Buying in Italy - How the buying process works
Once you have decided on a property, you will need to make an offer – the proposta irrevocabile di acquisto (irrevocable proposal to buy) – to the seller and pay a small deposit so it is taken off the market.
The amount of deposit is agreed privately between you and the seller but is often around five per cent of the total value. It can be refunded, should the purchase fall through at this stage. It is important to stress that, as the name suggests, this document is legally binding once signed by both parties.
Given the complicated and unfamiliar nature of the process in Italy, we recommends that you use a qualified legal expert. Too many prospective buyers still unwittingly sign documents unaware of what they are committing themselves to.
Searches then need to be carried out on the property to ensure, among other things:
• The legal title belongs solely to the vendor and no other party has a claim on it;
• There are no outstanding loans or mortgages that would transfer to the new owner;
• There are no undisclosed public rights-of-access across the property;
• The building and any modifications comply with building regulations and health & safety rules;
• You are aware of any maintenance fees payable if the property is part of a block;
• In the case of vacant land, there is planning permission to build on it.
Some estate agencies, although not all, will carry out these checks. However, where the sale is by private vendor and does not involve an agent, they are the buyer’s responsibility. In such a case, we can recommend a reputable geometra (surveyor) who will perform these checks for you. In any case, you will need a geometra to examine the building’s physical condition.
Once all checks are completed to your satisfaction, both parties sign a second binding agreement, a contratto preliminare di compravendita (preliminary sales contract), more commonly referred to as thecompromesso. In it, seller and buyer agree to complete the purchase within an agreed period, typically a month, at an agreed price. At this stage the buyer makes a second downpayment to bring his total deposit to between 10 and 30 per cent of the purchase price.
Again, this is a serious commitment. Should the buyer default, he loses his deposit. On the other hand if the vendor defaults, he must refund either the entire deposit or even double the deposit, depending on the terms of the compromesso.
Before making the final payment you will need to have applied to local tax authorities for a codice fiscale (fiscal code), which will allow you to register for property taxes and open a bank account if the outstanding balance needs to be paid by bank draft. We will arrange both of these for you free of charge.
The final stage sees the completion of the purchase with the signing of the rogito (final deeds), usually done in the office of a notaio (notary), who will check all documents and forward all property taxes to the authorities.
Where the buyer is not a fluent Italian speaker, the notaio will require them to appoint someone with power-of-attorney to represent them at the meeting. Your lawyer, if you have one, will usually organise this service for you, otherwise our representative will represent you free of charge.
Within 48 hours of the exchange, the seller must deposit a denuncia di cessione fabbricato (a document confirming you as the new owner) at a police station. Again, we are happy to ensure this is done for you free of charge.