SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

PROPERTY

EXPLAINED: The hidden costs of buying a home in Italy

If you're weighing up whether to buy a property in Italy, you'll also need to factor in substantial fees and taxes. Here are some of the hidden costs you might face.

EXPLAINED: The hidden costs of buying a home in Italy
Casa dolce casa? Make sure you've budgeted enough before making your final offer. Photo by Alejandro Olalde Miranda on Unsplash

Italy’s cheap property deals attract international attention, but for many people, purchasing a home here remains an expensive process thanks to the fees and charges involved.

There are financial incentives available to buyers: from the towns offering homes for the nominal cost of one euro to government schemes promising to cover up to 110 percent of the cost of renovating property.

READ ALSO: How Italy’s building ‘superbonus’ has changed in 2022

Even when buying a new property that needs no renovation, there are also now tax rebates available to young, first-time buyers.

But as anyone who has gone through a home purchase in Italy will know, it isn’t as simple as snapping up a bargain – regardless of whether it’s your primary residence or a second home.

Aside from the cost of any renovations you may be planning, property experts warn that the ‘hidden’ or additional costs of buying a home in Italy usually add up to around ten percent of the purchase price.

So before you make your final offer, here’s a look at the fees and charges you’ll need to budget for.

Taxes

The number and variety of taxes associated with buying a home in Italy is considerable.

They may change according to the type of property and the condition you buy it in. Here’s a look at the most common charges that apply to almost all types of property in Italy.

– Stamp Duty

Stamp duty is between two and nine percent of the cadastral value of the home, with a minimum threshold of €1000 if the percentages work out as less. That’s useful to know for any cheap properties you may find, such as the one euro homes.

It’s worth noting that the cadastral value might be much lower than the market value of the property, as this gets recalculated when the property is sold – the property may have been with the previous owner for decades when the house price was much lower at its last sale. So you may end up paying more stamp duty than you first thought when the cadastral value is updated.

OPINION: Why Italians aren’t snatching up their country’s one-euro homes

You’ll need to do the maths on fees and taxes when buying in Italy. Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

If you are resident in Italy full time – which means you are in Italy more than six months of the year – and you buy from a private seller, stamp duty will be 2 percent.

If you buy from a private seller, but you intend to live there fewer than six months of the year, stamp duty is nine percent of the cadastral value.

READ ALSO: The ultimate guide to getting residency in Italy

On the other hand, if you buy from a registered company in Italy, the tax will amount to a fixed rate of €200. This is true for both homes used as a primary residence or a second home.

There are ways to reduce the stamp duty if you buy the property as a second home. You have 18 months after the purchase to register as a resident in Italy.

If you intend to become a resident, you will only be charged two percent stamp duty at this stage. Should you not become resident within 18 months, then the government will require the outstanding seven percent.

If the house isn’t finished, such as one bought off plot or is a development project, there is no stamp duty.

– VAT

VAT, known as ‘IVA’ in Italian, is due on the purchase of property in Italy. You shouldn’t have to pay it if you’re buying from a private seller, however if you’re buying from a company, the amount you pay depends on the property.

It’s four percent if it’s your primary residence, 10 percent if it’s your second home and 22 percent if it’s categorised as a ‘luxury’ property.

– Land registry tax

Known as ‘imposta catastale‘ in Italian, this is a fixed rate of €50 for buying a property from a private seller. It rises to €200 if you buy from a registered company.

This tax is to update the owner of the property in the government’s cadastral list.

Be prepared for the taxes on property purchases in Italy. Photo by Daniela Turcanu on Unsplash

– Mortgage tax

Another fixed rate tax, ‘imposta ipotecaria‘ in Italian, will cost €50 if you buy from a private seller and again, €200 if you buy from a registered company.

My Italian Home: ‘We bought the cheapest house in Piedmont and live mortgage free’

– Marca da bollo

This is a mandatory tax in the form of stamps added to contracts or invoices over the amount of €77.47. You can buy them from your corner shop or tabbachi, or post office, and attach them to the invoice.

