permission issues and advise on any work that need to be done. The geometra will cost money but it will be money well spent if there are concerns on these aspects.
How much does it cost to buy a property in Italy?
These depend on the sale price. A lower sale price will equal a higher percentage but that percentage won’t exceed 2.5-3 per cent of the total cost of the property.
The calculation is quite complex. Simplifying, we may say as follows.
Tax currenty to 2 per cent for a main residence. Those who are not resident in Italy will be charged a higher registration tax of 9 per cent. However, in case you are buying a brand new property you will be exempt from these taxes but will instead be liable to pay VAT, of 4% for main residence or 10% for non residents.
Land registry fixed tax
This will be charged in a fixed sum of about € 200.
All of these taxes will need to be paid to the notary who will then channel them to the correct departments within the government.
You may also have to include the costs for surveyors, solicitors and architect fees. You may also have to pay to connection to the water, electricity or gas mains.
Note. All of the above is only intended as a first guide and does not constitute legal advice in any way, and it is responsability of the person interested to verify the content. This website does not accept any responsability for any information that may not be up to date or contain errors.
If you wish to receive legal advice you may contact the law firm directly.