08 Sep Before you buy your dream home in Italy … here’s 3 essential starting-out tips
Whatever your reason or inspiration for buying in Italy most of us agree, ‘falling in love is easy’.
(and after all one can’t help but fall in love with Italy!).
Perhaps you have Italian family connections, you might see yourself retiring here one day, or you simply want the flexibility to stay and enjoy the climate, culture and food of the region you like so much, more often than just once.
Once you’re convinced about buying, turning your focus to the task (or really, many tasks) involved in the process of buying a property in Italy from start to finish, requires dedication and well, a little ongoing commitment.
There are many aspects to consider when you begin the process of buying a home in Italy…
from choosing the team on the ground that will support your purchase, to ensuring the property title being passed to you is legally sound, to managing communications with Italian agents, property professionals and authorities, to considering how your tax residency could be affected, … and the ongoing costs and taxes affecting the property… to name a few.
At some stage it may feel a little daunting.
We ought not be under any illusions, it’s not for the faint-hearted .. but then nothing that’s really valuable ever comes easy, does it?
D&G has come up with our own 3 essential ‘starting-out tips’ to prepare you for this journey. These are by far not the only tips to consider, and this article is purely introductory, a ‘start here’ discussion, if you like, for new buyers in Italy.
We believe these tips are simply a great place to start.
Tip Number 1: Adapt your thinking to the local culture.
This essential ingredient for success could be introduced with the words … ‘Before you leave home….’
If you arrive and bring with you the knowledge and experience of buying in another country and you start to negotiate purely on this basis without preparation, misunderstandings are likely to occur, and cultural differences will begin to be apparent.
In some cases this can result in communications not being responded to promptly or simply ignored. This may not happen at first (since typically there is enthusiasm and goodwill where there is desire to sell quickly on the part of the selling agent for example), but your communications could appear to fall on deaf ears later, as you try and move through the various stages of buying in Italy.
Your buying project will have the very best chance to go smoothly if you are willing to appreciate that the buying culture (and even attitude towards home-ownership) in Italy is likely to be very different to your home country.
Italian selling habits
Italians in some parts of the country are used to the idea of selling to foreign buyers however many many more are not – and hence local agents (agente immobiliari) and other required property professionals may well be unprepared.
We highly recommend spending some time attempting to appreciate the needs, attitudes, timeframe and motivations of the seller and his/her advisers, before proceeding to make an offer on property, and certainly before you make your plans on renovating or holiday-ing in your new property within the next couple of months.
Tip Number 2 Be wary of agent-referred professionals.
The Italian buying process can be broken down into many stages or steps. It’s our intention to guide you through these stages and smooth your path in the best way possible.
After your property search, at some stage you will be ready to deepen your research or start negotiating on your chosen property. The first contact for a lot of people buying in Italy is the Italian realtor, or real estate agent (Agente Immobiliare). The first mistake people often make is to assume the agent is acting for you and in your best interests. Now if you’ve bought property before this shouldn’t be news to you. Sales agents in any country are usually employed or engaged by the seller. We all know it’s usually in the seller’s best interest to sell quickly, and at the highest possible price. (And in Italy, never for an amount less than the price the owner or his family paid for it when they bought it – whether that be last month or 10 years ago).
An Italian would rather live in rudine (ruins!) or eat Pasta that’s not al dente than sell his or her house for less than they paid for it!
Having said that, you should never assume the seller’s needs and motives for selling – or indeed how they want to sell and to whom they prefer to sell, and over what time period. You could well be surprised when your assumptions about what the seller wants, don’t turn out to be true.
But let’s get back to the selling agent. Essentially the selling agent will be doing his or her best to meet the seller’s needs, as their first and often only, priority. They will also be responsible for ensuring the sellers paperwork is in order and available for inspection.
The agent’s service in Italy extends to items like assisting the seller in arranging the preliminary contracts of sale (or at least drafts) and referring the seller to the local Notaio (Italian legal professional responsible to the Italian State to ensure the property transfer is legal and correctly implemented). Their role also extends to ensuring the sellers paperwork is in order and available for inspection.
Typically the Notaio (and Agent) have lived in the same area for many years and worked on many property transfers together. It’s quite normal for both parties to have known the seller or their family for several years as well.
Does this represent a problem for you as the buyer? Well not necessarily in and of itself. However it’s important to note that first of all you have every right to choose the Notaio yourself, as the buyer. This choice can be affected by several factors including the fees charged by the Notaio, the place at which you want or need the final settlement or closing to take place (Rogito), the language/s the Notaio is able to speak (to explain in your language the legal contracts, process and obligations), and the ability to access property industry contacts or professionals that might be needed in your property purchase.
Not every property purchase transaction in Italy needs the same service-providers. In fact, we would say that in Italy, every purchase is different. Consequently, whilst some properties may need a geometra’s help or an engineer’s help, or an independent lawyer’s help, or the assistance of someone that can deal with the bank’s needs if you are using a mortgage to help you buy, some purchases may need one or more of these providers, and some purchases may not need any of them!
If you can, it’s wise to seek out the appropriate professionals to assist you with your purchase before you blindly accept the recommendations of the sales agent.
While you’re at it, it’s a great idea to ask the realtor (Agente Immobiliari) for evidence of his/her real estate trading license (l’iscrizione al ruolo in Camera di Commercio) and public insurances (RC professionale), as required by Italian law.
Tip 3 – Get your timing and cost expectations right
Finally an essential starting-out tip in Italy, and a question we are often asked concerns timing and costs.
In another article we will explore costs in more detail, however if you are buying for the first time you ought to have a budget for the costs that are typically incurred when buying in Italy. This will certainly help you avoid surprises and disappointment, especially when the day arrives when the Italian Notaio or agent starts sending you their bills.
A rule of thumb to consider is that around 15 to 20% of the purchase price is what you can expect to pay in purchase taxes, Notaio fees, seller fees, survey or site inspection costs, legal fees and government taxes. Ideally your adviser on the ground in Italy will be able to provide you an all-round view or summary of estimated costs and when you can expect to be required to pay them.
When you consider the time it might take to buy in Italy it pays to leave your home-country experiences at the airport.
We have seen a property sale completed within 3 months and others completed in 3 years. We have found that on average you should consider a 6 month timeframe as reasonably indicative – where no renovations or fixes to the property have been agreed or required. Your Italian purchase may ultimately be faster or slower than average because every purchase is different.
It will all depend on the circumstances and motives of both seller and buyer, the state of the property when you find it (not just physical but legal status as well), the conditions or availability of finance in Italy if you require it, and any changing local or national laws that could affect the property during the sale process. You may be surprised at the long-term view taken by sellers and professionals within the industry here in Italy.
We can safely say that achieving your dream to buy in Italy will depend upon your ability to navigate your way through the buying process despite any time delays and little surprises along the way, and their associated potential frustration and costs.
Whether you are buying a future home, a holiday home or an investment property in Italy, with these handy but essential starting-out tips your buying journey will be much better prepared and likely to succeed.
Stay tuned and search for more articles on the buying process on our site.