You’ll pay this per contract over that amount. As a guideline, expect to pay €16 on any invoice for a contract that is over that amount and includes VAT (IVA), and €2 if there’s no VAT.

Notary costs

You’ll need to pay a €16 ‘bollo’ on notary documents. But that’s just the start, of course.

You’ll need a notary to validate the contract and check that the property is legally registered. This isn’t a tax – it’s a cost that is part of buying a house in Italy.

There is no fixed fee for this and it depends on the town, the type of property you buy and the purpose you intend to use it for, such as residential or commercial.

The absolute baseline would be €1,000 or one percent of the sale value, but fees vary from company to company and are known to run into the thousands even on cheap homes bought for major renovation. Notary fees are subject to IVA, which when it’s a sales tax, is 22 percent.

The amount of fees you need to pay depends on the property. Photo by Ehud Neuhaus on Unsplash

Agency fees

If you’re buying a house through a real estate agent, they take a percentage, usually around three percent of the purchase price from both the seller and the owner.

A general range you can expect to pay is between one and five percent of the property cost. Again, this varies from town to town and firm to firm.

Legal fees

You may choose to use a lawyer to help you navigate the process and explain the steps in English. They will charge you based on a percentage of the value of what you’re paying for the property, which again, can differ considerably. These fees are also subject to VAT.

Geometra or civil engineer’s fees

If you’re looking to renovate a property or if it’s an old building, you’re strongly advised to speak to a geometra, or civil engineer, who will inspect the property and will recommend the work that needs doing.

They can also suggest a building company to carry out these works and provide you with a quote for all the restorations needed.

READ ALSO: The red flags to watch out for when buying an old house in Italy

Without one, it would be very hard to go through all the processes required to get building approval and understand the local rules and regulations.

Sometimes, you will have to use one as they may need to legally certify certain parts of the work.

The cost for these services depends on the professional you work with and the degree of the works required. It could be a few thousand euros or could be much higher if the project is extensive.

Tied in with this are other fees such as licences and registration fees – simply submitting your planning document to the local comune (town hall) can be substantial, costing upwards of €10,000.

As well as considering restoration costs, those buying an old house in Italy should check for hidden problems that could prove expensive down the line. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Architect or engineering costs

For larger scale projects, you may also need to hire an architect, whose fees will also vary depending, again, on the area and company.

While they would design the spaces and analyse the functionality of the property, an engineer would deal with the strength and stability of the structure.

READ ALSO:

You may also need the involvement of a termotecnico, or a heating engineer, who chooses the materials to be used and the type of system, according to the geographical area of your home.

All in all, these experts will cost a hefty wedge and may change your renovation budget when you get final quotes.

Energy connection

Sometimes, if you purchase an old property, you may need to pay for disconnection and connection of gas and energy supply.

This will change depending on your location, as always, but don’t be surprised if it takes the best part of €1000 to perform what you might think is a simple cut to an old supply.

Plus, you’ll then need to account for the cost of connecting up to new utilities when your property is ready.

Deposit

You’ll need to pay a deposit, or a down payment, to the seller of the property which acts as a guarantee of sale. If the buyer pulls out, the seller can keep this deposit. On the other hand, if the seller pulls out, the buyer can demand double the amount of the deposit back.

Mortgage broker fees

You may want to enlist the help of a mortgage broker when it comes to getting a mortgage on the property you buy. This professional has existing relationships with lenders, meaning that as well as negotiating a better deal than you could get on your own, they should help smooth the application process and speed things up.

They’ll also set up a good relationship with your local bank for any future loans or home purchases. They may also speak English to clearly explain what you need to do.

Again, what you’ll pay will change depending on where you are and each professional’s rates, but you can earmark around one percent of the mortgage value.

Time

As the saying goes, time is money. And you will need to allow for a whole lot of time to buy a house in Italy. Unlike the market you may be used to you in your home country, where buying and selling moves fast, be prepared for a slow process in Italy.

