Legal matters involved in buying Italian property
The British, Americans, Australians and others have the same right to buy in Italy as the Italians do, but the legal process will not be like those they are used to. Italy’s legal system is a bit different, so, so too is the buying system in Italy. Find out the nine key steps.
1. Get your codice fiscale
If you are planning to purchase a property in Italy or want to open an Italian bank account, you will need a codice fiscale. The codice fiscale is a number issued by the Agenzia della Entrate (the Italian Revenue Agency) of the Ministry of Economy and Finance of Italy. You will need to fill in a form and show your passport.
For safe purchase in Italy you need a great estate agent, an independent property lawyer and a currency specialist. Such is their importance we call them the “Golden Three”. We can introduce you to the trusted professionals that you need, your Golden Three.
2. Open an Italian bank account
You may need an Italian bank account to transfer money for your property purchase, as the notary may insist on a banker’s draft from an Italian bank. Talk to Smart Currency Exchange about the best and safest way to transfer money to Italy.
3. Find your property!
When you find a property that you’re keen to buy, it is important to establish with the estate agent detailed information about the transaction. Such as, what property features are included in the sale, title information, building compliance, applicable transaction taxes, ongoing costs (eg maintenance, taxes), energy supply and the seller’s solvency. You should do this before committing to a purchase.
It is an Italian estate agent’s job to not only bring sellers and buyers together, but also to carry out the enquiries and research necessary for the closing of the purchase/sale. They are there to guide you through every step of the purchase. However, it is also highly advisable to employ a lawyer at an early stage.
4. Get a survey
If you choose, you may want to get a survey done. If the property needs renovating, you will also want to get quotes for labour and materials. Check the costs involved in getting planning permission too (if required). Try and meet the neighbours. Ask around locally for information about the area, such as the location of waste dumps, sewage works and noisy neighbours or businesses. All this information may affect the offer you make.
5. Making an offer
Initially, you will negotiate the price verbally through the estate agent. You could then do a purchase proposal (proposta di acquisto), which is a declaration by the buyer that he wants to purchase the property at a certain price. Once signed, you are then making a commitment to purchase. But the seller is not yet obliged to accept.
Property that comes with a lot of land has to be offered to the neighbouring farmers at that price first. If they don’t want to buy it, they must sign a declaration saying that.
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6. Preliminary contract
Once accepted by the seller, the purchase proposal should be converted into a preliminary contract (contratto preliminare), signed also by the seller. In the buying system in Italy, this is a proper contract that obligates both parties to sign the final contract.
The preliminary contract stipulates the main elements of the transaction, such as the sale price and the identity of the property, its address, plot numbers, a detailed description using information from the Land Registry and the date of the final contract. It is not mandatory for the preliminary contract to be drawn up by a notary, but it may be useful to have a notary clarify some terms. Once the seller signs it, they are accepting the offered price and undertake not to sell the property to anyone else.
At this stage, the buyer pays a deposit (caparra) of around €10,000, usually. Under typical conditions laid out in the contract, if either side backs out, the other party will have the legal right to seek compensation. The buyer could claim back his deposit, plus the same amount again if the seller backs out. If you, the purchaser, back out, you lose your deposit.
If all necessary paperwork is in order, you could skip the preliminary contract and move directly to the final purchase deed. This is where the notary comes in.
7. Using a notary
As a buyer, you choose (and pay) the notary – or at least your lawyer does. By law, the notary acts as a third party who is independent of both seller and buyer, ensuring that the conveyance of the property complies with all legal requirements. They tend to specialise in property, corporate, and family law, conveyances and successions, and are a neutral body that work within the law to facilitate legal solutions, to reduce the chance of future legal issues. Any notary that you appoint must be a member of the Consiglio Nazionale del Notariato. Once the nature of the deed to be drawn up has been defined, the notary must by law perform a series of up-front checks on legality, so that the contract will stand the test of time and be unassailable.
Your lawyer and the vendor’s will work with the notary to schedule the process of buying. First they will carry out formal document checks on the property, including ownership, land boundaries, rights of way, and existing mortgages. Next, they will set a date for the deed of sale (rogito) to be signed in person by both parties at the notary’s office.
8. How long does it take?
If the buyer is ready and the house is vacant, six to eight weeks is usual. Quite often, however, paperwork has to be prepared or plans updated and occasionally, there may be planning issues to sort out. This can all result in it taking longer.
9. Transfer of title
The seller and buyer attend the notary’s office to witness and sign the public deed of sale (atto pubblico di compravendita, also called rogito). You must take your passport, tax code (codice fiscal), mortgage documents, and your marriage certificate if applicable.you are unable to attend in person, you can be represented by a power of attorney. Firstly, it is translated into English for you. You will be asked to sign the most recent planimetria to confirm that the property is still as stated.
After the final deed is signed, the balance of the purchase price is paid to the seller, by means of Italian banker’s draft or bank transfer. You now receive the keys.
Usually within three days of the contract of sale, the notary will register the contract of sale. The deeds will be sent to you within a short space of time.
Welcome to Italy!
Buying in Italy
This is the final part of your six-article serialisation of Buying in Italy. By now, you should be ready to buy over here, but, if not, don’t hesitate to give us a call for advice from the Resource Centre on +44(0)20 7898 0549 or email email@example.com.
If you’ve missed any of the previous sections, do check them out below:
- Part One: Planning
- Part Two: Timescales
- Part Three: Area Guide
- Part Four: How to Buy
- Part Five: Making an Offer
When working out how much you will have to pay in legal fees, you need to factor in the cost of a solicitor, notary, and an interpreter where necessary.
After sales services
Once the sale of your Italian property has gone through, you might like to retain the services of your independent solicitor to help you with any requirements moving forwards. For example, if you have plans to start a business, set yourself up as self-employed, draw up a will, or if you need advice on residency.
Italy Property Guide can put you in touch with a law firm that can advise on ownership and inheritance issues in Italy.