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Buying a property is often the result of a “good feeling” or even of “love at first sight”. Nevertheless you do well to carefully check the property you have selected and ask a couple of fundamental questions:
For how long has the property been on sale and how many different estate agents offer to sell this property?
In addition to this initial information you should also make further enquiries regarding the property; you best do so with the help of the estate agent, owner, notary, legal advisor and various local municipal offices:
In case you want to acquire a building plot, you should make sure a certificate for the development potential of this plot exists. Otherwise you run the risk of acquiring a useless plot of land for which no building permission exists.
Also check what exactly you may build on this plot and in what way you are permitted to use house and plot. All necessary information can be obtained in the town hall of the relevant municipality.
Check where the borders of the plot run and the distances to the various neighbours when you buy houses or plots.
Make sure there are no pre-emption rights on the plot and assure yourself that there are no construction plans for this neighbourhood, which might diminish the value of your property (e.g. road construction).
Concerning plots of land for agricultural use leaseholders and direct neighbours have got a right of pre-emption, which they could exercise up to two years after the sale of the plot. Do get a confirmation of non-exercise of all pre-emptors.
Even listed buildings are subject to a right of pre-emption by the state. Ask your notary to check whether the state will avail itself of its right of pre-emption. Do also gather information concerning special building regulations and conditions as well as building restrictions of listed buildings before you buy a property of this category.
In Italy reconstruction and extension works as well as new buildings which have not been approved are no rarity. Make sure you see the building permission or the act of indemnity, together with proof of payment of the fine.
Check on the right of way in use in this location. It might happen that you can only access your property via your neighbour’s property or vice versa, your neighbour has to pass through your plot to get to his property.
Check the condition of all inner and outer walls: do you detect cracks, signs of damp or signs of water damage? Also take a closer look at the insulation of the roof and the state of the roof tiles and gutters, as well as the stability of the subsoil if the property has a hillside location – the region of Lake Garda, especially, is prone to landslides!
Make sure electricity, water and gas supplies are working and ask for the annual costs of heating and air-conditioning.
If the property is not connected to public water supplies, but has its own water well or is fed from the waters of Lake Garda, make sure the well holds enough water for your needs or that the pumping system, which supplies the water from the lake, works well all year even when the water levels are low.
If a property is sold without electricity or water supply, inform yourself about the connection costs.
If you are interested in alternative energy sources, make enquiries as to whether you are allowed to install solar cells. Particularly in historical centres this often turns out to be quite problematic.
Ensure the property is not rented out when you want to buy it. In Italy the laws that protect tenants are quite strict and it rarely happens that the landlord can terminate the tenancy.
Tax arrears as well as unpaid water-, electricity- or gas bills are being passed on to the new owner when a property is sold. Make sure you see confirmation of all payments.
The same applies to maintenance works for heating, gas and water systems, which have not been preformed but ought to be carried out annually. Make sure you are shown all relevant certificates.
In Italy even unpaid debts from mortgages or loans are passed on to the new owner. Before conclusion of the notarial sales contract all debts have to be settled. This is something you can check with the town hall of the relevant municipality.
Make sure the vendor of the property is its sole owner. No third party, for example a the spouse, should be in position to claim ownership rights later on.
If the property was left to several persons before it is sold, make sure all heirs do agree with its sale. Heirs can contest the sale for a period of up to five years.
If the property is sold by a company, it is important that this company is not going bankrupt and no pending proceedings are initiated against this company. Should the company go bankrupt within two years after the sale of the property, the liquidator could declare the property sale as void and include the buyer in his list of creditors.