Buying Property in Italy

By: Rhiannon Williamson

The universal appeal of Italy cannot be denied. It's a stunningly beautiful nation blessed with mountains, lakes, chic cities and ancient villages; it is set apart by its perfect climate and its dramatic coastline which is caressed by the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

Therefore is it any wonder that so many of us dream of buying property in Italy so that we can own our very own romantic Italian retreat?

Whether you have ambitions of owning a stylish apartment in one of Italy's vibrant cities or a run down rustic farmhouse overlooking the rolling Italian countryside or even a villa by the sea this is your essential cut out and keep guide to buying property in Italy!

There are no restrictions on the foreign ownership of real estate in Italy which means that the buying process is relatively straightforward and transparent. The first most important piece of advice to impart to would-be buyers though is to secure the services of an independent lawyer who can work on your behalf and translate key documents into English for example and basically just act on your behalf to ensure that you get the best deal possible.

A second important piece of advice is that those planning on buying a property in Italy to live in permanently should sort out their residency status first as this will ultimately save them up to seven percent purchase tax - which equates to quite a hefty saving! In terms of fees, taxes and additional expenses a buyer incurs in Italy, if you allow for an additional 10 or 12% on top of the purchase price this should cover everything.

There are many estate agents in Italy and it's wise to contact a few with your requirements to ensure that you get a broad perspective of the market and what you can get for your money. When you travel to Italy to view properties allow yourself plenty of time to acclimatise, get used to the areas you're looking for property in and to familiarise yourself with the delights of Italy - BUT, don't allow yourself to be seduced by the dream of living in Italy, keep your feet firmly on the ground and view properties with a critical eye bearing in mind that an estate agent will be loath to tell you about any issues with the property.

If you're buying a rural property or one in need of renovation consider asking questions about the title deeds of the property, access, boundaries, your rights to water and electricity and then have the property independently surveyed and valued before making any offer to purchase. If renovation work will need to be undertaken have a builder quote you for the work because getting building work done in Italy is one area where expenses can spiral. Get a handle on what you'll really be buying into before you make a commitment!

Once you find a property you like the look of you can make an offer to purchase which if accepted will be valid for up to two weeks while preliminary contracts are drawn up. Your lawyer should check the contracts which will be prepared by a public notary. When you sign you will pay a deposit of between 10 and 30% and if you subsequently withdraw from the sale after signing this contract you will lose your deposit - on the other hand if the seller withdraws from the sale they have to pay you back double your deposit. This is standard practice but make sure it is written into the contract anyway...and get anything promised or assumed written in as well.

As stated the public notary will handle the terms of the sale and draw up all contracts but your lawyer should be sure to check all details, title deeds, building permissions etc., to make sure that your best interests are looked after. The final stage of the buying property in Italy transaction is signing the final contract if all is found to be in order when searches are carried out by your lawyer. You will then transfer the balance of payment to the vendor and title deeds can be transferred into your name and you will become the proud owner of a home in Italy.

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