Six essential steps to buying your own property in Italy

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Italy is a very tempting place to settle, and there are so many wonderful corners to explore. From incredible places by the sea, to the mountains, the lakes, charming cities, country farmhouses and villas, and houses in sleepy tiny towns surrounded by sublime nature and steeped in culture and tradition, there is no doubt tremendous variety can be found and there’s something for everyone.

If you have decided to settle or retire, you will want to know that generally, there are few restrictions for foreign residents to own property in Italy. Of course this doesn’t mean the process is by an means simple, efficient or the easiest to understand. However if you are aware of these steps you will be well informed and on your way.

From the beginning you ought to be aware that you’ll need to ensure you have an Italian Codice Fiscale (tax file number) before the purchase process is completed.

We recommend you use a fully licensed real estate agent (with a RWA registration number) and also employ the services of an experienced lawyer who speaks your language and also Italian, to act on your behalf throughout the purchase process.

Step 1 – Home Search

Today it is possible to use the services of a specialist buyer’s agent who can search for property that meets your specific requirements and then act on your behalf through the purchase process. In some cases these agents may have knowledge of property that is not on the market publicly, and this may be due to the privacy needs of many vendors in Italy.

Properties can be viewed on a shortlist by appointment with these agents, or alternatively you can deal direct with the selling agent.

Step 2 – The Offer (Proposta Irrevocabile di Acquisto)

Once you have found the property you wish to buy in Italy, you will make an offer (or your agent can do this on your behalf) called the “proposta irrevocabile di acquisto” (irrevocable proposal to buy). This usually removes the property from the market for 2 weeks or so, whilst the vendor considers agreeing and signing the offer.

The amount of the deposit at this stage is agreed privately between you and the seller; however it is usually around 5% of the property price. It will be refunded should the purchase fall through at this stage

Due to non-acceptance by the seller, but it’s important to realise that if the vendor agrees and the Proposta is signed by both parties, it becomes legally binding. If you decide to change your mind after this point, you will forfeit your deposit as the owner took the property off the market.

You then need to hire a property surveyor (“geometra”) in Italy, and make sure your bank or mortgage broker confirms your choice of geometra, if you are using a mortgage to buy the property. The Geometra will carry out important checks on the property to ensure there is appropriate local commune permission for property features that might have been installed on the property (e.g. a swimming pool) or for renovations previously completed.

Checks are also made to ensure that no third party has a right to buy the property that can cancel your offer to buy (called “Diritto di prelazione”).

It is also at this stage you should engage your lawyer, to preview all documents on your behalf.

Step 3 – The Preliminary Sales Contract (Compromesso, or Contratto Preliminare di Compravendita) 

At this stage the sale process is confirmed and a timetable is agreed to finalise the purchase. A second deposit is usually expected, taking the total deposit paid to between 10% and 30% of the property price.

This sales contract is a serious legal commitment, a document that carries serious penalties for infringing its terms. Should you default on the deal, the deposit funds are lost. Should the seller default, he must repay you twice the deposit.

The preliminary contract of sale can be registered at the local registry (Agenzia del Territorio) to protect your interest in the property from the seller’s creditors and to ensure the seller cannot sell the property to someone else. The registration of the preliminary contract means that it has to be signed in front of a notary with the extra notary costs; however it is a valuable safeguard and hence highly recommended.

In some cases the buyer and seller may agree to skip the Compromesso in the interests of time, and complete the Final contract

Step 4 – Acquire a Tax File number (Codice Fiscale) and open a Bank Account

Before preparing the final contract of Sale, you will be required to apply for a codice fiscale from the tax authorities. This can be arranged locally or remotely, and has no cost involved.

The Codice Fiscale will also allow you to open an Italian bank account, required prior to the final contract.

Step 5 – Completion of Sale – Signing of the Final Contract (Rogito Atto Notarile)

The final stage involves signing the final contract (rogito) in the presence of the Notary (Notaio) who will act for both parties and inspect all documents before you sign the Contract and the property title deeds are transferred. The notary usually requires foreign buyers to have a power of attorney present who is fluent in Italian and can assist you in the final meeting and translating into your language. Your lawyer will usually fill this role.

At this stage the balance of the funds required, as well as the property tax and Notary fees will be payable.

Step 6 – Lodg
ment of Sale contract documents 

The notary will lodge the sales contract with the land registry office, to officially transfer title from seller to buyer. The vendor is required to lodge the ” denuncia di cessione fabbricato” which confirms you as the new owner, at a police station, within 48 hours of signing the Rogito.

The entire process often takes between six and twelve weeks.

Follow the steps and ensure you have good advisers around you, and you will go a long way to removing the stresses and enjoying your new purchase!


All thoughts are my own. The information contained here is not personal financial advice tailored to individual needs.