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A Short Expat Guide to Buying a House In Italy

Italy is one of the most popular destinations for expats. Its sun soaked Mediterranean beaches, picturesque countryside, rugged mountainous terrain and world class cities make it irresistible to most expats, whether they are considering a short stay or a long-term relocation. In Italy, buying property is often a more prudent option as compared to renting. This may seem strange, but rent in cities like Rome and Milan can be extremely high and most expats will find that renting even a small one bedroom apartment can burn a hole in their pockets. Italy’s housing market is on par with the rest of Europe and with the introduction of the IMU tax in 2012, it certainly is a buyer’s market.While deciding to move to Italy may be a no brainer for you, the decision to purchase property will require some more thought. The real estate market in Italy can be rather confusing to most outsiders and it’s important that you understand how things work in Italy before you take the plunge.
The Law of Reciprocity: Do not assume that you will be able to buy property in Italy simply because it is affordable, because you have the funds or because you are determined to do so! As an expat in Italy, you can only buy property if your home country allows the sale of property to Italian citizens. This is called the law of reciprocity; so before you proceed any further, check whether Italian citizens can purchase and own property in your home country.

Make your Choice

Choosing your abode for the next few years is a big task and it’s one that you shouldn’t make impulsively. While there’s no reason it shouldn’t be fun and it is obviously an exciting prospect, try not to get carried away. It’s easier to make a better choice and to enjoy the process if you have some well-defined goals and expectations in advance. Decide what kind of property you would prefer; for example, would a holiday villa or an apartment in a city suit your needs better? Where will you be working and what would the commute be like? Would you be willing to invest in renovation or restoration work or would you prefer a property that’s already habitable?

Legal representation

One thing that Italy isn’t popular for is its efficiency when it comes to processing paperwork and documentation. This is one aspect of Italian life that makes setting up a business or a home, for that matter, seem daunting and at times even impossible. However, the prospect of life in Italy is well worth the hassle of getting through all that red tape. The best thing to do however, would be to solicit the services of a lawyer with expertise in both Italian and international property law. It always helps to have someone represent and protect your interests, especially when you’re unfamiliar with the language and the laws of the land.

Financing your purchase

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Houses and apartments in cities can cost an arm and a leg, but in smaller towns and villages, you can even purchase a village house or two-bedroom apartment for as little as 60,000 Euros. Your first step should be to make sure that your finances are in place. Keep in mind that on purchase of any property in Italy, you will also need to pay a ten to twenty percent tax on the purchase price. Sellers may therefore offer to under-declare the value, but keep in mind that if detected, this could attract heavy interest and fines in addition to the unpaid amount.

Purchasing property in Italy can be extremely time-consuming and a bit more complicated as there are other requirements as well. Your estate agent and lawyers will guide you through the process which helps make it a lot simpler. It generally begins with making a written offer and once agreed to and signed by both parties, this locks the property price. You then need to hire an architect or surveyor to evaluate the property, just as you would need your lawyer to look into the property ownership to make sure there are no title disputes or mortgages. After this is done, your estate agent will draw up a contract that binds you and the seller to the transfer of property. At this point you will need to make a partial payment of the deposit, which is usually ten percent. The final property transfer only takes place with the signing of the deeds of sale and payment of the remainder, which must be done in the presence of a licensed Italian notary.