Fancy a home in Italy? PrimeLocation has teamed up with independent overseas trade association, AIPP, to bring you answers to the most common questions.

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  • Where do I start?

    Fancy a pad in Italy? Whether you are planning a permanent move or you want to buy as an investment, the land of history and romance is one of the top choices for Brits looking to buy abroad.

    With a good supply of affordable property, excellent long-term fixed mortgage deals and convenient travel, conditions are optimal. Nevertheless, before you go any further, ask yourself these three simple questions:

    1. What are you primarily buying this property for?

    Is it a holiday home, a financial investment, or somewhere to eventually retire to?

    2. What do you see yourself doing while there?

    This might be spending relaxing time with your partner, hosting family and friends, indulging in sport and leisure or even working.

    3. Which of these are most important to you?

    Is it budget, location, type of property or facilities?

    Once you have these answers you’ll be clearer about what you are looking for and can move onto specifics.

    Where in Italy should I buy?

    The British love of central Italy’s Tuscany reached such feverish popularity in the late 1990s, certain areas of its lush countryside – such as Chianti and Siena – were coined ‘Chiantishire’ by the British media.  Since then, the Russians have joined the stampede helping to push prices even higher.

    If your budget doesn’t stretch that far, the regions of Le Marche and Lazio are very worthwhile alternatives. They might not be as fashionable as Tuscany or Umbria but the landscape is just as beautiful and property there much less expensive.

    However, many Brits have now opted to move further south to Puglia, in the ‘heel’ of the boot. Newer developing markets here include the city of Brindisi with its bustling harbour, and the town of Alberobello which is chock-full of traditional trulli cottages (more on these later). The very far south region of Calabria provides a plethora of inexpensive seaside apartments, rural properties and restoration finds.

    Head north and you’ll find the lakes of Italy’s Lombardy region. Some of the most spectacular shores here include Lake Como, Garda and Maggiore. At one time, these areas conjured up dreamy visions of poets and writers although you’re now more likely to spot George Clooney and Kim Kardashian. While you won’t need celebrity status, owning a villa here – as you’d imagine – requires a large budget.

    However, prices fall off as you go further up the mountain and hillsides with some of the biggest bargains being found around the smaller lakes. Bergamo or Brescia near the less-visited Lake Iseo are both beautiful towns to consider, as is the very pretty Orta San Giulio nestled the shores of tiny Lake Orta.

    In the very far north of Italy lay the elegant ski resorts and alpine villages that border Switzerland and the well-known regions of Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta. Rental opportunity is at its strongest here, but head just a few minutes further out by car and property prices drop significantly. Renovation projects can offer great value.

    Rentals are similarly strong in the affluent area of The Veneto which is full of historic cities, mountain resorts and – of course – the country’s watery capital, Venice. Dorsoduro and Castello, within Venice itself, are popular tourist areas but you will be paying for excellent rental prospects with high prices. Head away from the canals and to areas such as Padua and Verona and your money will go further without compromising too much on ‘tourist traffic’.

    The island of Sicily offers much in the way of property for foreign buyers. Although less popular in the past with Brits than mainland Italy, this was probably related to a lack of regular cheap flights. But these have improved significantly in recent years.

    For coastal property, try Trabia. Or Cerda is slightly further inland but still has dramatic sea views. For a truly undiscovered Sicily, consider Marsala in the northwest which is unspoilt but still easily accessible.

    Sardinia, the second biggest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily, has many stunning beaches, lakes and mountains of its own. Property in the south and middle of the island is cheaper due to limited facilities and infrastructure but, it’s also for these reasons that rental prospects are scarcer. If this doesn’t worry you or isn’t relevant, look at the area around the enchanting Lake Omodeo which offers particular impressive lake views.

    Property in the north of Sardinia can fetch some extremely high prices particularly in the famous resorts of Costa Smeralda and Porto Cervo. However, the villages of Valledoria and Lu Bagnu are far less expensive and still offer good rental opportunity.

    Room with a view in Como, Italy.

    What type of Italian property is available – and at what cost?

    Part of the joy of buying in Italy is the opportunity to purchase totally different property styles than you’d find in the UK – and often much bigger homes than you might afford here too.

    Throughout the country, you’ll find beautiful, rustic properties known as rustici (singular, rustico). Usually constructed from local materials and traditional stone these homes typically have a farming connection and are located in idyllic countryside.

