With 2014 coming to a close it’s the time of year that we reflect on the past year and the year ahead of us. 2014 has been an interesting year for the property market. Italian property remains well priced and buyers will get a lot for their euro. This summer saw a Sicilian village sell houses for just one euro and at the other end of the scale, several celebrities have invested in property in Italy over the past few years, George Cloony owns a villa on lake Como, Sting, a 16th century estate in Tuscany, George Lucas an ex-convent in Umbria and Helen Mirren a farmhouse in Lecce, Puglia.
It is not surprising that with tempting offers of price and lifestyle, expats continue to come to Italy for la dolce vita. So, what can we learn from past purchasing experiences to help make 2015 a better year? The golden rules for house buying in Italy give us greater understanding of the process but also warnings about how to avoid the pitfalls.
Once you find the house of your dreams, the process begins, the Italian housing market is slow, prices therefore reflect this as more and more people want to sell their property and offers are snapped up quickly. As soon as you wish to make your offer, earlier if possible, employ the services of an independent solicitor. In Italy, estate agents work for their commission and notary publics represent the law, not the client. Therefore it is essential that from the offset you and your interests are protected.
Many Italian properties exist without planning permission, perhaps because of the rural location or most likely because the laws affecting planning permission have changed. Therefore, it is crucial to carry out due diligence to ensure there are no outstanding debts, mortgages or as mentioned parts of the property without planning permission.
Once you are satisfied with the results of the searches you can proceed with the ‘compromesso’, this is the deposit paid to secure the property. Typically between 10 and 20% of the sale price, this contract binds the buyer and the vendor in an agreement, if the buyer pulls out of the deal, they will lose their deposit, if the vendor pulls out, they are required to return the deposit and the same amount again as a sort of compensation for breaking the deal. It is at this stage that the final date for the final deed of sale is set which will occur before the notary public and the legal transfer of ownership of the property.
Italian estate agents work on commission and charge both buyers and sellers up to 2.5 percent of the sale price. Being a foreigner to the Italian property market it is likely impossible to avoid the services of an estate agent but you can and should employ independent legal advice to deal with the house sale, negotiate on your behalf and agree costs.
Be aware that where you intend to buy land with your property, this is likely in a rural area and therefore other neighbouring land owners have a right to buy this land. It is essential to have written evidence from the neighbours saying they are not interested in purchasing the land. Again this should be included in the searches and a bi-lingual lawyer will be able to carry this out.
Getting a lawyer to manage the purchase of your house will prevent legal disputes, misunderstandings and will also be someone who represents your best interests. They will be able to mange the whole of the process, have power of attorney if necessary, communicate directly with the estate agent, provide translations of documents, understand local bureaucracy and represent you in front of the notary public at the final deed of sale.
When you wish to restore your property or apply for planning permission they will be able to draft contracts written in detail, draft agreements between yourself and builders and take out the stress of an otherwise almost impossible task.
Our past experiences of the house buying process identify the potential stress and uncertainty of purchasing, this is true of any real estate investment. With independent legal support you can ensure the best possible advice for 2015 making it the year you buy your Italian dream home.