Many decide to acquire a property in Italy. This dream may come true with some planning and the right help of legal specialists which may support the buyers through the process. By doing so, the difficulties due to language barrier and different habits and legalities in Italy can be overcome more rapidly.
Professionals required to buy a house in Italy
An English-speaking lawyer in Italy may accompany the foreign buyer along the process and clarify the legal aspects of buying in a different system taking also account other issues, such as inheritance and double taxation.
Other specialists that can help in the sale of property in Italy may be:
- Sale agent (Agente immobiliare): foreign buyers may need to mandate an estate agent, in order to find a property on sale with the characteristics they require. More often, it is the seller that hire an estate agent to sale the property. The buyer will be obliged to pay a commission to the sale agent if he/she visited the property on sale with the sale agent chosen by the seller. In some less frequent cases, the negotiation and the sale of the properties are carried out by sellers and buyers directly without intermediaries.
- Financial adviser: this professional may help when there are financial arrangements to be made to buy or lease the property. The main estate agencies in Italy have their own financial advisers which can help to get a loan from the bank or a leasing contract.
- Technician: an architect, a civil engineering or, more often, a technician called geometra is hired to value the property, do the building survey and verify the technical features of the property as well as the documents concerning the house, including certificates showing that the gas, water, and electricity were up to standard. These experts may also provide quotes in writing on repairs like seismic reinforcements and renovating costs of the property.
- Notary: at the end, the buyer will need to hire an Italian notary to oversee the sale. The notary is a public official acting independently of both seller and buyer and ensuring that the transfer of the property complies with all legal requirements.
Property Lawyers Italy: why they are essential?
An Italian property lawyer is a professional which will serve and represent your interests from the beginning of the process, before signing any document in Italy.
Not only foreigners, but also Italians underestimate the importance of being assisted by a lawyer at the early stage of the process, in order to avoid problems due to the signing of pre-contractual agreements written by non lawyers as well as discrepancies between the declarations of the seller and the documents of the property on sale, situations which may give rise to various claims on damages.
Moreover, under Italian law, due to the pre-contractual liability, a buyer which engages to buy a property at an agreed price and at a certain date is obliged to do so. Therefore it is really important to understand the terms of the promise and state clearly the conditions. Signing a document in a foreign language and/or paying a small deposit to the sale agent in Italy may trigger unexpected consequences. If this happens, it may not be possible to renegotiate or modify terms and conditions of the purchase according to the actual wish of the buyer.
Therefore, before signing any document, the buyer should consider to seek advice from an Italian lawyer who is bilingual, familiar with both Italian and International property law issues and whose mission is to serve the client’s interests.
Process of buying a property in Italy
The main steps to acquire a property in Italy are the following:
Making the offer
Negotiation is key to successfully making an offer in Italy. It is advisable to ask to visit the targeted property more than once and to carry on a building survey, in order to make an offer that reflects the true value of the property.
Initially, the price would be negotiated verbally through the estate agent. Then the buyer signs a purchase proposal (proposta di acquisto), which is a declaration by the buyer that he wants to purchase the property at a certain price. Once signed, the buyer is committed to purchase. But the seller is not yet obliged to accept.
Some properties (especially in rural areas) sold with land, have to be offered to the neighbouring farmers at that price first.
Generally, the offer expires if it is not accepted by the seller within a short period of time (usually one week).
Signing the preliminary agreement
Once the proposal is accepted by the seller, the parties may enter into a preliminary agreement (contratto preliminare). As already mentioned, in Italy this is a proper contract that obligates the seller and the buyer to sign the final contract.
The preliminary agreement contains the main elements of the transaction:
– the detailed description of the property, including information from the Land Registry,
– the details of the parties;
– the sale price
– the date of the final contract.
It is not mandatory to sign a preliminary contract nor for the preliminary contract to be drawn up by a notary or a lawyer. However, it may be useful to have legal assistance on its terms or to add some conditions. Usually, the buyer will pay a deposit (caparra) which is a 10% of the purchase price. Under typical conditions laid out in the contract, if the seller backs out, the buyer could claim back the double of his deposit. If the purchaser backs out, it loses its deposit.
However, there may be other consequences.
Under Italian law, the buyer or the seller may request to the judge the completion of the transaction established in the preliminary contract. Therefore, the judge may order that the promised property is transferred to the buyer and that the promised price is paid to the seller. Moreover, the claiming party will have the legal right to seek compensation for the damages and extra costs suffered.
Signing the notarial deed of sale
By Italian law, the notary must perform a series of checks on legality such as ownership, land boundaries and neighbouring pre-emption right, existing mortgages.
The lawyer of the buyer and the vendor will work with the notary to check and collect all the necessary documents of the parties (including passport, codice fiscal (tax code), mortgage documents, and marriage certificates) and the property. Next, they will set a date for the deed of sale (rogito) to be signed in person by both parties at the notary’s office. If the buyer does not speak Italian, a translator paid by the buyer assists in translating and reading the notarial document alongside the notary.
If a party is unable to attend in person, it may grant its solicitor a special power to sign the notarial deed in his/her place.
The payment of the purchase price is made to the seller, usually through an Italian banker’s draft or a bank transfer, whose details are indicated in the final deed.
It is also possible to transfer the money through a notary’s escrow account. The funds will be hold by the notary until the deed of the sale has been filed in the Land registry and registered with the taxation authorities. The land and cadastral registries in Italy are public and everyone can see who owns the property and if it is subject to mortgages or encumbrances. The notary will pay the relevant taxes on behalf of the buyer.
After the signature of the notarial deed the buyer receives the keys of its new property and, if it wants to leave in Italy, it may ask for residence. The residents in Italy benefit of some reductions on taxes on the property where they live.
If you need assistance in buying a property in Italy, you may contact us.