Isabella Zammit, Friday, 15 November 2013
This article is part of a series of 8 articles about buying property in Italy. The other articles in the series cover the following topics:
Italy is the country with the famous boot shape. It was once the centre of the world with the Roman Empire and the Renaissance. This rich and vibrant
nation is proud of its heritage and thousands of people seek to move here each year.
The Italian property market can be complicated, though. If you’re unprepared for the long process, you might fall foul of the various legal
restrictions. Here’s an introduction to the Italian property market.
Can Foreigners Own Italian Property?
There are no legal or financial restrictions on foreigners owning Italian property. You’ll go through the exact same process as a native Italian
would. Italy has long been eager to attract non-nationals to the country, so any difficulties in buying property never entered the system.
You do have to be careful with who you buy a property with, though. The only real restriction is you’ll often be charged more in fees than an Italian
would. You can get around this by doing your research, but it’s something a lot of people fall for.
The Mortgage Question
Unless you’re wealthy, you’ll likely be looking at taking out a mortgage. In some countries, foreigners can’t easily get mortgages. In Italy, there
are no such problems. If you’re a UK buyer, you will run into problems with the banks. Only Halifax, which has an Italian division, will consider
recognising Italian property.
The other banks won’t take it into account. Another issue you’ll come across is the inspection process. Italy is notorious for its bureaucracy and
amount of time it takes to process comparatively simply mortgage requests.
If you don’t have a lot of money saved in the bank, you’ll find it difficult to get a mortgage. They don’t recognise cultural differences. In the UK,
we often move out at 18 or 20 and start renting. Italians usually have more money in the bank because it’s socially acceptable to live with your
parents well into your 20s.
It’s a long and arduous process. You can make it easier by employing a broker to help you, though. They’ll ask you lots of pedantic questions, but in
return you’ll have access to the top rates.
The avvocato, if we look at it in its simplest terms, is equivalent to a solicitor or a lawyer in the UK. You’ll definitely need one of these. Your
decision rests on whether you want someone you can contact in the UK or someone in Italy.
There are international agencies with offices in the UK. You can use these agencies and they’ll guide you through the process of buying Italian
properties. We recommend getting professional help for this. It’s such a difficult path to tread the extra expense is worth it.
It goes without saying you need someone who can speak fluent Italian and English. Any professional dealing with international buyers will speak
English. Someone dealing exclusively with domestic buyers might not be able to help you as much.
The Buying Process
The buying process can be quite complicated. Unless you have a big bank balance, you’ll have to submit to lots of questioning about your finances and
your ability to buy the home. It doesn’t matter if you intend on making it your primary residence or a second home.
- The buying process begins with your proposa d’acquisto. This gives you first refusal on the property and takes it off the market. You’ll pay a
small deposit up to a maximum of 5%.
- The contratto preliminare di vendita is the preliminary contract. It’s legally binding and defines the selling conditions and ownership rights.
You’ll pay a 20% deposit on the property prices for this contract.
- A public notaio (notary) will be appointed. This is the legal body which deals with all the deeds and inspections. They act on behalf of the
- The rogito/atto is the final contract and is signed at the office of the notary. You will pay all the taxes and fees at this stage.
After this process, you’ll officially own the property and you can move in whenever you wish to.
You have to be prepared to be disappointed if you buy a rural property. Italy has a legal clause which states neighbouring farmers have first refusal
on any adjacent properties sold. If they object to the property being given to you, you can’t buy the property. They can object for absolutely any
They have three months to exercise this right. Usually, if there are any objections, it happens at the proposa d’acquisto stage. You normally get
5% deposit back if this happens.
There are no such restrictions and legal rights when it comes to urban properties. This law is mainly to preserve the heritage and cultures of the
countryside, of which most of modern Italy was built on.