Important Things To Know Before Buying Farmland In Italy

Italian Grapes

In recent years many people have been seeking to live a more rural lifestyle, connected with the natural world and growing at least some, or all of their own food. Buying a farm can be a big step in life but it’s guaranteed to open up a whole new world of opportunities for you.

Buying a farm in Italy is a romantic dream that many people harbor but they often think that it’s not attainable; however nothing could be further from the truth! Rural land in Italy is very affordable and the surrounding countryside is absolutely idyllic so if you’ve been considering buying a farm in Italy then read on.

How Is Farm Or Agricultural Land Defined In Italy?

It might seem like the answer is obvious but don’t forget that Italian bureaucracy can be onerous to say the least; and you’ll need to jump through the correct hoops to complete a purchase!

The official status of all land in Italy is defined by the local municipality on their urban planning tool. Any land that is defined as an AREA ‘E’ is categorized on the land registry as a farm or agricultural land. This is important to know because to buy agricultural land in Italy you will require different documents than you would for an urban property.

Can Foreigners Or Expats Buy Farmland In Italy?

Many countries have strict laws that prohibit the sale of agricultural land to foreigners and Expats. This is often because the land is viewed as a strategic resource and the respective governments want to maintain control over its ownership.

However, fortunately, in Italy there are no legal restrictions on foreigners buying farm or agricultural land. This means that as an Expat you can buy yourself a farm or agricultural land in Italy without any problems at some great prices. However, there is some paperwork and bureaucracy you’ll have to work through first and so it’s advisable to do some research in advance and employ the help of a local lawyer to handle the purchasing process.

The CDU or Certificate of Urban Planning – Essential For The Purchase.

The Certificate of Urban Planning, or the CDU, is an official document that is issued by the local municipality that defines the type of land that you are buying. This document says whether the land is agricultural, if renovations are allowed and whether it can be further built on.

The CDU contains all of the essential cadastral data that is pertinent to the property and the land upon which it is built. It also details the relevant planning permissions which apply to the land. For instance, it will state if you are allowed to build outbuildings on the farm land.

You must obtain the CDU for the property before the purchase can go ahead.

What Is The Pre-Emption Right?

One of the more unusual aspects of buying a farm in Italy that must be taken into account is the pre-emption right. The pre-emption right states that before you can purchase a farm or agricultural land the neighboring farmers must first be consulted to check if they want to buy the property first.

Only after they have been informed about your plans to purchase the property can you begin the purchasing process. This must be done in advance so that you avoid any future legal issues after you have obtained the property deeds.

Always Check The Access Rights For The Land.

When you purchase a farm it’s essential to find out who owns the access routes to your property. In some cases, the roads or entryways to your farm may be owned by another farmer, property owner or third party.

If this is the case then you need to contact them to ensure that there will be no issues after you’ve purchased the property. Ideally, if you can, you should try to buy a farm in which you would own the registered entryways as well as the land itself.

Taxes – Critical Information For Buying A Farm In Italy.

As with any property purchase in Italy, there are certain taxes that you need to be aware of. The sale of agricultural land and farms in Italy is usually subject to a basic stamp duty, known as the ‘Imposta di registro’.

The stamp duty that applies to the purchase of a farm is set at 15% of the purchase price. The standard practice when it comes to paying the stamp duty is that it is charged to the buyer of the farm; so it should be included in your calculations of the overall price so you don’t get caught out later on. For example, if the farm was put on the market at 100,000 Euros then when you added the stamp duty you would have to pay 115,000 Euros.

There are some tax benefits which can be taken advantage of but they are very specific in their application; so if you are an Expat moving to Italy you are unlikely to qualify. Stamp duty is not required to be paid by the buyer of the farm or agricultural land if you are already a farmer or run an agricultural enterprise, such as a vineyard, in Italy.

These reductions are put in place to encourage farmers and entrepreneurs in the agricultural industries to expand their operations. However, you will still have to pay a fixed land registration and mortgage tax of 200 Euros each. You will also have to pay a cadastral tax that is 1% of the purchase price. Farmland bought in mountainous parts of the country by those who are exempt from stamp duty are also exempt from the land registration tax.

How Long Does It Take To Buy A Farm In Italy?

As you know, the bureaucratic process in Italy can be quite tiresome so the quickest that you will be able to complete the purchasing process is around 6 months. However, if there are legal issues or disputes over entryways, the size of lots or municipal registrations, then the process can take a year or more.

Tips For Buying A Farm In Italy.

The following are some of the key things to keep in mind before buying the farm land or agricultural land.

Do Thorough Research On The Property.

Before you make a purchase you will need to get your lawyer to research the property’s debt situation. If there are any outstanding debts or mortgages attached to the property you will be liable to pay these after the purchase – even if they weren’t mentioned by the seller! In Italy, debts and mortgages are passed on to the new owner; so if you’re worried about this you can include an extra clause in the purchasing contract to protect yourself from this potentially disastrous outcome.

Find Out Who The Owner Of The Property Is And If It’s Actually For Sale!

In Italy, particularly in rural areas, people often put their properties on the market just to find out how much it is worth! This saves them paying a Geometra to survey and value the property for them.

