Buying a property in Italy consists of a number of stages which might sound daunting from both a legal and bureaucratic point of view, especially to foreigners who do not speak Italian. Therefore, this article will aim to explain the main stages of the purchasing process in Italy in order for you to have a better understanding of the requirements that need to be met, and of what you need to look out for.

Please note that one of the requirements to purchase a property in Italy is to have an Italian Tax Code (“Codice Fiscale”). This is an alphanumeric code that identifies citizens, non-citizens, residents and non-residents, in all dealings with Italian public authorities.  While the Tax Code is assigned by birth to Italian citizens, it is assigned upon request to non-Italian citizens and residents. Foreign citizens can apply for an Italian Tax Code at any Italian Consulate or at any Italian Revenue Agency office (“Agenzie delle Entrate”).

Once you have found the property of your dreams in Italy, you can make a formal offer. The Purchase Offer (“Proposta d’Acquisto”) is a document that outlines the basic terms and conditions between the buyer and the seller. It also indicates the amount offered for the property and generally includes a small deposit of approximately 5 % of the property value, and while basic checks, in-depth due diligence are performed, the property is temporarily taken off the market. If the purchase fails due to legal problems the deposit is usually refunded.

The second stage, the Preliminary Contract of Sale (“Contratto Preliminare di Vendita” or “Compromesso”) is a contract which is legally binding and which defines the selling conditions which will include a description of the property, rights of way, payments and ownership rights. The Preliminary Contract of Sale should always:

  1. define the property that is being sold;
  2. state the identification details of both parties (buyer and seller);
  3. state the agreed final price, the amount of the deposit paid and the payment plan for the remaining instalments;
  4. state the property complies with all legal and building standards and codes, fiscal laws etc.;
  5. affirm the seller’s unconditional commitment to sell the property on or before the agreed closing date, and guarantee that there are no limitations or any third-party rights pending.

When the contract has been signed, the purchaser pays a deposit of approximately 10%-30% of the property value. Under Italian Law the deposit serves various purposes. If the deposit is defined as “Caparra Confirmatoria” and the purchaser fails to fulfil certain obligations, the seller can then rescind the contract (“rescissione del contratto”) and the purchaser will automatically lose the entire deposit paid. If, on the other hand, the seller’s defaults, then the purchaser will be legally entitled to a refund.

Conversely, if the deposit is defined as “Caparra Penitenziale”, either or both parties can terminate the agreement.  If the agreement is terminated by the purchaser, the seller retains the deposit whereas if the seller terminates the agreement, the purchaser receives a refund of the deposit. When the Preliminary Contract of Sale has been signed, in most cases it is essential to perform due diligence of the property to ensure that it complies with all the legal, technical and structural requirements established by state and municipality building standards and codes.

Before signing the Final Contract the purchaser should always check the following:

  • if a couple jointly own a property, the sale cannot go ahead without the consent of both spouses;
  • if the property has been inherited jointly by multiple heirs, before the property can be put on the market, all heirs must be consulted;
  • if the commercial or residential property is leased to third parties, these must be given the choice to purchase the property.

At this stage of the process, a Notary Public (“Notaio Pubblico”) is appointed. The Notary is an independent official who prepares and coordinates the purchase, drafts the Final Contract of Sale and acts on behalf of both the seller and the purchaser. The Final Contract of Sale (“Atto di Vendita” or “Rogito Notarile”) is signed by both parties at the Notary’s office and is countersigned by the Notary. If you are in the process of purchasing a property in Italy but do not have time to travel to Italy, you can grant an Italian lawyer or another person of trust the power to represent you and act on your behalf in order to complete the purchase.

As for the costs to purchase a property, the buyer needs to pay property taxes and notary fees when the contract is signed. When all the documents have been signed and the fees have been paid, the buyer receives the keys to the property. Other fees related to the purchasing process usually include notary fees (between 1.5% to 5% of property price), legal fees if you use an independent solicitor (between 1% to 2%), State/Cadastral taxes, and real estate agent’s commission (1% to 3%).

In conclusion, buying a property in Italy is not generally more complicated than buying a property in your home country; however, it is important to understand that the system and process can be quite different and not always the most straightforward. More specifically, local customs may be quite different and language barriers may present challenges.

If you are thinking of buying a property in Italy, our team of real estate professionals would be glad to assist you throughout the process of purchasing the house of your dreams. Feel free to contact us at info@italianrealestatelawyers.com.

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