It can take months for just the sale to go through and renovation projects may go on for years, depending on the works and the current state of the property market.

As always, seek advice before you buy and check what incentives or exemptions you may be eligible for.

Please note that this list is not comprehensive, but covers most scenarios that buyers may find themselves in. See more in our articles about property in Italy on The Local.

Member comments

  1. My advice is to never assume that things work the same way in Italy as in your home country. When buying a home you can encounter some legal issues and situations that you could never have imagined possible. And Italians won’t think to point these out to you because to them it’s just business as usual. Anyway, it’s much better to avoid these land minds then try to fix them afterward.

  2. The section on “stamp duty” is not very clear here. First of all the term “stamp duty” meaning property purchase tax, is I believe, totally British and could be confusing to anyone not British. It can be an awful lot of money – when I bought my property it was easily the largest payment I made in taxes and fees. It is based on the “rendita catastale” (“cadastral value”), a fixed value that, at least when I way buying my property several years ago, was not published for any of the properties I looked at, which seems odd as it is so important. The sum you pay is derived from a rather obscure formula using the cadastral value, and is 2% if you are resident and it is your primary residence, 9% otherwise. It means as a non-resident you could pay as much as 9% of the purchase price which can be an awful lot of money. I would advise anyone who is buying as a non-resident to look really closely at this. The cadastral values tend to be much less in older properties than new ones.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

PROPERTY

Nine things we’ve learned about claiming Italy’s building ‘superbonus’

Two years after it was introduced, Italy's popular renovation discount scheme continues to cause headaches for homeowners trying to access it. Here's what we've learned so far about claiming the so-called 'superbonus 110'.

Nine things we've learned about claiming Italy's building 'superbonus'

In May 2020, as the pandemic gripped Italy in its first wave, the government introduced a new building bonus programme to kickstart the country’s sluggish, Covid-hit economy.

This emergency response, known as the ‘superbonus 110′, came as part of the government’s Decreto Rilancio (Relaunch Decree), which offered a tax deduction of up to 110% on the expenses related to making energy upgrades and reducing seismic risk.

Other types of building bonuses existed before – and continue to be available.

However, none had offered quite so high a value to those looking to make home improvements on their property.

In fact, not only did the new measure incentivise people to upgrade their existing properties, it encouraged people to buy old, abandoned properties, making previously unfeasible renovation projects, in financial terms, a genuine possibility.

READ ALSO: How Italy’s building ‘superbonus’ has changed in 2022

We counted among those taking the plunge to buy a crumbling and uninhabitable building, with the intention to carry out extensive works thanks to funds from the superbonus.

Our property search completely changed due to the scheme and we planned on taking advantage of the generous sums of state aid.

After looking around and viewing properties for months, attracted by adverts that claimed a property was eligible for restoration with the superbonus, we found an old farmhouse – which had become a derelict wreck – in the lowlands countryside outside Bologna, near where we are already located.

(Photo by Philippe HUGUEN / AFP)

In our case, we had to demolish the old property and rebuild a home from scratch – it couldn’t be restored due to earthquake damage in the area, rendering it far too unstable and destroyed to ever be habitable again.

READ ALSO: Why we decided to build our new house in Italy out of wood

That wasn’t a disappointment as we had the opportunity to design our own home instead, choosing every angle, material, layout and floorplan we wanted. It would have been beyond our means to take on a project like this without the superbonus, but with it, we thought it was possible.

Incredibly, the small print of the incentive permits this too, as the government intended to reinvigorate the nation’s many old, damaged and inefficient buildings and recover lost land – including using existing plots to build new homes if the property was too damaged, as is the case for us.

So, we ploughed all our savings and the money from the sale from my husband’s apartment into a collapsing set of bricks, filled with junk and debris from years gone by.

Although daunting, the figures stacked up and meant that we could create our own country home with a manageable mortgage for around 15 years.

