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Buying Property in Italy

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 3 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Italy Property Homes Houses Sale Buy

Ah glorious Italy! Thoughts are conjured up of rural olive farms in Tuscany or Chianti-shire as it’s often know, as half the population of the Home Counties seems to descend on the region for the summer. And as with almost every other country that the British descend on as potential second home territory, once the prices rise in the most favoured areas, other areas start to become more accessible and more desirable.

Cheap flights are, of course, the instigators of these booms, and it’s possible to drive or take the train too, if you have the time. Italy isn’t as near as France or Spain, but a lot nearer than Greece or Croatia.

Buying Process

The three steps in buying in Italy are the initial offer, the preliminary contract or compromesso de vendita and finally the signing of il rogito which transfers the ownership.

There is a useful optional interim stage between the acceptance of an offer and the compromesso and that is to sign a proposta irrevocabile d’acquisto or irrevocable purchase agreement. Along with a 10% deposit, this will temporarily tie both buyer and seller into an agreed deal with a target date for signing the compromesso. If any issue holding the purchase up is not resolved by that date, then the deal is off, but your deposit will not be returned, so you need to be serious before taking this step.

Second Stage

At the compromesso stage a third of the purchase price is handed over and the details of the rogito tied up. If the deal falls through after that you lose your deposit, but if the fault is on the seller’s side, they pay your money back twofold. So it is essential that any surveys, such as that of the Geometra, or local surveyor, and other necessary investigative work by lawyers or the notary, have been done before this stage.

The balance of the purchase price, along with any extras, are paid at the signing of the rogito at the public notary’s office. Notary fees are around 4%, legal fees will vary depending on nature of the property and the sale, but generally 10 to 20 % of the property price will cover all the extras.

Wide Range of Taxes

The reasons for this wide range are twofold. The first is that stamp duty is 18% for agricultural land and 11% for urban property. The second is that although there are no restrictions on foreigners owning property, Italy is one of the countries that has taken the plunge and penalised second home owners. There is a 10% registration tax at the time of purchase, which drops to 3-4% if you move into the property and use it as your sole residence within the next 18 months.

Should you do that, EU citizens will need to apply for a permit to stay from the police headquarters before 90 days expire, and then a residency permit from the town hall if you stay for over 183 days per year.

Tuscany Led the Way

It is now generally accepted that there are few cheap projects left in Tuscany, though for those wanting something already restored, prices are not outrageous compared with the UK. And there’s often the chance of picking up someone’s half-finished project, where the price is unlikely to reflect the amount spent so far. To the south and further inland, Umbria shares Tuscany’s beauty but is not as expensive, although prices have risen significantly in the last decade or so.

Another area that is actually part of Tuscany but relatively undiscovered, is Lunigiana, with the closest airports being Pisa or Genoa. On the other side of the mountains the regions of le Marche and, further south, Abruzzo, are now receiving attention with cheap flights into Ancona and Pescara respectively.

The Lakes

For a completely different experience, the beautiful sparkling lakes to the north of Italy close to the Alps have attracted famous buyers including George Clooney and Richard Gere. British people comprise 15% of the buyers in the Lake Como area and it’s only a half hour drive from Milan. Property is not cheap however, with even lake view apartments at €350,000, but as it is a very popular area for tourism it may be possible to make the property pay for itself via holiday rentals.

Seaside in the South

Finally, for a seaside experience, Puglia, the ‘heel’ at the south of the Italian boot, has beaches that rival Greece and a superb climate if you like the sun. This area is served by flights to Brindisi and Bari. But wherever you choose to buy, you will be able to immerse yourself in the languid pleasures of Italian life.

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