Buying a property in Italy

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Buying a property in Italy

Post by modicasa on Mon May 27, 2013 3:22 pm

It sounds simple. It isnt. Since 2007 the amount of paperwork involved in buying and selling has grown exponentially, so it really is a good idea to use a proper, registered, listed estate agent when you're buying. Of course, there will be those who are useless, but at least they will have a grasp of what is required. The basics are these:
You see a house you like, and want to put in an offer. The first thing to decide is when you want to complete the sale, as this bears heavily on your next steps. If you want to sign the final act asap, then make a written offer, a formal 'proposta di acquisto' and propose you go straight to the 'rogito' or final act. The proposta requires a small returnable deposit - usually one or two thousand euros, that will take the house off the market and allow you prepare for the notary's act of sale. IF it's going to be more than a month, you should think about doing a formal preliminary or compromesso which is, to all effects and purposes, the legal contract. If you back out after the preliminary you will lose all your deposit (around 20/30% of the agreed price), and if the seller backs out - he has to (usually) give you double back. The compromesso is full of clauses, but the legal minimum includes - the price, what is being sold and when the final act of sale will be. Then you sit back, look at possible bathroom tiles and wait until the due date falls. By the time of the rogito the seller/agent will have got all the necessary paperwork together and you will all meet up at the notary's office to sit round an expensive table while the notary reads the act of sale. If you dont speak Italian you must have a translator or the act is null and void. The notary should explain the ins and outs of the sale and ask you if you understand what's going on. You will be expected to pay the balance to the vendor, pay the notary and pay all the purchase taxes on the deal. You will also have to pay the agent - though some agents demand their commission at compromesso as they legally have the right to, even though morally its a bit dubious. The agent must be cited in the act of sale, along with how much you have paid them. Alot of agents, illegal agents and blokes who have a brother who has a house, won't want to appear in the act of sale - but it's illegal not to be there, and if they're not you, as a buyer, have no legal redress if the property you buy isnt as advertised. The law will say they never existed.
It sounds scary, but its isn't, keep your head and don't go all - well we're in Italy so Ill throw caution to the winds - silly. So, if you see a house on your first day and the agent asks you to sign something - don't. At least, not until you know what you're signing.
You will need a codice fiscale (tax number) an Italian bank account, and a Berlitz vocabulary book of useful household terms like gutter, backboiler, grommit and flange.
At the moment, apart from the Gran Canal in Venice, its a buyers market - dont be pushed into making decisions, time is on your side. Any questions?

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Re: Buying a property in Italy

Post by Gala Placidia on Mon May 27, 2013 4:39 pm

Good, sensible, sound advice for potential buyers.
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Re: Buying a property in Italy

Post by The Original Relaxed on Mon May 27, 2013 7:20 pm

It is usually that easy - however....as stated, there have been in the last few years an enormous number of changes to the requirements for paperwork which have to be presented to the notaio before the final act of sale can be completed.

Now this isn't in any way the problem of the buyer, it is up to the seller to provide all the bumf considered necessary, and it is up to somebody to inform him what he has to produce. If the estate agent has been paid his cut at the compromesso stage, he isn't going to be very useful: if the notaio's back office is a bit lackadisical they might have neglected to alert the seller to the need for a certificate of (choose your subject!) and come the day of the rogito this inconveniente raises its head. It is not a problema - because it can be sorted out - but if you, as the buyer, are on a scheduled flight out because you assumed it would all go smoothly it can get worrying.

The notaio (you as the buyer are free to select one of your choice, though usually there is no harm in going along with the one which the buyer or estate agent suggests) is working for both the buyer, the seller and the government. You have every right to ask a question of the notaio before it comes down to fixing the date for the final act of sale (also termed the atto, or rogito) - along the lines of 'has the seller produced all the necessary documentation?' That might make them think a bit about whether all is absolutely in order.

Now this comment is, I hope, more relevant to people who are dealing with a normal high street Italian estate agent than people who are using an agent billing themselves as "international". The high street guy only thinks Italian locals, who won't turn a hair at being told it's going to be next Monday rather than this Tuesday as arranged!


Last edited by The Original Relaxed on Tue May 28, 2013 9:55 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Buying a property in Italy

Post by ghiro on Mon May 27, 2013 8:56 pm

We bought our house in 2006 and, reading the above, I now realise how very lucky we were.

In those days there was minimal paperwork. Also there was the 'declared' price (on which you paid tax) which was some 60% of the 'agreed' price! So at the meeting in front of the notaio he was informed of the 'declared' price. The appropriate sum of money exchanged hands and the tax was assessed. Shortly afterwards the notaio announced he had some important business to attend to and had to leave the room for a few minutes. While he was away the other 40% of the 'agreed' price was passed across the table in crisp €500 notes!!