In other cases, if the children of the property are joint owners or will inherit the property then the sale won’t go through unless they all agree. So always establish who the real owner is and, more importantly, if there are joint owners of the property. If you don’t make sure about this you can end up wasting a lot of time and energy in pointless negotiations.

Remember Italian Property Listings Are Not That Great.

Unlike in the USA and elsewhere in the Western world, Italian estate agents rarely publish clear or flattering photographs of their farm properties on their websites! This sounds incredible to most people who are used to seeing excellent property presentations on estate agent’s websites! However, the simple reason why they don’t do this is because they are afraid that if the house is clearly visible and looks good online they might lose their commission if you visit the farm on your own and make your own arrangements for the purchase!

Estate Agent’s Commissions.

When an Italian estate sells a property on behalf of a client they actually charge a commission to both the buyer and the seller; so you can understand why they don’t want to lose their commissions!

Italian estate agents who are selling farms and agricultural land can charge anything up to 2-3% of the purchasing price for providing their services. It might be tempting to avoid using an estate agent but if you don’t speak fluent Italian and don’t have excellent connections in the local municipal authorities it will be very difficult.

Always Hire A Geometra.

In Italy, you need to hire a Geometra before you purchase a property. A Geometra is a surveyor and junior architect who understands all the relevant permits and documentation relating to a property. They will ensure that everything is in order and the property complies with all municipality rules and regulations, of which there are many! It will cost you 500 Euros or more to pay for a survey to be done on your property but it will save you a lot of time and money down the road.

Don’t Forget About Environmental Permits.

When you buy a farm you should assume that you will probably require an official environmental permit. The layers of bureaucracy can be infuriating but you need to make sure that you do everything by the book because a notary will not approve the purchase unless you have the correct environmental permits for the farm.

Being Patient Is Important.

It can take a while to complete the purchasing process but don’t lose hope! One thing that is vital to remember is that Italy is not a litigious country and so even if there is a dispute never threaten to take people to court! Not only can court proceedings in Italy take years to complete, even for the simplest cases, but it’s also not a good idea to make enemies with potential neighbors or local municipal officials!

Instead, it’s best to keep a cool head and try to resolve any issues in an understanding way. For instance, if you were having problems with a neighboring farmer who owned the rights of access to the property you could offer to take them out to lunch and discuss a solution over a glass of wine and some excellent food.

Buying A Farm In Italy – The Beginning Of A New Life.

It can seem that the purchasing process in Italy is exhausting but as long as you get good advice from a Geometra and a local lawyer the process can be smooth and trouble free. Ideally, you should try to find a bilingual real estate lawyers service who can also provide you with English translations of the documents and contracts – although they still need to be signed in Italian versions.

A good lawyer who has contacts in the local municipality, knows the rules and regulations as well as contractors, is a priceless asset for you as an Expat buying rural land. Before you start looking for properties try to get a ballpark figure for how much a lawyer’s services will cost you so you can include this in your financial calculations.

However, once you have completed the purchasing process and you have your beautiful farm in rural Italy it will all have been more than worth it!

Are you thinking of buying a agricultural or farm land in Italy?

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7 Responses

  1. Hari you have not mentioned that to buy a farm in Italy the buyer has to have a certificate in agricultural practices or be a farmer ( a contadino or coltivatore diretti). SO the purchaser will have to obtain a certificate by doing an approved course – in Italian. There are very few conducted in English. What is more the purchaser will have to form an Azienda srl, a limited company. This comes with a huge payload of paper work ( in Italain). Oh yeah and you will be obliged to hire the services of a certified business accountant and also the services of an agronomist (farming adviser). Each of these will cost about 1000++ euro each but more if you want an English speaker. On top of that will have to pay INPS social charges of around 3000 euros per year. There is no tax free allowance so you start paying tax from zero income. But the accountant and agronomist will have to be paid regardless of your income.
    There are many curbs and restrictions associated with this Azienda but the primary one is that the majority of the hours of work must be associated with a farming activity. For example if you want to run a guest accommodation (agriturismo) in parallel with the farm the hours devoted to the guesthouse must not exceed the hours for farming. If you need to employ someone to help, that is a whole other layer of bureaucracy and expense and employees are very protected under Italian law. Plus more INPS expenses. SO it may be easy to hire but less so to fire.
    ALternatively the new owner could change the ‘destination’ as the Italians call it. Change from Casa rurale to Abitazione civile. But as always this comes at a price usually calculated on the cubic meters of the house and square meters of land. I t can work out pretty expensive if the house is big and you’ve got a lot of land eg 280mq house plus 4.5 ha land probably a starting price of 25k euros to add to the shopping basket. But you should find out first if it is possible to change the destination before you actually buy. One last thing if you decide to change from casa rurale to abitazione civile you cannot use any of the land for any agricultural purposes. In other words you cannot gain any revenue from any farming activity on the the land. You will basically be the owner of a massive park which you will have to maintain in accordance with the local COmune bylaws.
    I just thought it was worth mentioning these extra details as there are these additional expenses after the purchase process. SOmtimes selling the property on can be problematic because of the associated bureaucratic overload. We wouldn’t want the dream to become a nightmare.

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