Buying a property in Italy can unfortunately be a nerve-wracking process and there are plenty of potential pitfalls. What starts out as an exciting adventure can quite easily turn into an unpleasant and costly experience. This is however no reason to be put off. Just be sure to do your research and to seek the right advice from the right people.
Why Italy? Why not. Prospective buyers are indeed spoilt for choice. Seaside villas, mountain chalets, Tuscan farmhouses, country vineyards and many interesting investment opportunities in Italy’s commercial hotspot, Milan. Combine this selection with a country renowned for its history, art, cuisine and fashion, such that it ranks one of the most visited countries in the world, and it is hard to deny the attraction.
So, am I eligible as a foreigner to buy a property in Italy? This is the first point to check. Generally speaking, yes. The Italian property market is open to all types of buyers who come from countries where Italian citizens can enjoy the same purchase rights.
Italy has always been a popular destination for overseas buyers, those looking for a holiday home and those choosing to retire or live in Italy all year round. There is an ever-increasing demand for holiday rental property so the buy-to-let strategy is very popular. Low-cost airlines have also helped to make many lesser-known parts of the country more accessible and despite Italy’s immense popularity, there are still many undiscovered areas with very reasonable prices. The remote Sicilian town of Gangi even launched a campaign a couple of years ago offering homes for a mere €1, with obligatory renovation works being the only catch.
Property prices are generally given per square metre and of course vary greatly depending on location, condition and property type. To give a few examples, a two-bedroom apartment in the centre of Milan can be found for €350,000, while a beautiful loft 600 meters from the Duomo will cost €1.9 million. Six kilometres from the city centre, a two-bedroom apartment can be found for as little as €60,000.
A three-room apartment in good condition in Venice’s San Polo neighbourhood will cost €355,000, but a well-maintained apartment in the San Marco area will set you back at least 7,500 €/sq.m.
A two-bedroom apartment in the centre of Florence can be found for €250,000 but for around €360,000 you can find a completely renovated three-room apartment in a prime location between the Duomo and the central station.
Still in Tuscany, a 320 sq.m farmhouse in good condition in the hills of Greve in Chianti, complete with swimming pool and private land, is for sale at €770,000.
In Umbria, where the countryside and way of life is entirely comparable to that of Tuscany, you can find a four-room apartment for €120,000. Instead, with €3 million, you can purchase a 1,000 sq.m renovated boutique hotel complete with private park and swimming pool.
For an apartment in the centre of Rome, prices instead fluctuate from 5,000-8,000 €/sq.m., depending on the surface area and state of maintenance.
In Puglia, you could purchase five trulli, typical local buildings in the Alberobello area, completely renovated with land and swimming pool for little more than €250,000. A typical and completely restored house in Monopoli, measuring around 650 sq.m., will instead cost €600,000.
In the main islands of Sicily and Sardinia, there are many interesting areas where you can buy a three-room apartment for less than 80,000. A 310 sq.m villa with swimming pool in Porto Cervo on Sardinia’s “Emerald Coast”, will instead cost €2.9 million.
There are even places in central and southern Italy where you can purchase a property for less than €1,000/sq.m.
According to economic research company Nomisma, prices are expected to remain relatively stable during 2016 and a more significant upturn is predicted for 2017.
Professionals involved in a property purchase. Who does what?
The buyer has the right to choose the Notary (notaio), who will certify, at the time of signing the final purchase deed, that the seller is in fact the legal owner and that the property is unaffected by any mortgages, burdens or restrictions. The Notary will register the deed at the local land registry and will pay the transfer taxes on behalf of the buyers.
An independent lawyer (avvocato) acting on behalf of the buyer may draft/check and negotiate all the contracts involved in a property purchase: from the instructions to the estate agent to the final purchase deed, going through the purchase offer and preliminary contract, if necessary. The purchase process should be organized in accordance with the needs of the client and the outcome of technical/legal due-diligence investigations.
A surveyor (geometra) can verify the market value of the property, check the technical specifications and whether the factual state of the property conforms with the local planning records, regulations and restrictions. The surveyor is also in a position to check the feasibility of and direct any renovation works performed on a property.
Both buyer and seller, if used, normally pay the fees of the estate agent. Italian law states that the broker’s commission is due if the deal is concluded as a result of the estate agent’s intervention. In absence of an agreement between the parties and the estate agent, the amount of the commission is determined by professional rates or local practice. To avoid unpleasant surprises, it is advisable to sign a written agreement with the estate agent, specifying the agreed fees, any expenses due, and relevant terms and conditions of payment, etc.
Commencing your search. So where do I start?
This depends on the time you have available and the type of property you are looking for. There are many websites advertising properties from all over Italy and these can help prospective buyers get a better feel for the local market and properties on offer and to organize inspections. Another option could be to seek the advice of experts who can provide you with a selection of properties that meet your specific requirements.
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Article by Kate Taylor
Additaly – Real Estate & Consulting
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