But above all we were guided through the process by our Italian estate agent who was, and still is, an angel (details available by PM!). And to this day she still feels it's her responsibility to sort out our insurance, IMU etc.
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Re: Buying a property in Italy

Post by stevegwmonkseaton on Mon May 27, 2013 11:13 pm

Wonderful information for all.... it really is what people need to know about if buying.... Superb!

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Re: Buying a property in Italy

Post by modicasa on Tue May 28, 2013 5:19 am

Your 'House sellers' kit - It's true, its getting more and more complicated to sell a house - so here's a short list of what is required nationally to sell (there may be local variations).
Your agent or notary will want that you provide the following bits of paper before the atto, and at your expense.
1. Atto di provenienza - your act of purchase
2. Certificazione energetica - your cost and a colourful bit of paper which says if your house loses heat from the windows, etc (required in all of Italy since 28 December 2012)
3. Certificazione degli Impianti - certificates to show your boiler, electrics, etc are installed and working according to the current law.
4. A planimetria catastale of the state of the property at the point of sale, it has be signed by everyone in front of the notary. Only the owner or his delegated 'professional' can get one of these from the catasto.
5. If the house has land (Agricultural) you will need a Certificato di Destinazione Urbanistica from the local commune
6. If you live in a condominio you will also have to provide all the paperwork regarding your millesimal, comunal payments etc.
You cannot sell a house owing money - so even if you are blissfully unaware, the notaio should tell you that you forgot to pay your ICI in 2003 and that you owe 43,60 to the commune etc - at least that is any debt taken out on the property.
And that in theory is that. Except that there will be succession, francazioni, revision and rettifiche, and all manner of other things the notaio needs - usually 3 hours before the act on a bank holiday monday. Only ever give the notary the originals, give the agent a copy, or preferably get everything scanned, because you will need to keep a copy for the next umpteen years to deal with the powers that be.

It's not that difficult, after all - as a seller you have had time to collate all the paper, unless you are the one person who has sold the house by lunchtime on the first day its on the market. All the bits of paper above can be got and signed for within a month.

Sell via a 'buyers agent' based in a Coxwold village and you will have to do it all yourself - because they are in an English village, dont know the law and have no intention of grubbying their hands with paperwork. They'll still ask you for a cut mind - and if they do, make sure they're named in the atto. For the local estate agent, I would negotiate when you list the house to pay him at atto and not at compromesso and have it written into the mandate. It's no skin off his aquiline nose, but it does mean you can make him earn his money.

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Re: Buying a property in Italy

Post by Gala Placidia on Tue May 28, 2013 5:58 am

We also bought our property some 6 years ago and there was very little paperwork at the time. While we were looking at properties, we realised that it was better to buy properties described as "terratetto" in Tuscany or "terra celo" in other places (basically town houses) or independent villas or houses. Some Italian properties have not been subdivided in a clear way and that can only create problems when it comes to maintenance and other expenditure. It is also good to obtain a "visura storica" or a simple one, that gives interesting details about the property. If your property has some rights of way included on the title, ask the notaio to get the relevant older title where those rights or "servitudine" have been specified. Check everything, the title may specify that an access is a "corte comune" when it is really an "ente urbano" and a neighbour may have been saying for years that it is his/her private property Rolling Eyes
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Re: Buying a property in Italy

Post by La Dolcevita on Tue May 28, 2013 7:49 pm

And if you're buying agricultural land - beware of Prelazione or a third parties right to buy the land you have bought up to 12 months after the purchase date.

Basically if you buy a piece of land your seller must write to all adjoining neighbours declaring the agreed sale price and giving them a month in which to declare an interest in your property. If they don't do this and your neighbour decides they want your land/property they have every right to it as long as they can prove they are working their land/and or employ land workers.

This happened to us despite using a lawyer to carry out our purchase as we wanted to make sure every i was dotted and t was crossed! Messy nightmare which ended up with us having to "give" the land to our neighbour for the price we paid - but no recompense for legal fees/architect fees/notary fees/taxes etc etc We could have fought and probably won with our neighbour but would have ended up in a lengthy 10 year court case (plus horses heads on driveway etc). We could have sued our lawyer - ditto the same. And we could have sued our buyer who was old/suffering from ill health etc and no way could we have done that (he has since died)

Long and short of it - check and double check and keep asking questions.


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Re: Buying a property in Italy

Post by modicasa on Wed May 29, 2013 6:16 am

Prelazione is easily avoided and is the sellers responsibility. If the seller omits this duty, it is the seller who is liable to pay back the difference or rebuy the entire property - and its one of the very few things that is cut and dried in Italy - its a one visit to the court and one ruling from the judge. Im sorry to hear about your position Dolcevita - but you were badly advised.