Since I’m now 37, that seemed to work well and it all looked reasonable.

READ ALSO:

But it was just the beginning, before the superbonus spiralled into delays, bureaucratic quagmires and fraudulent claims, which all contributed to making accessing the funds a stalemate for many homeowners.

18 months into our project, we have got as far as a concrete shape in the ground, the old farmhouse demolished, but no sign of our future home still – and a budget that has blown out of proportion, changing our financial future considerably.

18 months ‘ progress looks like this on our Italian property renovation project. Photo: Karli Drinkwater

The clock is ticking with deadlines too, albeit briefly extended, to access the bonus in time.

Since its inception, here’s what we have learned about (trying to) claim Italy’s superbonus 110.

1. Demand slowed down starting renovation projects

Within its first year, interest in the scheme was so high that building companies were overwhelmed and projects piled up in a queue.

Many firms stopped taking on new clients, as they battled to push through projects that were already delayed by months and some homeowners abandoned their plans altogether as a result.

As the backlog built up, firms increased their construction quotes and material prices rose – driven by a worldwide boom in cost increases and also most certainly not helped by Italy’s superbonus-fuelled building boom.

Photo by Bill Mead on Unsplash

The situation has continued to worsen due to the war in Ukraine, which has impeded the import and subsequently driven the cost of raw materials.

It was this demand that also saw us sit and wait, watching on while absolutely nothing happened and we continued to be stuck, all the while watching the project cost continually rack up.

READ ALSO: How to stay out of trouble when renovating your Italian property

It had taken four months just for the sale of the wreck to go through, so we were on the back foot already as far as the bonus is concerned.

We were ready to get going in May 2021 after putting in our offer on the property in the January, but in the past year, very little has happened.

We’ve since had to move out of our apartment, as the new owners understandably wanted to move in and we’re now effectively camping out in a part of my husband’s parents’ new house.

As they, too, are trying to access the superbonus, our life has been packed into boxes while we our living area and office is all squeezed into a garage.

I write this surrounded by scaffolding and orange construction barrier tape, now heavily pregnant, and trying not to lose hope that we’ll have our own place to go to.

Our building project has got no further than knocking down the old wreck and laying down the concrete foundations. One year on, there’s not even the bones of a structure.

READ ALSO:

So is it still demand for the bonus and materials that’s causing the delay?

Yes, but also a huge part is down to how you can claim the bonus.

2. Credit transfer problems stopped the banks lending

Another recent cause for a further slowdown is the change in how people could access the bonus and the increasing difficulty of obtaining credit.

There are a few routes to obtaining Italy’s superbonus. The option of offsetting tax from income is likely only financially viable for high earners, as any unused tax discount gets lost.

Image: moerschy / Pixabay

Let’s say your renovation costs come to €100,000, which are tax deductible at 110 percent for five years.

So, if you have a tax break of €22,000 every year for five years, therefore, but your tax bill from your income tax, known as ‘IRPEF’, falls short of that, you lose the deduction and will end up footing the rest of the renovation bill.

READ ALSO: Do you have to be Italian to claim Italy’s building bonuses?

Note – the latest changes specify tax deductions for the superbonus will be spread over four years, not five as previously.

Little surprise, then, that the other two options to access the funds – transferring the credit (cessione del credito) or discount on the invoice (sconto in fattura) – have been more popular.

It effectively means you either trade the tax credit for cash to an Italian financial institution, such as a bank, for the credit transfer, or directly to your contractor or supplier for the discount on the invoice.

Using the credit transfer system means you’ll get cash back that you paid, directly in your bank account.

It’s a slightly riskier route than a discount on the invoice, as the latter means the the supplier recovers the bonus on your behalf, taking a slice of it as a fee.

So, you get less of the bonus but you don’t have to deal with the paperwork and the contractor takes the burden of getting the credit.

“The easiest option is the discount on the invoice,” tax expert Nicolò Bolla of Accounting Bolla told us.

