Property For Members

How to buy a house in Italy

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Catherine Evans - [email protected]
How to buy a house in Italy
Locations don't get much better than this. Photo:

All the practicalities of making your Italian home-buying dream come true.


If you’re up for a spot of renovating and keen to put your stamp on a house with history, Italy has some spectacular older properties on offer at surprisingly low prices.

And if you’re looking for something more modern and ready to move into, you can still grab a decent bargain.

But it’s important to get yourself clued-up on the Italian property buying process and some key terms before making the leap, so The Local has spoken to relocation experts and estate agents to give you the lowdown on buying a house in Italy.

The process

First, the good news – no lawyers and no gazumping! In Italy, both the agent and notary are working for both the buyer and the seller. So there is no need to instruct a lawyer, although you may want to for extra peace of mind when buying abroad, particularly if you don’t know the language.

Nigel Ayres, CEO of the Expat Network, says: “In Italy you generally do not need a lawyer because the agent and the notary are both working for you, the buyer as well as the seller, and are legally bound and professionally indemnified to conduct the sale fairly. With the notary knowing the law and the agent knowing the property intimately, all angles should be covered.

“Every time the law changes, as it does frequently, estate agents have to go on more courses to maintain their professional standing.”

Italian property expert Linda Travella of Casa Travella says: “The buying process in Italy is different from the UK and other countries and has one great advantage: ‘gazumping’ as we know it does not normally exist assuming you have a properly drawn up contract.

There are three stages to buying a property in Italy: making an offer, exchange of contract and completion.

“Once you have decided upon a property, the first stage is when you put in a formal offer in writing,” says Linda.

“Once the offer is accepted you will normally pay 10% of the purchase price, although this could be less on higher end properties over €750.000. The initial contract will state all the dates for the payment, all personal details and the full details of the property. It will also have a ‘by the’ completion date.

Many people dream of buying a typical Tuscan farmhouse. Photo: Observer/depositphotos

“The second stage of the contract is called the ‘compromesso’ or the exchange of contract and normally another 20% of the price is paid. This is normally between one and two months after the first stage. If you opt to have a survey carried out it is normally between the first and second stage.

“The third stage is the completion, where the balance of the monies is paid, along with any land registry tax or VAT, the notary fees and any translation costs.”

You can opt to carry out the transaction in two stages only. In this case, the first stage generally becomes the exchange of contracts or ‘compromesso’, where 20% is paid, with the balance paid upon completion.

Key terms you need to know

Agenzie immobiliari – estate agents Italian estate agents normally charge fees of between 3% and 8%, plus 22% VAT. While this may seem pricey, remember you are making a saving on not having to instruct a lawyer. As long as you work with an authorised, registered agent, you can place more trust in them than perhaps you would in the UK – they will have studied legal issues, land registry, map reading and the cadastro (census) and have to pass exams to be enrolled and registered as an estate agent with the local Chamber of Commerce.

Notaio – In Italy, the notary is chosen by the buyer but acts for both parties, organising searches and deeds at an early stage.

Proposta d’acquisto – the offer letter, written by the agent and passed to the seller. If the deal is between two Italians the offer letter would normally include a cheque for 10% or 20% of the sale price. The cheque is never cashed – it is simply a that the buyer is serious. This tradition is not followed with overseas buyers. The letter offer, however, is official, and includes such details as the land registry address and co-ordinates. The proposta is signed by both parties and within 10 days the process moves to the second stage.

Contratto preliminare di vendita – the preliminary contract, formalising the sale. The preliminare will also include a date of completion, normally within 30 to 60 days.

Caparra confirmatoria – a deposit of at least 10% of the purchase price, paid by the buyer into the seller’s account by banker’s draft.

Atto di vendita – the deed of sale, drafted by the notary and signed at their office.

A dream home in Italy complete with pool. Photo: depositphotos


Property expert Linda Travella of Casa Travella answers your frequently asked questions about buying a home in Italy.

1. What percent should I add to sale price if I am looking to buy a second home?

If you're buying a resale property you should add about 12% to the purchase price; this figure may increase if the property is under €100,000.

2. If I am intending to reside in Italy will the purchase costs remain the same?

No, if you are going to be resident in Italy the purchase costs will be less than for a second homeowner. Add about 7% to 8% to the purchase price.

3. How long does the buying process take?

That depends upon the property but I would say on average three to four months.

4. Is the buying process the same as in the UK and other countries?

No, it's not. The most positive point about the Italian system is, as long as contracts are drawn up correctly, is that you cannot be gazumped! Take advice from your property consultant and/or lawyer.

5. I don’t speak Italian, how can I manage?

You should deal with a company that is bilingual and never sign anything you don't understand.

6. Do I need to use a lawyer?

There is a legal requirement when you buy to use an Italian notary, who acts for both sides.

7. Can I use an independent lawyer as well as the notary?

Yes, we suggest you do so. An Italian English-speaking lawyer is the best option.



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