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When looking for property do not only concentrate your search on the property itself but also take into consideration features such as position, infrastructure, parking facilities and distance to public buildings, town centre and lake.
Contact several estate agents and search the internet for announcements of private property sales to get the greatest possible overview of current property offers. Remember: in Italy almost all properties are sold with the help of an estate agent or directly from the building company. Private sales are quite rare and – especially as you are purchasing in a foreign country – could bring some incalculable risks for you.
Acquire a general overview of the current price situation to make sure that the property you have selected is not overpriced but corresponds to the current prices on the property market.
Do not only take the sales price of the property in consideration, but also all additional purchase costs, possible reconstruction costs as well as all annual running costs. Do also think carefully about as to whether your property can be let as a holiday apartment, if this is a likely option for you.
Make sure the estate agent you have selected has been registered with the register of companies. Being registered does not only stand for quality but is also a guarantee that the estate agent has the appropriate personal liability insurance, which becomes relevant in case he does not fulfill his duties correctly. Moreover, these estate agencies should be preferred that are members of one of the large associations of estate agencies, a further guarantee for quality and serious working methods:
FIAIP (Federazione Italiana Agenti Immobiliari Professionali – www.fiaip.it);
FIMAA (Federazione Italiana Mediatori Agenti d’Affari – www.fimaa.it);
ANAMA (Associazione Nazionale Agenti e Mediatori d’Affari);
AICI (Associazione Italiana Consulenti, Gestori e Valutatori Immobiliari – www.aici-italia.it).
Agree right at the start of your collaboration with the estate agency you have selected, on the sum of the provision you have to pay in case of the conclusion of a sales contract – this saves you a lot of unpleasant troubles later on. Do also agree on the date when the provision is payable. Normally this has to be paid on conclusion of the preliminary contract. Ideally, the estate agent should guide you until the signing of the final sales contract therefore it is preferable to split up the payment of the provision into two installments – on conclusion of the preliminary contract and on conclusion of the final contract.
It does not matter whether you decide to look for your dream house with or without the help of an estate agent, but whatever way you decide to go about it, it is advisable to consult an independent legal adviser. It is his task to carefully check all contracts before they are signed (!) and warn you of possible hidden risks.
Arrange to visit all properties which you have short-listed for the final selection – often the advertised object as presented on the internet or in an exposé does not conform to reality!
Once you have decided on a specific property it is best to consult an expert, have the object professionally evaluated by an architect, a geometer or a property surveyor. Initially this causes further expense but in the longer term spares you unpleasant surprises as the expert will inform you about all defects of the property and likely renovation costs.
Check whether the property corresponds to local planning restrictions and building regulations, whether mortgages or distraints have been registered for this property, whether all additional costs and income tax have regularly been paid, all certificates for gas-, heating, and electrical installations are available. On purchase of a new property the liabilities are automatically transferred to the new owner!
Contact your bank in good time in case you need to take out a mortgage to buy the chosen property; also obtain offers from other banks and credit institutions.
Once you are convinced that you have found the right property and intend to buy it, you have to make an offer to buy. Attention: Offers to buy are binding; in other words, if the vendor accepts your offer you can not withdraw from it without the risk of incurring a penalty!
If the vendor accepts your offer, the conclusion of a preliminary contract will follow. Ask your legal consultant to prepare or check this preliminary contract. On signing of this contract you are obliged to pay 10–30 % of the selling price as binding deposit, as well as – depending on prior arrangement – the provision of the estate agent.
Attention: should you decide to withdraw from the purchase after the conclusion of the preliminary contract, you will lose the whole deposit paid so far; at least in most cases this is what happens! On the other hand, should the vendor withdraw from the contract he is obliged to pay double the amount of the down payment as compensation.
In case the purchase of a property is effected with the help of an estate agent, the agency normally is in possession of standardised sample contracts for the offer to buy as well as for the preliminary contract. Nevertheless, you would do well to have these checked by your legal advisor or, at least, to make sure that you have fully understood all items!
Italian preliminary contracts can be registered with the property register. The advantage is that any future injunctions of the vendor against third parties can no longer be registered.
Finally, ask your legal advisor to prepare or check the final sales contract. On conclusion of the final contract all breaches of contract and defects should have been rectified. Should a mortgage be registered on this property, the vendor is obliged to repayment in order to delete the entry before the conclusion of the contract. It might also be a good idea to have your notarial sales contract checked by your legal advisor.
The following documents must be presented for the notarial certification when buying property in Italy (when compiling these documents the estate agent, your legal consultant, the notary as well as surveyor, who might have been consulted, will give a helping hand):
Copies of identity cards of all persons named in the contract
Notarized power of attorney when represented by authorized representative
Proof of family status for private persons
Certified extract from register of companies for companies
Shareholders’ resolution of buying/ selling of property for Italian companies
Italian tax number (codice fiscale) of all parties concerned
Current cadastral map excerpt (visura)
Official ground plan and site plan (planimertia catastale)
Sales contract or certificate of inheritance of previous owner
Proof of mortgage and deletion of entry on payment of sales price
Confirmation that there are no personal tax arrears of the vendor or arrears related to the property
For buildings: building permission; certificate of habitability; possible later permission of illicit structures (sanatoria) including proof of payment of the fine; energy certificate (certificazione energetica)
For plots: rental agreements or leasing contracts, if the plot is rented or leased out
For building plots: certificate of suitability for building (certificato di destinazione urbanistica)
For agricultural plots: confirmation of non-exercise of preemptors (leaseholders and/or direct neighbours)