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UPDATE: Under 36? Here’s how Italy plans to help you buy a house

Italy's government has announced that young people hoping to get on the property ladder can apply for the 'first home bonus' from June, a scheme offering tax cuts and help with mortgages.

UPDATE: Under 36? Here's how Italy plans to help you buy a house
The Italian government wants to help more young people in Italy to buy their own home. Photo by Katy Cao on Unsplash

The text of the new decree law was published on Tuesday clarifying the details of the ‘first home bonus’ (Bonus prima casa), following an announcement last week by Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

People under 36 years old who want to buy their first home can submit an application to get financial help from 24th June, with the scheme lasting a year.

The scheme aims to eliminate VAT on taxes relating to deeds transfers and the mortgage on the purchase of a home, and help young homebuyers secure a mortgage – the high upfront cost of which is often cited as one of the factors behind the high number of people in Italy still living with their parents well into their 30s (and beyond).

Purchasing a property in Italy involves no small amount of added fees and taxes – in fact, many property experts advise buyers that they’ll need to budget as much as ten percent of the property price for additional charges.

Photo: Maria Ziegler/Unsplash

What help is available?

People under 36 – the classification for ‘young people’ in Italy – will benefit from two main types of help:

Firstly, there will be a raft of reductions on the taxes paid when buying a first home.

And secondly, taking out a mortgage is set to be made more straightforward, as the state will put down the deposit for young homebuyers.

EXPLAINED: How you could benefit from Italy’s Covid-19 financial support

That’s been made possible thanks to new funding from the ‘First Home Loan Guarantee Fund’ (Fondo di Garanzia Mutuo Prima Casa).

Firming up plans to help young people buy a home is the latest step following Draghi’s pledge to boost the country’s economy following the coronavirus crisis.

In a press conference earlier in May, he promised financial help would go to  businesses, young people and healthcare services.

Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

Who can access the first home bonus and how?

For those hoping to buy their first property in Italy with state help, the bonus will run until 30th June 2022 and people under 36 years old are eligible to apply.

It’s available to those who have an ‘ISEE’ – a social-economic indicator of household income – of up to €40,000.

Young people falling into this category can benefit from certain exemptions on registration, mortgage and land registry tax, saving up to €9,000 on the costs of buying a first home.

If you buy property from a private individual, the bonus cancels out registration, mortgage and cadastral taxes, meaning that only stamp duty, mortgage taxes and special cadastral taxes remain to be paid, amounting to a total of €320.

On the other hand, if you buy a house from a company, you won’t pay registration, mortgage and cadastral taxes and again, you’ll need to pay stamp duty, mortgage and cadastral taxes.

The difference in the second case is that VAT must be paid to the seller, but the buyer accrues a tax credit to spend equal to this VAT for house-buying costs.

In effect, it means if the purchase of the property is subject to VAT, it will be reduced to zero with the first home bonus.

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Further to that, eligible candidates will also be exempt from the VAT on stamp duty, which comes in at around 2% of the cadastral value of the house. That’s if you live in Italy full time – it’s 9% if you don’t.

Claiming tax credits

The tax credit can be used to deduct directly from these house-buying costs, or alternatively, it can be used as tax relief to deduct from the taxes on your personal income (IRPEF).

Notary fees, which are generally fixed for each part of the sale, will be halved. The notary checks that the property is legally registered and their fees can vary from town to town.

If buying a house through an agent, a notary does all the required checks and may be able to take care of the preliminary agreement as part of their service.

How about loans?

Included in the first home bonus is state help with the deposit, after a government decision to extend the First Home Loan Guarantee Fund.

It exists already and covers up to 50% of the total value of the property, but is set to be extended to 80% of the total value, of up to €250,000, without a deposit – and the banks get a state guarantee.

Watch out for the conditions

To access the bonus, it must be your first home and you’ll need to keep in mind that not all properties can benefit from the government help, including stately homes, villas, castles and places of historical or artistic value.

The decree text appears to state that you’ll also need to not reach the age of 36 in the year in which the deed is drawn up. So that means if you’re buying a house this year, you’ll need to be no older than 35 for the whole year. In other words, if you sign the deed for a house this year, you’ll need to turn 36 from next year onwards.

The home must also be located in the municipality in which you work, study or currently live.

And once the benefits have been used, you can’t sell the property for five years – unless you buy another house.

You also can’t access the bonus if you’ve already used it for a first home anywhere in Italy.

As some aspects of the process for claiming the bonus remain unclear, anyone hoping to benefit from the scheme is advised to contact a mortgage expert for further information.

