Sorry to break it to you, but it’s nearly the end of the year. Which means it’s time for people to start dreaming about new starts and fresh beginnings… just like last year. If your dream revolves around buying a house in Italy and living La Dolce Vita for evermore, here are a few tips to get you started!
1. Do your research. Italy is a pretty big place with huge variety in terms of climate and geography. Whether you want sunny beaches, snowy mountains or row upon row of vineyards, you can find it here. Get out a map, look at the different regions, maybe search out some blogs, ask questions about daily life in the various areas and get on immobiliare.it to get an idea of property prices.
2. Figure out what you really want. Do you want to be surrounded by other expats or living in a tiny mountain village where everyone speaks dialect? City or country? Beach or vineyards? Do you need to be near an airport or have easy access to the rest of Europe? There’s a lot more to Italy than just Tuscany (not that Tuscany isn’t lovely) so do your research!
3. No amount of time typing stuff into google can replace time on the ground. Once you have a shortlist of areas you need to spend as much time in them as possible. Drive around, go to cafés and restaurants and talk to locals or expats. Try to visit at various times of year too. There’s no point falling in love with somewhere in summer only to realise that it’s dreary and rainy for the other six months of the year (unless of course you like dreary and rainy, in which case I can also recommend Scotland).
4. Meet some estate agents. Once you’ve settled on an area it’s time for the search to really begin. Be specific about what you want, but also listen to their advice. They know a lot more about properties in that area than you do. Don’t let yourself be swayed too much though or you’ll spend hour upon hour driving around to look at completely inappropriate properties. If you find somewhere you like and it needs a bit of TLC, ask the agent to bring along a geometra so that you can get an idea of the work that’s needed and how much it will cost (you should then at least double those estimates!). Most areas have English-speaking agents who cherry pick the most ‘foreigner-friendly’ properties, so if your Italian isn’t too good, give one of them a try.
5. Of course, you don’t have to use an agent; many people buy and sell houses privately in Italy. Leave leaflets in bars explaining what you’re looking for, check the local newspaper and ask around. If you find somewhere nice but you’re scared to navigate the buying process alone, you can always ask a friendly agent to help you out for a small fee.
6. You’ve found a house you like, now you just have to buy it. If you’re going to get a survey (most people don’t in Italy, but it’s always a good idea) now’s the time to do it. Try to talk to neighbours too, in case they know something about the place (good or bad…) and if you want to renovate, ask the agent to take you to the town hall to meet with the Ufficio Tecnico to discuss your plans.
7. Make an offer. This is done in the form of a contract, which the estate agent will be able to talk you through. You fill in a form saying how much you want to pay, hand over a cheque for a deposit (you choose the amount) and if the vendor accepts they sign the form and that’s that. If you pull out after the contract is signed you lose your deposit, if the vendor pulls out they pay you twice your deposit, so think carefully about how much you want to put down. Don’t be afraid to offer low. A lot of people put their houses on the market speculatively and won’t listen to offers at all, but if you can find someone who really wants to sell there are definitely bargains to be had right now. You’ll never know if you don’t try!
8. Once your offer is accepted you need to find a good notaio. They do all the legal checks on the property and deal with the contracts. Your agent can advise you on this, or just ask a local if they can recommend someone. Once the notaio is ready (usually a month or two later), you, the vendor and the agent go to his office to sign forms and hand over money (see points 9 and 10) and keys.
9. Pay tax. If you buy the house as your first home (which means you have to take residence there within 18 months) you pay 3 per cent tax on the purchase price. If it’s a second home, you pay 10 per cent. If you buy it as your first home and don’t take residence within the allotted time you’ll get a big old fine so don’t try to be sneaky to save money. They’ll find you. They always find you…
10. Pay the estate agent. Agents in Italy are paid 3 per cent of the purchase price by the buyer and 3 per cent by the seller. Again, you can’t really get out of this one, but seeing as you’re paying him or her handsomely, make sure you make your agent work for their money! Dance, agent, dance!
11. Move in. The agent should help you sort out all the utilities and insurance and then all that’s left is to move in, make friends with your neighbours, visit the local café a lot so that everyone gets to know you and start living the Italian dream!
I can’t recommend estate agents around Italy, but if you want to know some good ones here in Piemonte get in touch and I’ll happily point you in the right direction!