“It takes care of the credit transfer. If you deal with the bank yourself, it takes some expertise and requires a little knowledge of technology and the system, such as downloading and uploading invoices.

“Contractors have multiple sales, so they are more trained to do that,” he added.

However, billions of euros of fraudulent claims led the government to introduce stricter laws, blocking being able to access credit for months, putting the bonus – and renovation projects – on hold.

Our builders were using credit from financial services provider Poste Italiane, who reduced the threshold of credit. This pushed all the building jobs back by months with no word on when works would start.

In that time, they had to search for another bank willing to fund the bonus, while home construction sites lay dormant.

3. Banks blocked and refused credit halfway through projects

Some homeowners faced extra setbacks when they encountered not only delays, but an outright cancellation of prior agreed credit.

Peter (not his real name) told us that he had got the green light to access one of the other building bonuses that can be used in conjunction with the superbonus – the Renovation Bonus (Bonus Ristrutturazioni).

READ ALSO: Budget 2022: Which of Italy’s building bonuses have been extended?

It allows homeowners to apply for a 50 percent tax reduction on carrying out renovation work in both individual properties and condominiums.

The maximum limit on expenses of €96,000 and the 50 percent offset to taxes is divided into annual instalments for 10 years. Or you can apply for the invoice discount or credit transfer.

Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

He applied and was approved for credit transfer for works on his home in Modigliana, Emilia Romagna. After buying a property with his partner in December 2020, they began renovations in January 2021, based on credit approved by Italian bank UniCredit.

He told us they carried out €60,000 of works for a new floor and underfloor, electrics and plumbing throughout, a new boiler, replastering walls and installing a new bathroom.

That means that €30,000 credit was due from the bank, but Peter told us they are now refusing to pay out.

“The excuse from the bank is that we didn’t sign with them, however they didn’t ask us to sign anything when they opened the portal for us at the beginning,” he told us.

So, while the bank registered the renovation jobs for them on the government’s portal in order to be able to claim the bonus, they now refuse to return the credit as originally agreed.

“The thing that upsets me so much with UniCredit is we made about 10 payments to builders and suppliers costing €7.50 a time (in administration fees) to make it, and taking the time to go into the bank especially, to get it registered correctly. And to be let down by them now, really is pretty bad,” he added.

Taking this route is “harder” according to Bolla, as “banks prefer to deal with larger businesses than to give credit to individuals,” he said.

For Peter, he now has the option of deducting the tax from his annual income tax bill or finding another bank to take on and transfer the credit.

4. Finding other solutions to open up the credit transfer system

As accessing finance slowed down and projects ground to a halt, the government intervened with yet another regulatory change to the superbonus.

Along with extending the deadline of 30 percent completion of works for single family homes by three months – to the end of September 30th 2022 – the authorities also looked at how to make accessing the funds more straightforward.

The reason for so many changes stems from how the superbonus originally started.

“Two years ago, it was the Wild West. Anyone could get credit to use the bonus – a person, company or business. Due to that, the authorities lost track of sales and plenty of fraudulent claims slipped through the net,” according to Bolla.

“Everything stopped. Then they regulated too much, creating more bureaucracy and delays. So now, they’ve deregulated a little to reopen the transfer of credit,” he added.

Understanding why there were delays to accessing the bonus are complex and manifold. Along with the reasons above, banks also faced rising inflation, which in part caused them to stop lending.

“Somebody needs to offset the tax at some point. Many banks wanted to buy the credit and resell it to larger banks, but any credit that couldn’t be offset in their taxes got wasted.

“It made the banks less willing to buy credit, which in turn slowed down companies’ and individuals’ ability to access it,” he added.

Now, to keep better track of works being done, Italy’s Inland Revenue Agency (L’Agenzia delle Entrate) has introduced better tracking systems in its latest ruling. These will follow the trail of where the money is going, with the aim of cutting down on time lost to bureaucracy.

