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SECOND HOMES

Everything you need to know about having a second home in Italy

Buying property in Italy and spending long holidays in the Tuscan countryside, by the sea or in cities like Florence or Rome is the dream for many.

Everything you need to know about having a second home in Italy
If you're dreaming of a bolthole under the Tuscan sun, here's what you'll need to consider. Photo by Mattia Bericchia on Unsplash

Being the owner of a seconda casa (second home) in Italy brings with it some specific legal and financial obligations, however it’s not always easy to find the information relating to your status.

Whether its taxes, visas, travel or property regulations, information for second-home owners is often hidden away while governments rarely prioritise those who are not resident in the country.

That’s why we’ve put together a guide to the most frequently-asked questions from second-home owners in Italy.

We also have an emailed newsletter specifically for Italian home owners so you can be kept abreast of everything you need to know, whether it’s a change in the tax rules or travel alerts.

To sign up, click HERE and tick ‘Own a home in Italy?’

Visas

First things first, how long can you stay at your lovely Italian place? Here the key thing is what passport you hold.

If you have the passport of an EU country (including Ireland) then you’re one of the lucky ones and have no limits on how long you can stay in Italy (although there might be tax considerations, more on that later).

If you are a citizen of a non-EU country such as the UK, US, Canada or Australia then you have two choices – you can either limit your stays to 90 days in every 180 or get a visa.

READ ALSO: What type of visa will you need to move to Italy?

90 days – you can find a full explanation of the 90-day rule HERE, but bear in mind that it covers the whole of the Schengen zone, so you need to include in your count time spent in Italy, plus any trips to other Schengen zone countries, e.g. a weekend in Berlin or a beach holiday in Spain.

Visas – if you don’t want to be constrained by the 90-day rule, you will need to get a visa and apply for Italian residency once you arrive.

Here are the types of visa available to those wanting to spend more than 90 days at a time in Italy.

Bear in mind that not all countries benefit from the 90-day rule and citizens of certain countries – such as India – will need a visa for a visit of any length.

Reader question: Can I have residency in Italy and another country?

Income tax

Most second-home owners keep their tax residency in their home country and therefore do not need to complete the annual Italian tax declaration.

However if you intend to rent out your second home – for example on Airbnb – that means you have income in Italy and therefore may have to complete the Italian income tax declaration.

EXPLAINED: What are Italy’s rules and taxes for Airbnb rentals?

Bear in mind also that long stays in Italy and out of your home country will change your ‘tax residency’ status – more on that here.

Property taxes

Although most second-home owners won’t have to fill out the annual tax declaration or pay income tax, you will have to pay property taxes.

Taxes on second homes in Italy are inherently higher than those levied on primary residences. These include the ‘Imposta Municipale Unica’ (Unified Municipal Tax), the basic rate of tax that has to be paid to the Italian state based on the value of the property, and the Tassa sui rifiuti (waste tax) for rubbish collection.

Contemplating buying a place in Italy?

Contemplating buying a place in Italy? Photo by La So on Unsplash

You won’t get a bill for this, just a deadline of when to pay and what coefficient your type of property is to be able to do the sums. IMU needs to be paid for each month and is due twice a year, in June and December.

READ ALSO: What taxes do you need to pay if you own a second home in Italy?

Utility bills are also sometimes higher for second home owners – read more about the potential hidden costs of buying property in Italy HERE.

Status 

There’s a popular misconception that owning property in Italy and paying property taxes gives you extra rights in terms of travel or immigration, but in fact that is not the case.

As we saw during the pandemic, travel restrictions were divided into residents and visitors, with second-home owners falling under the same bracket as tourists. Likewise your immigration status is determined by whether you have a visa or an EU passport; owning property makes no difference. 

Building bonuses

It’s not all immigration red tape and tax woes – with its many abandoned properties in need of a little TLC, Italy offers property renovation and improvement ‘bonuses’ in the form of tax credits to property owners, including non-Italian second home owners.

These include tax incentives for those looking to make seismic improvements, ecobonuses aimed at encouraging energy upgrades in buildings, and the ‘green bonus’ relating to work on gardens, terraces and green areas in general.

You don’t necessarily need to be resident in Italy to benefit – non-residents can transfer the tax credit to another party in return for a commission, such as tax credit institutes or banks, or can apply for a discount on your contractor’s invoice (sconto in fattura), effectively trading your tax credit to the suppliers.

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

If you’ve been thinking of buying property in Italy, you’ve likely read about the ‘Superbonus 110’, a post-pandemic stimulus which offered homeowners up to 110% deductions on expenses related to energy upgrades and reducing seismic risk.

Unfortunately the bonus has been so in demand that homeowners are stuck amid delays on many projects as construction companies struggle to keep up – and most of the deadlines for accessing the scheme have now passed anyway.

That doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of Italy’s ongoing property renovation benefits though, which are usually renewed or updated in some form each year in the annual budget.

Workers on scaffolding in France.

