15 Nov Why you need more than a real estate agent when buying in Italy
Buying a property in Italy as a foreigner can be difficult. However, surprisingly, there are plenty of people ready to tell you that it’s not! This would include real estate agents in Italy, who for the most part, represent the seller (see more below).
Most of us tend to rely on our previous experience in buying property back home, and it’s a common mistake to contact an agent attached to a property you are researching in Italy, and assume incorrectly that the agent in Italy fulfils the same role as an agent in your home country.
In fact most professionals agree, buying residential property in Italy can be quite complex, and it’s a relatively expensive process compared to other countries around the world. Without specialist help such as someone who can advise you about the Italian culture when it comes to buying and selling property, and who knows well how Italy’s fiscal, legal and administrative systems operate, you may quickly find yourself out of your depth of experience.
By law, an estate agent must be registered with the local chamber of commerce in Italy (camera di commercio) and hold a certificate issued by the local municipality (comune) as proof of registration. Also, an agent should be registered with the federation of mediators and agents (FIMAA), the Italian association of estate agents (AICI), or the federation of professional estate agents (FIAIP). You should always check that your agent is duly qualified.
You will have to pay the Real Estate agent a commission that can vary between 3-5% of the purchase price + VAT (22% of the agent’s commission fee). The agent’s commission usually is requested to be paid upon signing of the preliminary sales contract, and not upon the completion of the transaction. However this is negotiable, and your individual agreement with the agent can allow for payment only when the transaction is complete, in order to encourage the agent to be present and working to help you in communicating with the seller, in case it’s needed, right up until the moment of completion of the transaction.
You can also negotiate to ensure that commissions are refundable if the sale is unsuccessful.
Aside from the agent’s licensing and their commission fees, it is important to understand their role and how it may be different to your experience about agent’s roles and responsibilities in your own country of birth.
The Italian Real Estate agent is intended to be a mediator who helps both parties find a viable economic agreement. However in practice, as you will see, this is not always the case.
Most Italian agents operate locally, and in fact they may be very close or even related to the seller. In these common cases, the agent is very conscious of the seller’s needs and interests. This may give rise to a potential conflict of interest in representing the buyer in the purchase process, since the main goal of the agent is to sell the property on behalf of the seller for a price desired by the seller. In order to achieve this aim and protect the seller’s interests, the real estate agent may also overlook some property paperwork discrepancies or property defects.
This is not so surprising when you consider the following important point:
According to Italian law (specifically Article 1176 of the Italian Civil Code), Italian real estate agents are not required to carry out any technical or legal search processes (due diligence) related to the property, nor are they considered qualified to do so. This lack of due diligence could clearly affect you as a buyer arriving to view property, and could impact both the transaction itself, and your potential future resale of the property.
The engagement and support of a real estate agent in Italy is surely useful when buying a property in Italy, and especially to manage communications with the selling party, however in order to safeguard your own interests as the buyer, you need to think carefully about the technical and legal aspects of your purchase.
The due diligence processes (technical or structural, including building-code compliance, and legal and administrative due diligence processes), need to be taken seriously.
We’re convinced there is a need for an experienced property advisor who understands the process and is on your side, who can help coordinate, manage and evaluate the technical and legal due diligence procedures required.
Essentially, everything related to the due diligence of Italian real estate purchases should be handled by independent technicians and professionals, to avoid the potential conflicts and pitfalls.
The team at D&G Property Advice specialises in this area. We’ve helped countless expats realize their dream of owning property in Italy by focusing solely upon only the buyer’s interest, your interest, and ensuring that you don’t fall victim to the unintended consequences of buying property without undertaking the appropriate due diligence.
Feel free to get in contact for more specific information.