If the land is agricultural and one of your neighbours is a coltivatore diretto or an azienda agricolo - ie a farmer who earns his living from the land, he does have a preferential right of purchase. However there are very strict rules about its application. THe seller should have the neighbour waive his right, or be present at the atto - if either of these are done the rght of prelation is annulled. If the neighbour decides to excercise his right, he must buy at the price paid, and its all or nothing - he cant pick and choose a bit of land he would like. Thebest way around this is to wait until you have a compromesso which shows clearly the price - and then contact the neighbour eiither in person or by registered mail along with a letter. He has 30 days to reply.

This is the agents job, or the sellers job - it is not the buyers responsibility, but the notaio should ask all parties if the prelazione has been sorted out. HOwever, a tardy exercising of prelazione should not leave the buyer out of pocket - the 'enighbour' has to cover all costs included his offer - which usualy means the seller, as its all their fault if this happens

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Re: Buying a property in Italy

Post by La Dolcevita on Wed May 29, 2013 7:09 am

Yep - our lawyer was crap! When we challenged him about this 7 months after the purchase his words were "you never told me you had agricultural land" - it was very evident from the documentation (and if I'd known about prelazione I'd have made sure the process happened)

Very very difficult as well to take an old man (our seller) to court whose word was his bond (he'd verbally asked the neighbour if he wanted it) - I know "very english of us" - maybe others would have dealt with the aftermath differently but I could never lived with myself if he'd had a heart attack etc with the stress. Plus he was loved by everyone in the village and as "foreigners" we'd never have been welcome in the village again.

For us though our cloud had a silver lining.........it gave us time to think more about the lifestyle we wanted - our land had a stunning view and was truly beautiful - however it was a 15 minute drive to town and no neighbours except for this guy who is there sometimes. Plus the house we were going to build on the land was enormous and given the fact that we're rattling around a large house in the UK made us really really think - why did we want such a large house - didn't need it. Whilst all this was happening the locals were fantastic (they hate this guy who is originally from Milan - very wealthy and arrogant and doesn't live in the village with houses all over the world - his wife is registered as a cultivatore diretto but probably never been to the land!!) So we decided to buy a townhouse which we are starting to renovate next month and with any excess funds will buy a plot of land with a small rustico on which we will restore when we live over there. And this will cost less than building on the original plot as we'd first intended - so even having lost our "costs" with the original land purchase we will be better of financially and mentally.............a nasty experience but with a plus side Smile

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Re: Buying a property in Italy

Post by Gala Placidia on Wed May 29, 2013 3:21 pm

Good to hear that, after such a nasty experience, it all worked out for you and sometimes we need to loose a little to have a gain. You may find that the townhouse is all what you need in the long run. When we were looking to buy something, I liked a house that was in the middle of nowhere. Yes, it had a nice garden, which required lots of TLC. And the access road was a bit narrow. My husband said that I was crazy and he was right. Then we found our small mill house on the river and only 250 yards from the PO. I can walk everywhere... These practical matters have to be taken into account when choosing a property.
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Re: Buying a property in Italy

Post by ourtoscana on Thu Aug 01, 2013 8:11 pm

modicasa wrote:Prelazione is easily avoided and is the sellers responsibility.  If the seller omits this duty, it is the seller who is liable to pay back the difference or rebuy the entire property - and its one of the very few things that is cut and dried in Italy - its a one visit to the court and one ruling from the judge.  

Yes, modicasa, it is the seller's responsibility, but it's essential that the buyer ascertains that the pre-emption right process is strictly adhered to. Nobody wants the trauma of a recorded letter coming in the door 8 months into ownership. Most people already have permits and renovations underway and believe me, it's not easy to go in front of a judge  for a ruling against the vendor(s).

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Re: Buying a property in Italy

Post by modicasa on Tue Aug 06, 2013 9:46 am

I dont think I said that the buyer shouldnt make sure prelazione is adhered to.  I said it is the seller's responsibility to sort it out, and you dont sign the atto until it is.

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Re: Buying a property in Italy

Post by Admin on Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:55 pm

Or you could be in the situstion we were in whereby it was actually impossible to trace many of the neighbours as clearly from their date of birth they were dead (or medical miracles) but there was neither a Codice Fiscale in the cadastral extract nor had their 'holding' been tranferred to their heirs. The owners had no idea who most of them were either.
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Re: Buying a property in Italy

Post by Flip on Tue Aug 06, 2013 3:52 pm

What do you do in that situation Penny? would it be easier to walk away just in case the relatives of untraceable 'owners' came out of the woodwork later on to contest ownership?
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Re: Buying a property in Italy

Post by Admin on Tue Aug 06, 2013 4:15 pm

Well, you either have to risk it and wait it out (the neighbours only have 12 months to stake their claim) or pull out. We waited and it was fine. We figured that if the main owners had no idea who the neighbours were then probably their own relatives didn't even know they owned 1/16th of a tiny parcel of land somewhere.
The notary made it clear that we could claim our money back from the owners if a claim was made and we didn't spend any money on it for the first 12 months just in case. In our case we weren't in a rush to do things so not doing anything for 12 months wasn't an issue.

