buying a house
buying a house

Buying a property in Italy only takes about six months

Considering moving to Italy to buy a house? It’s easy to see why, as this country of wonderful food and wine, vibrant culture and romantic scenery has many alluring attractions.

Whether you’re thinking of buying property in Rome, Milan, Naples, or anywhere in between, you’re likely to be greeted with a plethora of housing styles, ages, and levels of upkeep.

In Italy, over 70% of people own their homes, a statistic maintained by a culture of passing
property down to family members. Plus, high rent prices in some areas can make buying more attractive, as the investment is quickly paid off and you can potentially use property to earn an income.

There’s a lot to work out when you start thinking about buying in Italy, so it’s worth sitting down and working out the smaller details, as well as big picture topics like where you will live and what type of property you should buy.

There’s a lot to work out when you start thinking about buying in Italy, so it’s worth sitting down and working out the smaller details.

Things to consider

To kick things off, five key questions are worth asking yourself as they will help you to direct your property search

Why are you buying?

Putting your thoughts into words can help crystallize what you want out of your move, so think about your motivation for buying in Italy. Is it enjoying better weather? Somewhere to have the family for holidays? A sound rental investment? Perhaps you want to ditch the 9-5 life and open a guest house? Or, maybe you just don’t want to regret not having tried moving abroad later in life

How will your property be used?

Think about what you want and need from your home as it could impact where and what type of property you opt for in Italy. Do you want to be able to pop over on the weekends? If so, you’ll want a nearby airport. Would you like somewhere for investment, then holidays and eventually retirement? You’ll need somewhere that’s easy to maintain and in an area with strong yields. Should you like the idea of staying a while yourself then letting out your property, you will need a region that has appeal for tourists.

What must your home have?

What are your absolute must-haves? Think about what features or practicalities your new Italian home needs to meet your needs, as this will immediately help you narrow down your property search — they’ll also help your estate agent.

For example

  • How many bedrooms or bathrooms do you need?
  • Would you rather have a local beach or a pool? Or both?
  • What about the style – traditional or bright and modern?
  • Do you need outdoor space, like a terrace or garden?
  • What don’t you need or want?

It can be quite liberating to write up what you don’t want! Similar to the “must-haves”, listing the no-noes for any potential property can help you to avoid wasted time in research and viewings. Again, they’ll help out any estate agent a whole lot, too.

What’s your budget?

You can’t plan without knowing how much you can afford. Right from the off, make sure you have a realistic idea of your budget. Doing so will ensure you do not begin searching for a property in Italy, find one you love, then realize you can’t afford it at a crucial later stage

What is the purchase process?

Did you know that the process of buying a property in Italy only takes six months? This means that you may be able to purchase your dream home sooner than you think.

But first, you must begin to assemble your team of moving professionals, including an estate agent or realtor, notary, solicitor, and currency specialist. You may also wish to contact a mortgage adviser and financial adviser. These are the people who will ensure things run smoothly.

The realtor

A Realtor is a licensed real estate agent or broker who acts as an agent for the sale and purchase of buildings and land. If you’re a foreigner who doesn’t speak Italian but has decided to buy a house in Italy, you’ll likely need to contact a realtor (or more than one) who speaks English. Or — if you’re lucky —you can find a realtor who speaks your native language.

The notary

At this point, once you’ve found the home you want to buy, it’s a good idea to choose the notary who will close the deal on your property purchase. In Italy, when you buy a house, you must have a notary. It is the notary who seals the purchase contract. More specifically, a notary is a public official. Essentially, they are a lawyer who specializes in public deeds.

The notary does the legal checks, writes the final deed (and possibly the preliminary agreement as well), and has the escrow bank account to receive the money necessary to pay for the house and the taxes, pays the transfer taxes to the government, and registers the deed to the Revenue Agency.

In other words, it’s the notary who seals the final deed. Without a notary, it’s simply not possible to buy a house in Italy. You might need the help of a lawyer only if you have a very complicated purchase. In this case, you might hire a lawyer to undertake checks that are not overseen by notaries. Or, you might want to hire a lawyer if you are buying a house without the help of a licensed realtor or if, for some reason, you don’t trust your realtor.

