The Purchasing Process for Italian Property in Detail

Isabella Zammit,  Thursday, 14 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:

The Italian purchasing process for property involves a number of contracts. It can be quite a complex process and you’ll need to engage the protection of a lawyer as early as you can. Whilst most purchases pass off without a problem, it’s always better to shift to the side of caution.

The Second Lawyer

For added protection, we recommend employing a lawyer from your own country, as well as a lawyer in Italy. Some people prefer to avoid this by dealing with an international estate agency which deals in purchases within your own country and abroad.

You have to remember an Italian lawyer might not have full knowledge of the law in your country. They’re engaged to do everything by Italian law and nothing more. You’ll feel a lot safer if you have someone by your side who also knows the laws of your land.

First Approaches

Once you’ve found a property you like, it will be time to make an offer. You’ll do this through the estate agent. In Italy, a gesture of good faith is expected. This is in the form of a small deposit on the value of the property. It can be anything up to 5%. In return, the seller takes the property off the active market and you have the right of first refusal.

It displays your commitment to making a purchase. At this point, the purchase isn’t legally binding and you can still pull out with your deposit if you change your mind.

You should call the surveyors in at this point, if you haven’t already. Your lawyer will also need to check on things like building regulations and whether everything is sound legally. After the initial deposit, the main reason for a purchasing collapse is legal problems.

This initial approach is called the proposta d’acquisto in Italian.

Legally Binding Preliminary Contract

After you’ve made all your checks, you can now enter the business end of the buying process. The contratto preliminare di vendita is the preliminary contract. It outlines the various selling conditions. You’ll see a full description of the property, payments, and public rights of way.

This contract is legally binding and you can’t pull out of it. The only reason to pull out now is for legal reasons, which automatically overrule anything outlined in this contract.

As part of the preliminary contract, you’ll pay a deposit worth 20% of the total property purchasing price.

The Public Notary

Following the signing of the contratto preliminare di vendita, you’ll hire a public notary. The notary is the representative of the state and it’s their job to ensure the transfer of ownership is conducted correctly. They’ll also be responsible for any taxes paid to the government, such as stamp duty and VAT.

The notary isn’t yours to command. They act on behalf of the buyer and the seller. They’re completely impartial. This is why employing a lawyer is so valuable. A notary can only say so much before they breach the trust they have with the seller and you. A lawyer has no such restrictions. They’re there to serve you and only you, therefore they can give advice based on your situation for the benefit of you only.

It’s their duty to check the deeds and conduct any necessary searches. Since the notary does all of this, some buyers prefer to opt out of employing a lawyer.

We wouldn’t recommend not employing a lawyer, unless you have previous experience with the Italian legal system.

The Rogito

The rogito, or atto, is the final contract. This is where you officially receive ownership of the property and the keys are handed over. You’ll pay the remaining balance on the property and any fees/taxes due. At this point, the buyer has nothing to do with the process and will leave the picture.

It’s now up to the notary to deliver the information to the relevant local government officials about the new owner of the property.

In the vast majority of cases, the buyer appears together with the seller at the office of the notary.

Power of Attorney

If you can’t make it to the signings of your contracts, you can issue a document which gives power of attorney to your legal representative. In some cases, you might see a contract signing conducted by two sets of legal professionals without the presence of the buyer or seller.

Many buyers never actually meet their seller in person, especially if they happen to own multiple properties.

Non-nationals often prefer to appear at the signing of the rogito. It gives them peace of mind and enables them to move into their new Italian property immediately.

Overall, buying a property in Italy doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. The key to making everything run smoothly is preparation. Employ the right team of experts and you’ll find buying your Italian home effortless!  

All types of Italian property for sale by private sellers and estate agents. Find your perfect houses, farmhouses or apartment in all regions of Italy including Liguria, Tuscany, Umbria and Marche. 

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