    From olive mills to cow sheds, many rustici have been left to ruin and represent substantial renovation projects. You can pick up bargains for under €20,000 in Calabria but beware – they are likely to be uninhabitable. For a finished project, budget for between €150,000 and €200,000.

    A characteristic, often L-shaped, farmhouse is another popular choice in Italy – a ruined site will cost in the region of €70,000 in the south, although you can expect to pay a minimum of €300,000 in Tuscany. For a fully finished four-bedroom farmhouse in Puglia, €300,000 to €450,000 is a fair guide.

    If you’re on the lookout for something more stately, look for the term masseria, which literally translates into manor farm. These homes are usually very grand with their own surrounding walls. But bear in mind that renovating this kind of property very can easily turn into a nightmare!

    Casa di campagna is the Italian term for a country house, or more prestigious village house, and can usually be found on the edge of a town or village. Casa di campagnas often come with large rooms and stunning architectural features, usually arranged over three levels. A four-bedroom restored country house in Piedmont would ring in at around €700,000 while a five-bedroom village house needing full restoration in Lucca can be snapped up for €150,000.

    Extremely popular with Brits and unique to Italy are the quirky dwellings known as trulli (singular, trullo). Traditional Apulian dry stone huts with conical roofs these homes – which can be found mainly in the Puglia region – were originally constructed as field shelters but were turned into permanent residences by the agricultural workers who farmed the land.

    Restoration costs are almost inevitable but trulli make popular rentals because of their fairytale appearance. A decent sized, three-cone version ready for rental, will cost in the region of €300,000, while smaller one and two-cone houses will cost much less.

    If a renovation project is not on your to-do list, modern designed villas and detached houses are also plentiful in Italy. Whereas houses tend to be stand-alone, villas are often built within small developments. A new-build villa with a swimming pool and lake view in Lombardy can be bought for around €350,000 but in sought-after locations you should expect to pay a lot more. A five-bedroom villa in Forte Dei Marmi on the Tuscan coast for example could set you back €5m!

    Apartments are popular in coastal and leisure areas and – so long as you don’t mind neighbours close by – provide a good ‘lock-up-and-leave’ option if you are not planning to live full time in your Italian property.

    Apartments are available both as new-build and as part of renovated historical buildings which can be with some spectacular period features. A one-bedroom apartment in one of Italy’s less fashionable ski resorts can be found for under €100,000, while a three-bedroom apartment in a renovated villa on Lake Como will cost nearer to €400,000.

    For something truly special (although you’ll need deep pockets) a Liberty Villa, built in the decorative Italian art nouveau style of the early 19th century, is an enviable lakeside retreat. Or perhaps a pink palazzo full of frescoes with sweeping vineyard or even a Florentine castle complete with medieval chapel. With the right budget, we could go on!

    Traditional property in Umbria, Italy.

    How can I finance a home in Italy?

    If you have cash to buy your Italian home, either from existing funds or by releasing money from your UK property, move right on to our section on currency exchange.

    If not, you will need to consider your borrowing options. You won’t be able to take a mortgage from a UK bank to pay for a home that sits on foreign soil – but Italian mortgage providers will lend to non-residents. And an overseas mortgage broker can help you search for the best deals from Italian banks.

    The Italian mortgage market is conservative and more restrictive than the UK. Maximum terms are typically 15-years and lenders will usually require deposits of between 20% and 40% of the property value. Fixed rate mortgages are the norm in Italy and long-term interest rates are usually quite competitive.

    In Italy, the location and type of property you are purchasing will also have a bearing on the loan size you can take. If the dwelling is deemed uninhabitable, no lender will offer to fund all the work necessary to make it so. That said restoration mortgages are available if you have ready cash of your own to contribute.

    If there is an existing mortgage outstanding against the property, in Italy it is sometimes possible for you to take it over at no cost. But of course you’ll need to be happy with the existing terms.

    In any case, it is good practice to borrow in the same currency you intend to repay the loan in. This avoids currency fluctuations moving against you. For example, if you are paying your mortgage with a UK salary, borrow in sterling. If you are funding your purchase through renting out your Italian home, you may be better off borrowing in euros.

