Starting a new life in Italy and buying a property should be an exciting experience and can be a very good investment, but often the process can be overwhelming, due to a different language, different legal system and different buying processes compared to other countries. With falling house prices in Italy due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 could be the perfect opportunity to invest in Italy and get a bargain. Therefore, it is extremely important to get to grips with the fundamental differences between buying property in Italy and other countries, in order to help foreign buyers avoid potential problems and mistakes. Let's have a look at some of the most common pitfalls of buying property in Italy for expats.
Underestimating how long it takes to buy a house
Depending on your situation and the time of year, buying a house in Italy is a process which can take 2-6 months. If you’re planning to purchase a property without a mortgage and just with a cash payment, but the documents of the property are not all in order, then depending on the extent of the problems to be solved, things could take around 6 months. It’s also worth noting that in August, it’s holiday month in Italy and many bureaucratic and legal processes are put on hold. Planning is therefore key to avoid unnecessary delays but in general, be expected to wait longer than you may in other countries.
Not being aware about hidden charges
Although you may have found a property which seems cheap, be aware of hidden charges and taxes in Italy. If you’re not a resident in Italy or buying a second home, then such costs are often even higher. Therefore, keep in mind that you need to add a minimum of 10% of expenses to the total property price. This is on top of VAT if you’re buying a new property or if you’re buying a second hand property, you’ll need to pay the imposta di registro registration tax, as well as other cadastral taxes. Don’t forget about further payments, such as a mortgage deposit and fees, often a considerable initial expense.
Forgetting about mortgage fees
Mortgage rates are at historic lows in Italy but this doesn’t mean that they come without extra fees and charges to consider. Mortgage tax in Italy tends to be about 2% of the loan amount, and on top of this, many banks also require buyers to take out certain types of insurance. These things are necessary and useful, but by no means cheap, making it important to do research so that you can get the best mortgage for your situation.
Under-declaring the sale price
In the Italian property market, it has been highly normal practice over the years to declare a lower price in the title deeds of a property than the price actually being paid. The remaining balance would therefore be settled in cash. This process is illegal and is severely punished if discovered but with the aim of paying less tax on property transactions. Although this happens less in Italy nowadays, it hasn’t completely disappeared, but it should be strongly declined by any potential buyer.
Avoiding real estate agencies
Expat buyers in Italy are often put off buying a property that is advertised by a real estate agency due to yet more fees and an infamously unfriendly sales approach. Agents will often charge commission not only to the seller but also to the buyer. However, by avoiding agencies, you may miss out on the property of your dreams, not to mention that agencies can be very helpful when it comes to price negotiating and getting your way round all the legal documents you’ll need to purchase property.
Not seeking professional help
When you finally find your dream home in Italy, be sure you don’t make the mistake of not seeking professional help to close the deal. It will be necessary to contact a surveyor to thoroughly check the condition of the house and a lawyer to check all the legal conditions of the sale. A lawyer will also help you sign all the relevant documents, especially if you don’t speak fluent Italian. There are many lawyers in Italy specialising in helping expats buy property and many who speak English and will help you through the web of bureaucracy that is involved in buying a house.