Italy is the fourth most visited country in the world, which means there's a good chance that someday you'll get to see all the sights and sounds of the country in your lifetime. More than 40 million foreigners touch down to visit some of the most amazing places in the world during just one year. Pasta, one of the world's most consumed foods, was invented in Italy. It's also their national dish! Each Italian consumes more than 25 kilograms of pasta in just one year. Needless to say, there are not many leftovers in an Italian family's refrigerator.

Italy and the EU including links to Italian government sites and tourist information,

There are no restrictions placed upon a non-resident wishing to purchase a house in Italy, either from Europe or elsewhere.

About Property: The first thing to remember is to forget all you know about buying a home in the UK, the US or anywhere else. Buying property in Italy is completely different. Terms you may recognise from your own countries property buying process may have completely different meanings here and it is safer to start from scratch. As always we recommend that you engage your Italian lawyer at the earliest stage for your own protection. In fact we recommend that you engage a lawyer or solicitor from your home country in addition to the Italian lawyer who handles the deal.

If you are after Italy property for sale, then get used to a whole new language. You will know what a villa is, and you can work out appartamento, but what about the bilocale, casetta or terratetto?

The Offer: You can initiate the buying process by making the initial offer, if you see a property that you like. Perhaps because you need time to organise 1/3 of the total price which is payable at Compromesso (see below). Your Italian Lawyer can immediately draw up a Proposta irrevocabile d'acquisto (an irrrevocable purchase agreement) which is signed by the buyer and seller when you have agreed the price, and which identifies both parties, the property in question, and gives an expiry date for signing the Compromesso. When you sign, you pay a deposit for the equivalent of 10% (this can vary) of the agreed price, this can be either held by the Lawyer, and returned to you when you sign the compromesso or cashed by the vendor and used as part of payment on the property.

If you change your mind you will forfeit the deposit, as the owner will have effectively taken the property off the market for a certain period of time. If the sale does not go ahead in the specified date through no fault of your own, then your deposit will be returned to you. We can arrange for a surveyor (Geometra) to organise a survey on the property and carry out the searches, if required at this stage.

Compromesso: This preliminary contract (Compromesso) commits both parties to the sale. This contract establishes the terms and conditions of the final contract (Rogito) and details price, date for completion, the nature of the property and guarantees from the seller. It may also include any other relevant legal details.

You will be expected to pay a deposit at this stage (Caparra) which is usually 1/3 of the purchase price. It is important to note that if you withdraw from the sale after signing the Compromesso, you lose your deposit. However, if the seller withdraws, he must pay you double your deposit.

Rogito: This is the final stage of the process and transfers ownership of the property from the seller to the buyer (usually 1-3 months after the Compromesso). The document is drawn up by the Notary (Notaio), who represents both parties. The buyer, seller and estate agent are all required to be present for the signing of the contract at the Notary's office. You can sign the Rogito in person or you may be able to appoint a Power of Attorney in your absence. You will be expected to transfer the funds to the vendor and the Notary at this stage. We recommend that the best way of transferring funds to your Italian bank account in time for the Rogito is either via Swift from your own bank in your own country or by using a specialist currency dealer, which may be able to offer you better rate of exchange.

If you can't be present at the Rogito, your lawyer can draw up the power of attorney agreement which is emailed/faxed/sent to you and you need to print it off and sign it in the presence of a solicitor. You then need to send or take it to the Foreign Office in your country to have it ratified with an "Apostille" and sent back to Italy. The rogito can then be signed on your behalf by your authorized representative without the need for you to come to Italy.

Fees and Charges: As well as paying the balance for the property, you the buyer must also pay:

  • Purchase tax – which is either 3% (replaced by 4% VAT if buying from a building company) if the buyer purchases the property as his first residential home in Italy and applies for residency in the local area, or 10% if the foreign buyer already owns property in Italy or does not wish to apply for residency. Please note that the tax is calculated on the declared value of the property and not the purchase price. It is paid on the value stated in the building registry. The declared value of land is extremely low, unless it is valuable land such as olive groves or building land.
  • Notary fee – payable when you sign the final contract;
  • Surveyor (geometra) The geometra will check that all the documents for the house are up to date and legal. That buildings have a fully registered title and that the house complies with planning regulations. This fee is also payable at the signing of the final contract. Some Notaries liaise with a Geometra directly and you will only pay one fee directly to the Notary.

Annual Costs: The Running costs of your property will include:

  • Annual Tax– The Imposta Comunale sugli Immobili is an annual council tax calculated on the value of the property. It is payable twice a year in June and December and it is possible to pay it once in December for non residents.
  • Rubbish tax, which is payable in four quarterly instalments or all at once if you prefer.
  • Utilities, such as electricity, water, gas, telephone (if required).
  • Condominium expenses. If you buy a property which is part of a group of properties which share some communal areas, gardens, driveway, swimming pool, tennis court etc. then you will be required to pay your share of condominium expenses.

The easiest way to pay most of these is by direct debit, although some you will need to pay at the post office.

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Disclaimer: This guide is for information only and should not be relied upon as definitive. Details have been obtained from various sources and although we have done everything possible to ensure that it is correct, we cannot accept responsibility for it or guarantee its accuracy. This is because processes and laws change frequently, and may vary dependant upon personal circumstances. You are welcome to use the information provided, but should always obtain confirmation of specific details and get independent specialist and legal advice in the country that the information refers to.

19-10-2009