    Get the most for your money

    1. When moving large amounts of cash a small difference in rate can equal a huge loss or saving – a 1% change when exchanging £500,000 can mean £5,000 either way!
    2. FX (Foreign Exchange): Banks generally offer poorer rates than specialist FX providers
    3. Be aware that FX companies are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), so do your research and ask questions
    4. Find out what your money is worth today with a currency converter

    What other costs are involved?

    Home buying charges vary in Italy according to whether you are purchasing a new build or a resale property – and also whether the house will be your permanent residence or holiday home.

    But as a rule of thumb, you should allow up to 15% of the purchase price. These charges are broken down as follows:

    • Tax

    o   New-build homes: VAT on new-builds is 4% if the property will be your main residence and between 10 and 20% for non-residents. The exact percentage here will depend on whether the property is considered ‘luxury’


    o   Resale property: Purchase Tax on resale homes is 3% if the property will be your main residence and between 7% and 10% for non-residents

    Note: this tax is payable on the declared value of the property on the land registry rather than the price you have paid.

    • Bank charges
    • Agency fees (divided equally between the buyer and seller and typically between 3% and 8%)
    • Notary fees
    • Surveyor fees
    • Legal Fees
    • Land registry tax
    • Stamp Duty or bolli (levied at 1% for both resident and non-resident)

    Large property for sale in Veneto, Italy.

    Who do I need to help me with my purchase?

    An independent lawyer: Due to our conveyancing process, using a solicitor in the UK is the norm. But this is not always the case in Italy, so the one appointment that’s highly recommended is a good independent lawyer who will work only for you and protect your interests.

    Ensure they have no connection with the agent or developer. Even if your agent recommends a brilliant one to you that ‘they always work with’ be wary. One way around this is to engage your lawyer first. Check the AIPP website where you will find a list of Italian-specialist property lawyers based both in the UK or Italy.

    An agent: In Italy, you’ll need an estate agent to buy (not just sell) a property. You may well have already found one at a property exhibition or online but it’s essential to do your research. For example, are they members of the CCIAA (Italian Association of Estate Agents)? Are they members of a trade association such as the AIPP with recourse to a property ombudsman and financial compensation? Check also if they are registered with their local Chamber of Commerce and have an Agent ID.

    Notary or notaio: A notaio is a public official and it’s his or her job to ensure legal affairs are conducted properly and the correct taxes are paid. Notaries should not be confused with lawyers – they do not act for either the vendor or the buyer – and are usually local to the area in which you are making your property purchase. Notaries are often recommended by your agent or vendor. This will suffice although you are free to choose your own.

    Surveyor or geometra: You will also need a surveyor or to help manage the purchase. It’s worth paying for a good one, especially if you are buying a period building that needs work. Ask for references – word of mouth is critical – as well as evidence they know the local area well, including all the bureaucrats and builders.

    A removal firm: Finally, the move itself may require a removal firm. As with the UK, it is wise to choose an insured company which are members of an association. Specialist overseas removal experts will lead you through the process and advise you on storage, sea transit and regulations you may be unaware of when transferring your goods to Italy.

    New-build property for sale in Lecce.

    What can I expect from the legal process?

    The Italian legal process takes an average of three months and is generally less complicated than in other European countries or the UK. This is because Italians tend to carry out fewer checks and searches.  Don’t worry about this as your trusted lawyer will ensure that all the correct measures have been put in place.

    Here is a six-step plan of what to expect:

    Step one: Once you have had an offer accepted your agent might ask you to sign a reservation contract or a Proposta irrevocabile d’acquisto. This is an ‘agreement in kind’ and demonstrates your commitment. The vendor’s agent then takes the property off the market.

    A downpayment of 10% of the purchase price is also required at this point, although this amount can vary. Budget for around €3,000 to €5,000. If there is a genuine issue with the sale and you have to pull out you will get this money back. If you simply change your mind however you will lose it.

    Step two: You’ll need to arrange for a survey of the property with your geometra (surveyor). Your lawyer will complete searches to ensure there are no restrictive clauses on the property, outstanding debt or boundary disputes.

    Step three: If you are happy to proceed after these checks, you can move on to the Preliminary contract or the Compromesso. This contract sets out the terms and conditions of the sale, price details, completion date and any necessary guarantees or legal clauses.

    Step four: This is where you pay a deposit or Caparra of up to 30% of the purchase price. You, and the vendor, are now fully committed to the purchase. If you pull out after signing the Compromesso, for any reason at all, you will lose this money. If your vendor pulls out, you are entitled to twice the amount you have paid so far.