What documents does a house need to be sold?

The realtor will conduct the price negotiation between you and the seller. Then, once a price is agreed upon, they will provide the notary with all of the necessary documents related to the house. For the most part, there are five documents that the notary will require:

  • ownership titles of the house
  • Floor plan of the house
  • cadastral document of the house
  • energy certificate
  • Building permits if the house was built after September 1967
  • Seller(s) and buyer(s) identification documents: Passports and tax codes (your realtor will provide you with a tax code for free if you do not already have; the process does not take long)

Furthermore, they don’t want to waste their own time (or the client’s time) starting negotiation on a property that can’t be sold. Therefore, a good realtor has previously seen the documents of the houses they’re advertising, and they know that these properties can be legally sold.

The purchase proposal

A purchase proposal is a contract where the realtor communicates in writing to the seller your intention to buy the property at a certain price and within a certain amount of time. The purchase proposal is not binding until both parties have signed it.
The primary goal of the purchase proposal is to allow time to perform some preliminary due diligence and ensure that the seller won’t attempt to sell the property to anyone else until a certain date.

The preliminary agreement

The second step of the purchase process is the preliminary agreement.
Once you have your verbal or written offer accepted, you’ve obtained a satisfactory survey, the notary has checked all house documents and provided a final estimate, you have all your funds in order, and you’re ready to buy, this is when you’ll proceed with the preliminary contract.
The preliminary contract states all of the official data about the property, including the agreed upon price, the closing date, the deposit amount, existing mortgages, what’s included (furnishings and fixtures), and any other contractual points that need to be addressed or fulfilled.

Final deed of sale

At this point, when the preliminary agreement has been signed and the deposit paid, the notary will start to write the final deed. The signing of the final deed is the last step in the purchase process. It must be signed at the notary office in front of the notary. If you do not plan on being present during the closing, then you should give someone power of attorney to sign on your behalf. This person can be your realtor, an assistant to the notary, a
friend, or anyone else in Italy you trust. If you plan to be present at the closing but you’re not fluent in Italian, you’ll still need to give power of attorney to someone who speaks Italian so that they can act on your behalf. Otherwise, if the notary allows it, you may appoint a translator to translate the title deed into English, which will allow you to sign the document. In this case, the translator must be present during the signing to act as an interpreter. Keep in mind that not all notaries will consent to this; therefore, always be sure to ask your notary what their particular policies are.
Without a doubt, it is to your advantage to find a notary who speaks English. Not only will this allow you to ask any questions you have directly to the notary, but you also won’t need to hire an interpreter or translator. Moreover, your notary will be able to explain every step of the final signing to you as you close the purchase of your new property.

Do you need an Italian Bank to buy a house?

No. It is not necessary to have an Italian bank account to buy a house in Italy. Your notary can hold your funds in an escrow account and make payments to the seller as needed. With that said, you will certainly want to establish an Italian bank account eventually so that you can more easily pay utilities and other expenses associated with maintaining your property.

Taxes and Fees to buy a House

On top of the price of the house, you’ll have to pay extra taxes and fees.
The taxes you’ll need to pay to include:

  • Land registry tax
  • Cadastral tax
  • Registration tax or stamp duty tax

Keep in mind that if you’re purchasing your home to be the main residency, this will be stated by the notary on your deed of sale. From this point on (the signing date), you will then have 18 months to apply for your residency in the house you’ve purchased. If you fail to do this, the government will demand the additional taxes you own — plus a fine. Once you do obtain residency status, remember that you’ll need to spend a minimum of 185 days a year in the house.
As a final note, if you buy a house surrounded by land (such as an olive grove, a vineyard, an orchard, or just a large garden), you have to consider that land in Italy is taxed at 19% of its cadastral value. As a result, if you buy a property with a large amount of land, be prepared to spend a higher amount of money on your registration tax.

I would like to hear from you: What are your thoughts on this subject. You can share your thoughts and experiences with me and others in the comments section below!

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