Where many people plan to retire and buy a property out in Spain, there are a handful of people drawn to the idea of purchasing properties in Italy. What many first time buyers will not know is that the process of buying an Italian property is not as simple as it may seem. The legal requirements and regulations for foreign investors are different from that of the UK legal proceedings. Before first-time buyers can begin their search for that dream home in Italy, they must begin the legal proceedings.
In Italy property law emphasises the importance of determining the legal owner as the wrong decision could cost thousands of pounds. Even if you are buying with your partner, one should not automatically assume that putting the house under a joint name will save them money, in fact the opposite will happen. Always seek legal advice from a property lawyer, as they will point you into the right direction of saving thousands of pounds. The research involved will take time and should never be rushed.
Once you have determined the name in which the house will be placed, the next step will be to communicate with an Italian estate agent. The agent may be someone selected by the seller, therefore the responsibility will fall on the seller and not you the buyer. However, in some circumstances you can appoint an agent to locate a property. There are agencies available who can offer you this kind of service without you having to appoint one. The agents will also assist you in understand what the Italy property law stipulates and be concise in the steps involved with the buying process.
One thing to remember is that the Italian property agents will not receive a commission unless you accept the asking price of the house and buy it. Agents Italy is thought to receive a more nominal commission fee in comparison to estate agents in the UK.
When you have made your decision and settled with the house of your choice you are normally expected to sign a contract. The contract can be an offer to buy or the final contract of purchase. An offer to buy is usually a formal letter written by you (the buyer) to the seller. With this includes a goodwill payment and a time period of which to buy the property. If the seller accepts the offer within that time period, this then becomes a legally binding document between you and the seller. In a sense this almost becomes a contract. You will also come across a preliminary purchase contract known as a compromesso, which is important to have checked through by your lawyer before signing. The same rule applies to any document that requires any signing from you.
Upon signing the documents you are generally required to pay a deposit, which can be between 10 or 30%, but you will also have to pay for the estate agents commission which is another 3% plus VAT. Before the final contract is signed, your lawyer will make phone calls to check that the property is safe for the purchase, checking also that the seller has good entitlement to the land and that all necessary building checks are cleared on the property. Any extra enquiries are best dealt with an Italian surveyor, which your lawyer should organise.
As a first-time buyer you will not be familiar with any problems as being declared the wrong price of the property. In some cases the property in the official deed, known as rogito, will be valued for less than the asking price. This is an illegal action and must be avoided where possible. Upon the completion of the enquiries you will be required to sign the Deed of Sale, which is done in front of the notary public in Italy and with your lawyer. Once you have signed the document, the notary will pay the tax fees for you and then you will be titled to the Italian Land Registry - at which point the property will be yours. The process may seem longwinded, but if you are considering to buy in Italy, then you must do your research and be prepared on what to expect.
Anna Stenning is an expert on Italy property law and is knowledgeable on the proceedings behind buying a property in this country.