Italy’s building bonuses may help with reconstruction costs. Photo by Philippe HUGUEN / AFP

Enjoyment

Lest much of this article seem overly negative, we should point out that many people have second homes in Italy and love them.

Property in Italy, especially in rural areas and small hill towns, is cheap compared to the UK or US, so buying a place here is not the preserve of the super rich.

Having your own place gives you a sense of permanence and many second-home owners become embedded in their local communities. Some people keep their Italian place purely for visits, while others eventually move to Italy full time, often after retirement. 

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

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PROPERTY

PROPERTY: Should you hire a renovation agency for your Italian home?

If you're renovating a home in Italy, will you need to pay a middleman to cut through the red tape and language barriers? Silvia Marchetti looks at the pros and cons.

PROPERTY: Should you hire a renovation agency for your Italian home?

The idea of snapping up a cheap, crumbling house in a picturesque Italian village may sound appealing – but doing so always comes with tedious paperwork and the hassle of renovation.

For this reason, a growing number of professional agencies have sprung up in Italy to cater to foreign buyers snapping up cheap homes amid the property frenzy.

In many of the Italian towns selling one-euro or cheap homes, there are now ‘restyle experts’ and agencies that offer renovation services handling everything that could become a nightmare: from dealing with the paperwork and fiscal issues to finding a notary for the deed, contracting an architect, surveyor, a building team and the right suppliers for the furniture.

They also handle the sometimes tricky task of reactivating utilities in properties that have been abandoned for decades.

I’ve travelled to many of these villages and looked at this side of the business, too. Hiring these ‘middle people’ comes with pros and cons, though the positive aspects can certainly outweigh the negatives – provided you’re careful to pick the right professionals. 

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

These intermediaries are usually locals who have expertise in real estate and a good list of suppliers’ contacts. This allows them to deliver turnkey homes that were once just heaps of decaying rubble, sparing buyers time and money – particularly those living abroad, who then aren’t forced to fly over to Italy countless times a year to follow the work in progress.

I’ve met several buyers from abroad who purchased cheap homes sight unseen after merely looking at photos posted online by local authorities, but then had to book many expensive long-haul flights to hire the architect, get the paperwork done, and select the construction team (a few even got stuck here during Covid).

Thanks to their contacts the local agents can ensure fast-track renovations are completed within 2-4 months, which could prove very useful as the ‘superbonus’ frenzy in Italy has caused a builder shortage meaning many people renovating property now face long delays

Photo by TIZIANA FABI / AFP

Their all-inclusive commission usually starts at 5 percent of the total cost of a renovation, or at 2.500 euros per house independently from its cost and dimension. The fee also depends on the type of work being carried out, how tailored it is and whether there are any specific requirements, like installing an indoor elevator or having furniture pieces shipped from the mainland if it happens to be a Sicilian or Sardinian village. 

However, buyers must always be careful. It is highly recommended to make sure the local authorities know who these agents are and how reliable they are in delivering results.

Town halls can often suggest which local companies to contact, and this gives the renovation legitimacy in my view. In a small village, where everyone knows each other, when the town hall recommends an agency there’s always a certain degree of trust involved and agents know that their credibility is at stake (and also future commissions by more clients). 

Word of mouth among foreign buyers is a powerful tool; it can be positive or detrimental for the agency if a restyle isn’t done the right way, or with too many problems.

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

So it’s best to avoid agencies from another village, even if nearby, who come to you offering fast and super-cheap services, or local agencies that are not suggested by the mayor’s office. 

Then of course there can be other downsides, which largely depend on how ‘controlling’ and demanding the client is. 

For those not based in Italy full-time, the most important consideration is: how much can you trust these professionals to deliver what you expect, exactly how you want it, without having to be constantly on the ground? 

Photo by Philippe HUGUEN / AFP

Language can be a major obstacle. There are technical building terms that prove difficult to translate, and if the local agency doesn’t have English-speaking renovation professionals with a track record in following foreign clients it’s best to look for an intermediary with a greater language proficiency. 

I remember meeting an American couple once who got lost in translation with a village agent for days, and had to hire a translator just to hire the intermediary.

It’s always useful to ask for a ‘preventivo’ (quote) with VAT indication, considering roughly how much inflation could make the final cost go up. Buyers should also sign a contract with the exact timeframe of the works and delivery date of the new home, including penalties if there are delays on the part of the agency. 

READ ALSO:

But, even when there is complete trust, I think it is impossible to fully restyle an old home from a distance, contacting intermediaries by phone, emails, messages or video calls only. 

Details are key and there’s always something that could be misinterpreted. Buyers based overseas should still follow-up the renovation phases personally, perhaps with one or two flights per year to check all is going well and up to schedule.

Asking to see the costs so far undertaken midway through the restyle is useful to make sure there are no hidden costs or unexpected third parties involved – like buying the most expensive furniture or marble floor when not requested, or hiring a carpenter to build artisan beds.

While there is really no such thing as a hassle-free renovation, these agencies can ease the pressure and do most of the burdensome work – but buyers’ supervision will always be needed.

Read more in The Local’s Italian property section.

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