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PROPERTY

How to avoid hidden traps when buying an old property in Italy

Buying a cheap home to renovate in Italy sounds like the dream, but it can quickly turn nightmarish amid restrictions, red tape, and bickering relatives. Silvia Marchetti explains some of the most unexpected pitfalls and how to avoid them.

How to avoid hidden traps when buying an old property in Italy

With so many Italian towns offloading cheap old properties for sale, lots of people have been tempted by the chance to buy a fixer-upper in a sunny, rural area and live in the perfect idyll. And most are oblivious at first of what risks the purchase might entail. 

The older the properties are, the more potential traps along the way.

READ ALSO: The Italian towns launching alternatives to one-euro homes

There have been several villages in Italy eager to sell €1 and cheap homes that have had to give up on their plans once hidden issues came to light.

Back in 2014, the towns of Carrega Ligure, in Piedmont, and Lecce nei Marsi, in Abruzzo, tried hard to sell their old properties off at a bargain price but just couldn’t get past Italy’s labyrinthine red tape, hellish property restrictions, and scores of bickering relatives.

Both towns’ mayors found themselves chasing after the many heirs of unknown property owners who had emigrated in the 1800s. All existing relatives, who technically owned small parcels of the same house (whether they knew it or not), had to all agree on the sale.

Under Italian law, over time and generations a property ‘pulverizes’ into many little shares depending on how many heirs are involved (if one single heir is not named).

You can end up in a situation where you agree with two owners that you’ll buy their old house, and then one day another five knock at your door saying they never gave their consent, nullifying your purchase. So it’s always best to check beforehand the local land registry to see exactly who, and how many, are the owners, and where they are. 

READ ALSO:

In Carrega Ligure and Lecce nei Marsi, families had long ago migrated across the world and the many heirs to some properties were impossible to track down.

But there were also other obstacles.

“We wanted to start the renovation project by selling dilapidated one euro houses, and then move on to cheap ones, but the tax office would not agree on the price – saying that the old properties had a greater value, that they weren’t classified as abandoned buildings but as perfectly livable houses in good shape”, says Lecce nei Marsi mayor Augusto Barile. 

This meant buyers would have ended up spending tons of money in property sale taxes.

“Even if these were just small houses, potential property taxes start at €700, and could have been much higher,” he explains.

“This would have been a nightmare for any buyer finding out about this at a later stage, after the purchase”.

Barile says the town hall had not made a prior agreement with the tax office to reclassify and ‘downgrade’ the value of the old buildings, which also required an update of the land registry. 

READ ALSO: The hidden costs of buying a home in Italy

Council officials in the village of Carrega Ligure faced a wall of red tape when they tried to sell off abandoned properties. Credit: Comune di Carrega Ligure

Several potential buyers I spoke to back then said that when they found out about the tax office’s involvement by word of mouth (mostly thanks to village gossip at the bar while sipping an espresso), they fled immediately without even taking a look at the houses. 

The best advice in this case is to pay a visit to the local tax bureau ahead of any formal purchase deal and make sure that the old, dilapidated house you want to buy is actually ‘accatastata’ (registered) as such, or you might end up paying the same property sale taxes as you would on a new home. Hiring a tax lawyer or legal expert could be of huge help.

In Carrega Ligure, where old shepherds’ and farmers’ homes are scattered across 11 districts connecting various valleys, a few abandoned homes located near pristine woods came with a nice patch of land – which turned out to be another huge problem.

Old estates often cannot be disposed of due to ‘vincoli’ – limitations – either of environmental or historic nature, that do not allow the property to be sold, or simply due to territorial boundaries that have changed over time, particularly if the original families haven’t lived there for a long time.

READ ALSO: How Italy’s cheap homes frenzy is changing rural villages

In Carrega Ligure it turned out that “a few dwellings located in the most ancient district couldn’t be sold because of hydrogeological risks. State law forbade rebuilding them from scratch, as floods and mudslides had hit the area in the past”, says Carrega Ligure mayor Luca Silvestri.

Meanwhile, other properties were located within or close to the protected mountain park area where the village districts spread, and where there are strict rules against building to preserve the surroundings.

Another issue was that a few old homes came with a patch of land which was quite distant, on the opposite side of the hill, says Silvestri, making it inconvenient for buyers looking for a house with a back garden.

In this case, checking territorial maps, and speaking to competent bodies such as park authorities if there are ‘green restrictions’ in place, can spare future nuisances.

See more in The Local’s Italian property section.

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