Buying your Summer holiday home.

As the Summer holidays are fast approaching and children are looking forward to the long summer holidays, your thoughts may well turn to owning a holiday home. Italy provides the best combinations of sunshine, good food and great beaches, plenty of activities for adults and children alike. Once again we take you step by step through the buying process in Italy, so as to rest your fears and clearly outline the process. Remember to seek legal advice to prevent complications if you decide to buy, this guide offers you help in understanding the main stages of buying a house in Italy. Taking you through each part of the conveyancing process when buying a property or land in Italy.

The process to buying property in Italy consists of three stages:
1. Proposta irrevocabile d’acquisto ( reservation offer)
2. Contratto preliminare di vendita (preliminary contract)
3. Atto di vendita ( deed of sale)
Having set your eyes on the Italian house or location of your dreams you now start the process of purchasing that property. From the outset it is recommended, as already mentioned, that you employ the services of an independent solicitor with knowledge of Italian Real Estate Law, someone to look after your interests and your transactions.
When buying a property in Italy the first document to be signed is called the “proposta irrevocabile d’acquisto” (reservation offer), this is normal practice when purchasing through an estate agent. However if you decide to purchase directly from the vendor as a private sale this document is not normally used. By signing the proposta irrevocabile d’acquisto you will be removing the property from the market but only for a limited period of time, normally 15 days. During which time your solicitor, if you have employed one, will make all the necessary searches to ascertain that the property is without any debts, mortgages, claims etc. This is key in safeguarding against any hidden surprises later on in the purchasing process. At this stage you will be required to pay a small deposit, safeguarded by your solicitor or estate agent until the offer is accepted and signed by the vendor. When you eventually complete the purchase, this deposit will be considered as partial payment of the purchase price. If the vendor does not formally accept the offer your deposit shall be returned to you. It is important to note that this reservation offer must be formally accepted in writing (a signed document) by the buyer in order to make it legal.
At this stage both buyer and seller formalize the agreement with the “contratto preliminare di vendita” (preliminary contract). Some estate agents and especially private sales choose or more worryingly recommend leaving out this particular and more importantly, essential part of the purchase process. This legal document is essential because it sets detailed terms and conditions of the sale. This is why its highly advisable to seek the services of a solicitor as one of the services they offer is to draft this contract which can be done in English also and examine it very carefully on your behalf before you sign it.
At this preliminary stage, a minimum of a 10% deposit is payable upon signing the caparra confirmatoria, this preliminary contract of sale states the full Property price of the property, the name of the notary and the dates when the purchasing act will be fully complete. This deposit will not be refunded if the buyer decides not to proceed with the purchase (without a valid legal reason) on the other hand, if the Vendor changes his mind about the sale he/she will, under Italian law have to refund your deposit in full. You have the right if you wish, to also claim an amount equal to the deposit through the Italian courts.
In the preliminary contract the parties also set the date to finalize the conveyance in front of the notary public.
The Notary is a public official who has the authority according to Italian law to validate contracts transferring the ownership of a property, he is also charged with paying all registry fees and cadastral taxes and carrying out the relevant searches on the property. If you have employed the services of a solicitor beforehand you will be confident that no unpleasant surprises will be revealed at this late stage of the purchase process.
The notary is supposed to be an absolutely neutral and impartial party in the transaction. This is why he cannot be a substitute for a solicitor in the defense of the interests of the buyer. The only way to be assured of total impartiality is, as stated earlier, to engage the services of an independent solicitor.
The final step of the conveyance is the so called “atto di vendita” (deed of sale). The deed is drafted by the Notary in his office, it has to be fully compliant with the preliminary contract. So here it is important to see how essential the preliminary contract is at the beginning of the purchasing process as that is the document setting all the essential elements of the transaction. Once the Deed has been signed by all those present at the signing, the balance of the purchase price is paid to the Vendor and the keys are handed over to the new owners. If the buyer cannot be present in front of the Notary he can give power of attorney to his solicitor who will sign on his behalf. During the final step the notary will read and explain the contract, the buyer will be able to read the English version and through the support of a bilingual solicitor, is entitled to ask questions.
A copy of the Deeds will then be given to the new owners approximately one month after the signing. This is because it takes approximately one month for the new deeds to be registered at the relevant Registry Office. If one of the parties does not understand the Italian language, according to the law the deed of sale must be drafted in both Italian and English.
Email De Tullio Law Firm on info@detulliolawfirm.com for assistance with your Italian property purchase.
Guide submitted by Avv. Giandomenico De Tullio, De Tullio Law Firm
GLOSSARY:
Proposta irrevocabile di vendita : This is where an initial formal offer is made and a small deposit is left. The price you are willing to offer has been determined and also any conditions you may wish to make.
Contratto preliminare di vendita : This is the contract that sets out in detail the terms and conditions of the sale and also all the relevant cadastral and registry information. It is also known as a Compromesso.
Atto di Vendita : The moment when in front of a Notary public the exchange of contracts is made, the outstanding amount of the purchase price will be paid and the keys to the property will be handed over to the new owners.
Caparra confirmatoria : This is a deposit that is regulated under art.1385 of the Italian Civil Code. If a deposit is defined as a “caparra confirmatoria” it endows legal rights upon both parties