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PROPERTY

How can a non-EU citizen get a mortgage to buy property in Italy?

If you're thinking of buying a house in Italy and need a mortgage, as a non-EU national there are a few things you'll need to know before you start the process.

A vespa outside an Italian house.
The process of getting a mortgage in Italy differs depending on whether you live here or not. Photo by Daryna Filon on Unsplash

Question: I live in a non-EU country and plan to buy a home in Italy in future. Can I get an Italian mortgage if I don’t live in Italy yet?

Many readers have contacted The Local to ask how they can get a mortgage in Italy, whether that be for a second home, their new primary place of residence or a nest egg for them to enjoy in retirement.

The answer can be complex and depends on whether you’re already a resident in Italy or not, where you’re from and where you’re currently living.

With some expert advice however it is possible to navigate the system and set up your very own ‘casa dolce casa‘.

READ ALSO: Why now is the ‘best’ time to buy property in Italy

Here’s the essential information you need to know and the biggest mistakes to avoid.

Note: The processes are complex, so it’s important to get professional advice before buying.

A yellow Italian house
Photo by Tim Alex on Unsplash

If you’re not a resident in Italy

If you don’t (yet) live in Italy, the good news is you can legally get a mortgage to buy an Italian property.

If you thought it would be easier to apply after moving to Italy, not so fast.

“The biggest mistake people make is to move to Italy, get residency and then apply for a mortgage,” international financial advisor Daniel Shillito of D&G Property Advice told us.

“It seems counter-intuitive. Surely it would be easier if you were living in Italy to get an Italian mortgage? It isn’t, don’t give up your job,” he advised.

in Shillito’s experience, many people have ended up in this situation and then are unable to get a property loan once they’re living in Italy.

The reason it’s tougher is because Italian banks have no idea whether your job in Italy is stable, which can take around two years for them to deem whether it is or not, he told us.

READ ALSO: The real cost of buying a house in Italy as a foreigner

And once you’ve got residency, Italian banks will generally ask for 2-5 years’ proof of living in Italy before approving a mortgage, as those who have stayed longer amounts of time are generally more likely to stay.

If you’re a digital nomad who has moved your job with you, that’s unlikely to get far in the Italian banking system either: “Italian banks are not fast and nimble enough to determine whether your remote work is steady, so you can’t assume anything, there’s too much risk,” Shillito said.

That means, therefore, that the best route is to apply for a mortgage in the country you are living and working in now.

READ ALSO: What’s the difference between Italian residency and citizenship?

How a non-EU citizen can apply for a mortgage

For those living and working in the UK, US, Canada or Australia for example, the first thing you’ll need to be prepared for is the amount of deposit you’ll need.

The maximum any Italian bank is likely to lend you is 60% of the property price if you’re not in Italy,” Shillito said.

There is also a minimum amount of mortgage they are willing to give you, starting at around €60,000 – €70,000, which works out at around a property price of about €115,000 upwards.

“People looking to buy in Italy sometimes say they’ve saved maybe £20,000 and that should be enough to get a mortgage for a cheap Italian property by the beach of say €40,000.

“It’s not, and it doesn’t work like that,” Shillito said.

Again, these percentages apply in the currency of income, so it would be 60% of the house price in sterling or dollars, depending on where you live and earn a wage.

So once you’ve got the right amount of deposit saved up and have found a property that banks are willing to lend you money for, can you compare the market and go to any bank?

An Italian country house
Photo: Valentina Locatelli on Unsplash

“You can’t walk into any bank you like and ask for a mortgage. It’s a hidden market – banks don’t want to advertise they’ve got mortgages for the world,” Shillito said.

“There are certain banks that have a certain branch where a certain person may help,” he added.

So how do you find them if they’re so concealed? Shillito’s advice is to work with a mortgage broker who knows the local market and can guide you through it.

Yes, it’s an extra cost, but it’s vastly more difficult to get the response you need without one, according to the property expert.

READ ALSO: Searching for cheap Italian property online? Here’s what you need to watch out for

“A mortgage broker will handle all the bank’s administration, know how to deal with the fifth request for paperwork, they’ll ring up the bank when the house is supposed to go through and doesn’t – a broker gets this sorted for you. They’ll tell you when to go into the bank and what to sign,” Shillito told us.

But he warned that there’s more to the process.

“When you buy in Italy and you’re a foreigner, you need to know so much more than, ‘Can I get a mortgage?’ You need to consider when you get a building inspection, when you need a notary, how to go through the three contracts that make up the purchase process. All this can take six to nine months,” he added.

Consultancy firms and lawyers can help fill in the gaps to ensure paperwork is up to scratch before signing any contracts.

EU citizens without residency in Italy

If you’re an EU citizen not living in Italy, the process is much more streamlined than for non-EU citizens.

The European Union introduced the Mortgage Credit Directive in 2014, which aims to integrate the European market for mortgage credit and protect consumers across the EU.

It means the bloc is working towards creating an EU-wide mortgage market with a high level of buyer protection, applying to “all loans made to consumers for the purpose of buying residential property”.

Not all countries in the EU have the same currency, which has previously disadvantaged some of the poorer Eastern nations in the European market.

If a consumer from the Czech Republic got a mortgage in Italy, for example, the Czech crown was weaker than the euro and so monthly mortgage repayments ended up rising due to the conversion.

As a result, Italian banks can’t lend money in a currency that’s different from the income currency.

This is true also outside the EU, so if you’re in the UK or the US, you’ll be applying for a mortgage in either sterling or dollars for instance, not euros.

What if I already have residency in Italy?

As noted above, you may need to show you’ve been living in Italy for 2-5 years in order to obtain a mortgage. They’ll also take into account your salary and how stable that wage is.

They could also ask for information of family or investments in business, as that shows a commitment to staying in Italy and repaying the mortgage, which can last from 5 to 30 years.

However, shorter mortgages are more common in Italy than in the UK, for example, which is important to remember as it may mean higher monthly repayments.

They may also ask for the following:

  • ID card or copies of your valid passports
  • The initial sale agreement
  • Income proof (consisting of your last three payslips, your last 2/3 tax certificates and a contract of employment)
  • Credit report
  • Proof of address (copy of recent utility bill)

Even if you’re already living in Italy then, it’s not a simple or fast process

What about non-EU citizens living in Europe?

If you’re an American living in Germany, for example, this is where “you can get into real problems”, Shillito told us. There isn’t a one-fits-all solution in this case and you’d have to seek professional advice based on your individual circumstances.

Daniel Shillito manages a finance company specialising in Italian mortgages and purchase processes. For further information, you can contact him by email here.

See more in The Local’s Italian property section.

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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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