5. You might – legally – be left with a half-finished house

Depending on what you’ve agreed with your construction company, you may be taking a gamble with the superbonus no matter what, even if works have begun and the system has eased the bottleneck on claiming the funds.

Our builders would only go ahead with the project if we signed a document, in short saying that we understand the project won’t be finished if the funds aren’t available in time or if works roll on past the deadline.

Photo by Filiz Elaerts on Unsplash

The firm wasn’t going to be liable for paying for the construction of our home (and others’ projects too) if they continued to get caught in delays.

In this case, we had no choice. Sign it and hope for the best or lose the €200,000 that has already gone into the works and wreck purchase so far.

6. There are added fees to account for when claiming the superbonus

If you’ve ever sold or bought property in Italy, you’ll know there is an abundance of hidden costs associated with it.

From agency and notary fees, taxes to legal costs, buying a property in Italy can incur another ten percent of the purchase price. For a list of the hidden costs to watch out for, see our guide here.

When it comes to restoring properties using the superbonus, you’ll need to fork out for various certificates, including an energy certificate known as ‘Certificato Energetico APE’ to prove that the property would benefit from energy upgrades using government funds.

This will also need to be done afterwards to prove that the property meets the requirements of the superbonus and has jumped up at least two energy classes.

You may also incur charges from your local town hall or comune for making changes to the property. In our case, as it’s a considerable project, the administrative fee just for submitting our house plans to review cost €12,000.

In total, the cost of fees on our project – before any restoration works using the bonus have taken place – have come to €30,000.

7. The amount you claim and pay continues to rise

Since the superbonus began, the scope of house restoration projects has changed significantly.

The noted demand pushed up construction quotes and material prices continue to rise, vastly increasing the scale of a project’s budget.

It will come as a blow to home renovators who thought they were potentially getting considerable sums of money from the government and therefore making huge savings.

In fact, there will still be large pots of funds to come from the government, but the problem is the price you pay will track the increases and rise too.

Our particular home renovation project has almost doubled since we began.

We initially accounted for a final cost of €450,000 for all works, using the superbonus for almost half of that.

Instead, the quote we received in November was over €700,000 (on top of what we’ve paid for the wreck) and we were told this is unlikely to be the final cost, rising in line with continuing material price rises when works do finally get underway.

The impact of this is life-changing. In our case, it means we’ve had to apply for soaring monthly repayments for 25 years instead of 15. And that’s only if the bank agrees to grant us such a huge financial commitment – which it has, as yet, not done.

8. You might have to pay taxes if you sell your house after claiming the superbonus

At least for a while, you may have to stick with the property you’ve renovated using the superbonus.

Once you’ve claimed this building bonus, essentially you can’t sell it on for another five years if you want to avoid paying capital gains tax.

Tax expert Nicolò Bolla said that this depends on when you bought the property, however.

If you already owned the house for more than five years and took advantage of the superbonus, you can sell it on with no capital gains tax.

On the other hand, if you just bought the property to benefit from the bonus, and therefore have only owned it for under five years, you’ll be liable for the tax – that is, if you make a gain on its sale.

If you bought an old wreck and renovated it, for instance, it’s likely that you will.

For more advice on selling your property after using the superbonus, remember to check with professionals beforehand.

9. It continues to be popular and set back by delays

Despite the recently extended deadline, homeowners continue to wait in queues for their projects to begin or be completed.

Tax expert Bolla told us he gets “daily requests” for the superbonus, but issues a word of caution about the incentive.

“It is a long journey and you need to have some money to renovate your property with the bonus. It’s an expanded timeframe and there are still supply chain issues,” he said.

Despite this, though, Bolla believes it’s an “amazing” scheme. “We have a lot of energy dependence, so this is a good way to upgrade. Normally, the way we deal with our reliance on energy is to punish those who pollute more with higher energy bills, but those are always lower income people.

“Higher energy costs just punish the poor – this, instead, is a good way to solve the problem.”

See more in our articles about property in Italy on The Local.

SHOW COMMENTS