If you’ve ever dreamed of owning a property in the stunning country of Italy then there’s a few things you need to know about before you proceed. It’s perfectly possible to buy a property without visiting the country first, although if you can visit it’s usually worth it so you know exactly what to expect before you move to the country as an Expat.
There’s a wonderful selection of very reasonably priced properties located everywhere in Italy; from the beautiful rustic idylls of Tuscany to the cultural and artistic hubs of art and culture in the country’s ancient cities.
The process of buying a property can be quite complex and confusing, particularly as a foreigner. There are layers of bureaucracy to work through as well as working with the local regulations and bylaws that vary hugely across the country. However, once you have established the right procedures and are aware of the main considerations that must be taken into account, the process can run very smoothly – especially if you have the help of a local real estate law firm.
Do Your Research in Advance
Before you set on the journey to purchase a property in Italy, the land of wine, pasta and healthy living, you should do as much research as you can. There’s an extremely wide range of property prices in Italy that vary enormously from the big cities like Rome or Milan to the very affordable properties that are available in more rustic locations.
Try to find out as much information about a potential location to get an idea of whether it meets your expectations. You may want to contact Expats in Italy to find out how it is to live there. You can find groups of Expats on social media platforms like Facebook and if you get in touch with them they’ll usually be more than happy to give you the lowdown on what it’s actually like to live there!
Get Your Documents in Order
To buy a property in Italy you are going to have to get the necessary documents in order to make sure the process is legal and runs smoothly. You’re going to need a passport to travel to the country but you’ll also need to apply for a ‘Codice Fiscale’ – which is essentially the Italian version of a Social Security number. You can apply for this through the Italian Tax Office, known as the ‘Agenzia Delle Entrate’, or at one of the country’s overseas consulates. The Italian Consulate in Philadelphia is a few blocks away from where I live. I contacted them via email and they sent me the form. I got the ID back in about two weeks.
You’ll Need An Italian Bank Account
This is a very straightforward process but you will need to have a passport and your Codice Fiscale to open an Italian bank account. You cannot buy a property in Italy without an Italian bank account unless you work with a local law firm who can manage the property purchase on your behalf. You can use your home address in the first instance and then after you’ve moved you can change the address to your local property. NOTE: I did not have a bank account in Italy at the time of purchasing the property in Volterra. The Italian law firm that I hired did all the work. However, I did have to open an Italian account when I started renovating my apartment mainly because I wanted to participate in the “Super Bonus” program (Tax credits by the Italian government for certain types of renovations).
The Paperwork is in Italian!
Before you start your search for a property you’ll need to be aware that most of the paperwork will be in Italian and not English! This is one of the main reasons why it can be worth employing a local lawyer who is bilingual so they can handle the documents and pass on the necessary information to you in English. It’s vital that you understand what you’re signing so ensuring that you can get it translated is vital!
Establish the Fees Before The Purchase
There are a lot of hidden fees involved in the purchase of property in Italy, some of which might not be immediately obvious. Much of this can be handled and explained by a local lawyer. Your lawyer should always conduct a credit check on the property to make sure that there are no outstanding debts that need to be settled which you might otherwise inherit from its current owner.
Real Estate Agents Charge Fees
If you’re purchasing a property through a real estate agent or lawyer you need to remember that they will charge for a fee for their services as well as a fee based on the sale price. Always make sure that you understand the preliminary contracts that they will draw up for you before you start signing anything! Always ask for English translations of any legal documents if you don’t speak fluent Italian.
Initial Verbal Agreement Is Not Legally Binding in Italy
When you make an initial verbal agreement with the seller you need to realize that these agreements are not binding. It’s critical that you understand the process so you don’t have a bad experience. You will have to work through the process with your lawyer or estate agent in Italy before the contract becomes binding and your sale is guaranteed to go through.
Property Should Be Removed from the Register
If the Sellers Mortgage is paid off, the property should be removed from the register. You’ll also want to check the utilities are paid up to date with no debts attached to the property and that any warranties are valid. Your local Italian lawyer can help you with these aspects of the purchase.
Contract Should Cover What Will Be Left In The Property
In Italy it’s quite common for people to take most of the white goods in the property with them when they leave – including washing machines, cookers and even the light fittings! If you want these items to be left in the property you will have to negotiate a separate price on top of the sale price. When your lawyer is putting together the contract for you make sure that it is as detailed and comprehensive as possible, leaving nothing out and covering all the details no matter how minor.
Is the Property Empty?
Before you sign the contracts for the sale of the property you will need to confirm that it is empty. If the property is currently being rented then make certain that the rental agreements are up to date and in line with your expectations. Due to legal protections in Italy it can sometimes take years to evict someone who is living in the property illegally!
Future Plans and Renovations
Local regulations in Italy can be very strict and so you’ll need to check with the municipality authorities to confirm that any restoration work you have planned will be sanctioned. Some localities have regulations which cover everything from the color you are allowed to paint the exterior of your property to the type of tiles you can use on the roof! This is to maintain the look of the property and the area so ensure that any plans you have in the future will be acceptable with the local authorities.
Renting in the Future?
If you’re hoping to rent the property in the short term on sites like AirBnB then you’ll have to find out if it’s in a good state and will meet any local requirements. Thinking ahead will always save you trouble, particularly with regards to the infamous Italian bureaucracy. You should also find out if there is local demand for holiday properties or long term rentals before you commit to the purchase.
Buying A Property in Italy Can Be The Start of A New Chapter in Life
There’s a whole range of things that you need to be aware of but if you enter into the process with the correct knowledge then your experience should run smoothly and end with a successful purchase! The most important things to do in advance are to make sure that you have done your research, including into the municipality’s laws and regulations, and to get your documents in order.
Once you have the basics sorted out you can begin your search, always keeping your future plans in mind. If you hope to do restoration work then you need to find out what the local rules are and if you plan to rent the property find out is there a consistent demand in the location for rentals?
It’s extremely exciting to be purchasing a property in Italy however you’re going to have to do your homework before you get started with the process. It’s usually advisable to work with a local real estate law firm that has an experienced team who can manage the purchasing process on your behalf. Getting the benefits of a lawyer’s advice and local knowledge will ensure that your purchase goes well while avoiding any of the unnecessary pitfalls that are involved with purchasing a property overseas.