Monday, September 15, 2008

Finding and Buying Property - in Italy

Well, here it is: my first post on my first blog. This is a first of a multi part series on finding property in Italy and everything related to moving to Italy. I will not go into detail on how I got here since you can read about that in future posts and on my profile. Instead let me tell you what I learned about finding and purchasing property in Italy.

How long will it take to find your home?
Let me first say that finding the right property can take as long as you want it to. I mean it can happen even before you leave your home country with a really good agent or it can take years. Personally it took us about one year to find our home and we were already living in Italy. I have friends that found their dream home in their first visit and others that are still looking after years.

Pinpointing the Region

Italy is made up of many different regions that differ in food, climate, way of dressing, employment opportunities, etc. I am not going to go into detail here as it would be way too lengthy. The most popular regions these days among foreigners to buy property are Tuscany, Umbria, Le Marche, Abruzzo, and Puglia. But let’s not forget the Lake region of Como ..made famous of course by an American celebrity (don’t know if I can name him George C.). Anyways I have ranked them in order of popularity and price. Tuscany has always been the most popular and property prices reflect this. Just in the recent years Abruzzo and Puglia have increased in popularity due to very affordable prices.

You really need to ask yourself if you want to live in the countryside, in the city, near the sea, near the mountains. Maybe you are not sure and so I would really recommend you pick a few regions and visit them. You may decide you are not so keen on living near the mountains since the winters can be brutal for instance. Next after deciding on the region you need to decide on the city or town in that region.

Once you have chosen the region it would be wise to do some good research through the internet. There is a really great site called that although it is in Italian, provides invaluable information on names of real estate agencies, their email addresses, phone numbers and great photos and data on property for sale. I used this site repeatedly. The site is categorized by region. Although agencies request 3 percent commission I highly advise going with an agency instead of buying property directly from the owner. It will alleviate a lot of hassles later on. Remember that the same property can be with multiple agencies. I contacted ALL the agencies in the town I was interested in so they all knew what I was looking for. Also be very specific in what you are looking for as the agencies can really waste your time . I can also suggest you check out the agencies of (Tuscany), and (Umbria) which I looked at during my search.

Type of Property
Ok here things get a little tricky so let me help you out. You really need to know what type of property you want. Do you want an apartment (apartamento), a villa, a farmhouse (casale). Do you want it to be restored (ristrutturato), in need of restoration or both? Do you want little or a lot of land (terreno)? Do you want a pool (piscina)? Do you care if you are near a railway track, the freeway, on a hill, in a valley? I can go on and on. Only after seeing many properties did I realize I had to be very specific in talking to the agencies. My personal suggestion is to ask yourself what you will be doing with this property? Will you be living in it fulltime or on vacation time? Will you be flipping it or renting it out? If you plan on renting it out when you are not in it I suggest you purchase something rural like an apartment in a restored farmhouse or an entire restored farmhouse, if money permits of course. Unless you have a lot of time, money and patience, I do not suggest you take on restoring it yourself.

Making an Offer, The Bank, The Notaio

Once you have found the property that really suits you, you can make the offer. It is difficult for me to tell you how much that offer should be in relation to the asking price but after you have seen enough properties you can tell whether or not you should be getting a discount. A contract to bind the parties is called the Preliminare di Compravendita which outlines woh the two parties are, the price agreed upon and the breakdown of how and when the amount will be paid. Usually at this first contract a deposit of about 10 percent is given to the seller of the house.

I should tell you that you do not need to have citizenship nor residency to buy a house in Italy. However I strongly recommend that you try to get residency because property taxes for your first home in Italy are much lower for those with residency. To get residency however you have to prove that you live in the house year round. The urban police (vigile urbano) actually comes by your property to make sure you live there.

Once you have found a bank that you want to work with (the agency should be able to help you with this), you will need to find a notary (notaio). Here also the agency should be able to help out. Mortgages are much shorter than in the United States and the average mortgage is 15 years.

Taking the Plunge

Finding and buying property in Italy is not as simple as it seems and I have given an overview of the first steps. I have to admit that for me it was quite a challenge and I did almost lose my patience on more than one occasion. Now I just laugh at all those really bizarre incidents like trekking in the snow to see a house completely isolated in the mountains and far from being ready to live in. This after telling the agency I want a home as close to the town as possible! We saw all sorts of properties and met all sorts of people. It was definitely a learning experience but in the end worth it as I love the views of olive trees and sunflowers (the reason we got this home) that I have every morning upon awakening. I await to meet you here as my new neighbors!

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