    Step five: Funds to purchase the property will now need to be put in place. If you are paying using a mortgage the lender will arrange for the funds to be sent to the notary or vendor. If you are paying with your own cash, your currency exchange firm or bank will organise the transfer.

    Step six: Between one and three months after you have signed the Compromesso, you will be invited to the notary’s office along with your lawyer for the completion or il rogito notarile (Rogito). This is where the deeds of sale or Scrittura Private Autentica are signed. If you are unable to travel to Italy, you’ll have to appoint power of attorney to your chosen representative to sign on your behalf.

    Step seven: Once the deeds are signed, funds will be transferred to the vendor and the notary will register you as the new owner with the local land registry. You will also need to pay all associated fees and taxes relating to the purchase.

    Note: if you are buying a new property you may be asked to pay the purchase price in key stages through the property development rather than on completion. Ensure you receive bank guarantees for each payment in case there are difficulties with the completion of the build.

    Need legal advice?

    The AIPP Legal Working Group or LWG is an AIPP initiative designed to protect British buyers of foreign property. It provides a free legal roadmap of what to expect and points out common pitfalls to avoid.  

    What you’ll get:

    •          A free Legal Guide Download
    •          Free access to legal members of AIPP
    •          Free one-to-one advice and information

    What potential pitfalls should I be wary of?

    If you use an independent lawyer your home-buying process in Italy should run smoothly. However, it’s still worth reading these common pitfalls:

    1. Failing to calculate the exchange rate correctly when working out the final purchase price

    Currency prices fluctuate all the time. While this might be manageable when buying your holiday money, when the final price of your home varies significantly from the time you made your offer, it can prove a big problem. It’s a good idea to fix your rate via a specialist foreign exchange company.

    2. Assuming there’s only one vendor

    In Italy, property is often owned by the whole family, especially if it has been inherited. And unless every owner’s signature features on the Compromesso, the sale could be abandoned. Find out early exactly who – and how many people – own the property you are buying.

    3. Being led a merry dance

    Some Italians speculate by putting property on sale just to see what the market is doing and are not serious about selling. You can waste a lot of time chasing after what seems like a bargain only for it to disappear as soon as you make an offer.

    4. Overlooking getting jobs and estimates in writing

    It can be nigh-on impossible to get Italian builders to put anything down in writing but don’t let this put you off insisting on it. You may also need a translation to understand exactly what they are quoting for.

    Property on the canals in Venice.

    Is there anything else I should consider?

    Healthcare: In Italy, all EU nationals are entitled to the same treatment as Italian nationals but the standard of care and facilities is generally better in the north. Depending upon your location, you may wish to purchase additional private health insurance.

    Cost of Living: Again this fluctuates depending on whether you are north or south. Living in the more rural south will cost far less each month than in the northern cities. Check out expat websites for up-to-date guides.

    Planning for the unexpected: What happens if you or your partner is taken seriously ill or even dies? Are you able to get back to the UK if you are needed urgently? It’s imperative to see beyond the initial property purchase and put these plans in place.

    Home Insurance: Consider how you will use your home in Italy (for example, sole occupancy or rental) and get adequate home cover. Properties left unoccupied for long periods need special insurance.

    Follow these steps and you should soon be enjoying your new life in Italy.

    Buona Fortuna!

    Refresher: Top 5 tips for buying in Italy

    1. Do your homework thoroughly
    2. Get an independent lawyer
    3. Use a reputable foreign exchange company
    4. Stay in regular contact with your team
    5. Have a plan for future eventualities 

    Selling up your Italian property? Things to consider!

    1. Choose your agent depending on your market – local or international?
    2. In Italy the agent’s fee is shared equally between the buyer and the vendor
    3. Get together all necessary reports and energy certificates etc. before putting your house on the market – it could save time
    4. Be realistic about the time it may take to sell your property – the more isolated or unique, the longer it could be

    AIPPWho is AIPP? AIPP (Association of International Property Professionals) is the trade association offering voluntary regulation of the international property industry in the UK. AIPP members adhere to a strict code of conduct in how they treat their customers.

    Buying an overseas home via an AIPP member offers access to free legal advice and the potential for compensation through The Property Ombudsman scheme. Visit the AIPP website to download free buyer guides and search for members.

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