Essential Checks Before Signing a Property Purchase Contract in Italy

Faustina Rossi,  Wednesday, 17 January 2024

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Purchasing a house in Italy can be a dream come true for many foreigners, whether it's a quaint countryside villa or a chic city apartment. However, the process involves navigating the intricacies of Italian property law and understanding the unique steps involved. This article provides an essential guide to help foreigners understand what to expect and how to prepare for buying a house in Italy.

The Importance of Written Agreements in Italian Law

In Italy, oral agreements in real estate transactions are not legally binding. It's crucial to have everything recorded in writing. This aspect of Italian law underscores the importance of thorough documentation throughout the buying process, ensuring that all agreements and conditions are clearly outlined and legally recognized.

Three-Step Process

The process of buying a house in Italy typically involves three main steps:

  1. Written Offer: Initially, the buyer makes a written offer to purchase the property, often subject to financing and a technical inspection. However, it's important to note that at this stage, the seller retains the right to sell the property to someone else.
  2. Provisional Purchase Contract (‘Compromesso’ or ‘Contratto Preliminare’): Once the offer is accepted, both parties enter into a provisional purchase contract. This contract lays out the terms of the sale and usually requires a deposit.
  3. Deed of Transfer (‘Atto Notarile’): The final step involves signing the deed of transfer at a notary’s office, officially transferring ownership to the buyer.

Due Diligence Before Recording the Purchase

Before recording the purchase at the notary, it is wise to conduct thorough checks:

  1. Co-Owners: Determine if there are any co-owners of the property. In cases where a co-owner is unwilling to sell, it can be challenging to reclaim your deposit and to persuade the co-owner to agree to the sale.
  2. Inheritance and Ownership Relationships: Pay attention to the property's history, particularly with regards to inheritance. Understanding the ownership relationships helps in ascertaining clear title to the property.
  3. Permits: Verify if the house has been built or renovated with all the necessary permits. Non-compliance can lead to legal issues and additional costs.
  4. Mortgage Debt: In Italy, any mortgage debt is attached to the property rather than the individual. Ensure that any existing mortgage debt is settled by the seller before the transfer of ownership.


Buying a house in Italy as a foreigner is a complex process that requires careful consideration and detailed knowledge of Italian property law. It is highly recommended to engage with local real estate experts, including a notary and possibly a legal advisor, to navigate the legalities and ensure a smooth transaction. With proper guidance and due diligence, purchasing a property in Italy can be a secure and rewarding experience.

Our comprehensive guide is the perfect companion if you are considering moving to Italy or are already living there. Learn all about buying a house, mastering the Italian language, finding a job, experiencing the culture and discovering tourist attractions. With this guide, you'll have all the information you need to live successfully in Italy. Read on now to discover it all!


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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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