The property purchase process in Italy

There are no restrictions on foreign ownership in Italy. It is envisaged that monies remitted from outside of Italy for the purpose of purchasing property have been officially documented to ensure that the proceeds of any resale can be easily repatriated.

Although the real estate transfer process is a highly-regulated process, it is potentially unbalanced against the buyer. Once a property has been chosen, make an offer. Keep in mind also that Italian law provides for pre-contractual liability. You must pay a deposit, generally 3-5% of the purchase price as a gesture of good faith. An offer of purchase is only binding on the buyer; the seller may still consider other offers. It is always best to specify a time limit in the offer document, so as not to be left hanging by the seller.

If the seller accepts, the deal becomes binding on both parties. A preliminary contract (compromesso) is then drawn up by the seller, his attorney, or real estate agent, containing the sale price, the amount paid as deposit, the completion date, the details of the property and any other relevant clauses.

Upon signing of the preliminary contract, the deposit is often raised to 10% to 20% of the sale price, depending on what has been agreed. At this stage, in the unpredictable event that you decide to withdraw from the purchase, the preliminary contract will be forfeited and the seller may seek legal action against you to enforce the purchase. On the other hand, if the seller backs out, he will be liable to pay the double of the amount you have given as deposit.

Hence, the notary public (notaio) has the responsibility of performing due diligence, it may usually take six to eight weeks. Although he is chosen by the buyer, he acts for both parties. When the title search has been conducted to your satisfaction, you can pay the final balance and sign the deed of sale (rogito), witnessed by the notary public.

The notary public will issue you a copy of the deed and present copies to the tax office and Land Registry. Government duties must be paid to officially register the purchased property under your name.

It takes an average of 15 days to complete all the four procedures needed to register a property in Italy.

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