I saw another thread on rights of way. We had an issue with that too. The road that everyone uses is not on the cadastral map and instead there is a mule track that runs across our land, right next to our house actually. We approached the comune about doing a cadastral swap (ie actual road for mule track - I can't remember the proper Italian term but there is one) but the comune is broke and the mayor said it would cost them money to do. Instead he will give us permission to build right up to the border of the track (not usually allowed). We also got the original owners to state in the atto that they had enjoyed right of access in a car for more than 20 years and our geometra did a great job of overlaying Google Earth with the cadastral extract to show exactly what they were referring to.
The notary pointed out that in Italian law no-one can stop you having access to your own property / land. That, plus the fact that the majority of the road actually crosses our land, meant that our attitude was if any of the other owners got stroppy we'll just put a fence up and wait for them to back down.
In an ideal world I'd like to buy the plot below so that we would own the whole part of the road not on the map then there definitely can't be any problems.
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Slapped wrist

Post by ghiro on Tue Aug 06, 2013 4:21 pm

Post deleted having been adjudged off thread. Sad Evil or Very Mad


Last edited by ghiro on Tue Aug 06, 2013 5:32 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Buying a property in Italy

Post by Gala Placidia on Tue Aug 06, 2013 4:35 pm

I guess that we are talking about "prelazione" rights of neighbours and not the ownership of the property which was being sold. 
To know more about any property, the "visura storica" is very useful. 
Also, notaries are able to provide old title deeds.
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Re: Buying a property in Italy

Post by Admin on Tue Aug 06, 2013 4:44 pm

That assumes there were any Gala. These were not properties that had ever been sold...
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Re: Buying a property in Italy

Post by Gala Placidia on Tue Aug 06, 2013 4:59 pm

No title, no legal owner. It could be the case of an "abandoned" property that is unclaimed. In that case, the heir is the government. Same case if taxes have not been paid for many years and the property is expropriated by local government as payment of the outstanding debt.
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Re: Buying a property in Italy

Post by ourtoscana on Tue Aug 06, 2013 8:07 pm

Many times I get told by the vendor's geometra that there's absolutely no problem. I often answer, in that case they'll have no problem signing a declaration renouncing their pre-emption rights (if they happen to have them).

For land with no traceable heirs ... it takes more homework and common sense. You'll occasionally find Mario Rossi born in 1889 so it's a case of understanding who the legitimate heirs are if possible or using a little bit of common sense. I agree though, it's not easy!

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Re: Buying a property in Italy

Post by modicasa on Sat Aug 10, 2013 5:30 am

If it is impossible to trace the owners because they have not done the volture or have not done a succession etc -they have no right to prelazione.  If the property is owned by a coltvatore diretto for example, they must be traceable as they will be registered at the CCIAA.    Get the residence certificate from the anagrafe and send a  registered letter to that address -that fulfills your legal requirements.  BEtter still get a vigile to drop round with it.

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Re: Buying a property in Italy

Post by Gala Placidia on Sat Aug 10, 2013 7:24 am

Great answer, Modi. That's what I thought.
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Re: Buying a property in Italy

Post by ourtoscana on Wed Aug 14, 2013 8:09 am

Modicasa  ... last time I checked, vigili urbani don't carry out such services of notification on behalf of individuals wishing to purchase property.

The law on pre-emption  rights is very ambiguous and as a result notaries hate getting involved in matter! If I remember correctly, once the farmer hits a certain percentage of his/her income from working the land they become eligible and registration is not a sole criteria. This makes the process of assessing who has pre-emption rights very very difficult.

Moreover, if the land has been abandoned, it is not uncommon for farmers to use it/occupy it leading to usucapione/usucaption (art 1158 italian civile code) where they may acquire rights to title.

Take nothing for granted!

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Re: Buying a property in Italy

Post by Admin on Wed Aug 14, 2013 9:33 am

Being a Coltivatore Diretto is a very specific thing. You have to have a CD4 from INPS to prove you are inscribed as such and also cannot earn less than 50% of your income from farming (25% in mountain areas) otherwise you lose that status. That part at least is very clear. 
People other than Coltivatore Diretto can claim the prelazione rights. For example Imprenditore Agricola Professionale (IAP) or a 'Società Agricola' where at least 50% of the soci are CD or even a 'Cooperativo Agricolo' and very importantly a farmer who rents the land and has a contract.
Our notary said it was very clear cut as for once the law was fairly clear. Having just had a friend whose neighbour exercised the prelazione rights over her property I have to say her experience backs that up. I suspect how simple or otherwise it is depends on where you are.
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