Property buyers have been flocking from around the world to have a taste of Italy’s la dolce vita for years. The country’s pleasant climate and iconic culture draw tourists to Rome and the other major cities, while stunning shorelines in regions such as Abruzzo attract holiday home buyers. Tuscany’s cuisine and beautiful hills offer a quieter destination for house hunters, with Italy’s legendary vineyards promising returns for agricultural investors.
For wealthier buyers, Lake Como is a highly sought after luxury market, made famous by celebrity residents such as George Clooney. The tranquillity of Tuscay combined with the class of Como ensures that like all the great property destinations, Italy appeals to both high-end and low-end buyers alike.
The Selling Process
Find legal representation
There are several professionals you should ideally deal with.
- A public notary (notario) – Conveyancing is governed by law and can only be performed by a notary. Italian notaries must remain impartial at all times. Notaries act as witnesses to and registrars of property sales. Only deeds of sale (rogitos) witnessed and authorised by a notary can be registered at the land registry (catasto). The notary also has a responsibility to make sure taxes are paid upon completion of the sale.
- Your own lawyer – This will ensure your interests are represented throughout the buying process.
Accept an offer
Once you’ve found a buyer, the next step will usually be for them to make awritten offer. This document (proposta d’acquisto irrevocabile) sets out the price and terms of their offer and is binding on the purchaser’s part for a set period - normally from seven to 15 days. Property prices in Italy are negotiable to a certain extent and so purchasers will expect to haggle.
The proposta usually comes from the estate agent, but it’s possible for the buyer to write a letter themselves. You will be sent two copies of the proposta by recorded mail. If you agree to the terms set out, you will sign both and return one to the purchaser. At this point neither party can change their mind about the price so before you sign, it’s sensible to take legal advice.
It is normal practice at this stage for the purchaser to pay a deposit of between 2% and 5% of the purchase price. He will probably insist that the proposta states that this money is being paid as an acconto, meaning it will be deducted from the purchase price and returned to them if the sale does not go ahead.
Both parties now sign a preliminary contract (compromesso), although this isn’t obligatory. The compromesso is a legally binding contract which commits both parties to the transfer of ownership on the terms and conditions set out. It can include as much information as the parties wish to include and, if necessary, special terms can be inserted to deal with specific issues raised by the searches.
The compromesso must be in writing, although it does not need to be notarised. You should have the compromesso translated to make sure you understand it. It can be signed in person or signed in the buyer’s resident country then posted or faxed to you (although it’s not binding until received in Italy).
A further deposit (caparra) is paid by the buyer, usually between 10% and 20% of the agreed purchase price. There are two ways of agreeing a deposit:
- Caparra penitenziale – If the buyer decides not to go ahead, you keep the deposit. If you decide to renege, you must return the deposit and pay the same amount again as compensation.
- Caparra confirmatoria – Identical to a caparra penitenziale but gives both parties the right to take the other to court to force the deal to go ahead.
In a situation where a buyer’s mortgage isn’t approved, there is normally a clause in the compromesso which releases the purchaser from the sale without losing their deposit.
The notary will conduct all the necessary final legal checks in order to prepare the final purchase deed (rogito). It is also possible to instruct a notary to witness the final contract without performing all these checks, though this is a very risky strategy.
Once the notary’s checks have been successfully completed, buyer and seller meet to sign the final contract at a pre-agreed time. While the compromesso forms a private contract between buyer and seller, the deal must be made public. This is done by the completion of a purchase deed (atto di compravendita or rogito), which must then be authorised by a notary.
The rogito is drafted by the notary and then signed by both parties. If you are not fluent in Italian you must by law pay for a translator, so that you fully understand what you are entering into. If you are unable to be present in person, you can grant Power of Attorney to a representative (such as your Italian-speaking lawyer) to sign the contract on your behalf.
Register the title
On completion, the notary issues a certified copy of the deed of sale and registers the original document with the Land Registry (ufficio dell’ agenzia del territorio) to make the purchase public.
Average selling prices
1 Bed Apartments
2 Bed Apartments
3 Bed Apartments
2 Bed Homes
3 Bed Homes
4 Bed Homes
Selling costs checklist
Once you can tick off all of these items, you have paid to sell your home.
Estate agent's fees (3%-6% and split equally between the buyer and seller) Capital Gains Tax (taxable as income from 23% to 43%, unless owned for more than 5 years.) Other marketing or advertising costs