Buying a Home in Italy: From the Proposal to the Purchase

| December 27, 2014

buying a home in Italy

The different legislation that is in force for buying a home in Italy compared to other countries often leads to problems between buyer and seller, especially in the most delicate phase, the one regarding the contract.

Let’s, therefore, try to shed some light over the procedure.

After having decided that a house is the one of your dreams in Italy, the purchase goes through various specific phases:

#1 The (irrevocable) Proposal of Purchase (proposta d’acquisto)

It is the buyer’s declaration of wanting to buy a certain home in Italy at a certain price. Usually it is a pre-printed form that contains the essential elements of the future sale. The offer will then also have to be signed by the seller, in acceptance.

Until the seller has not accepted the offer, it only obligates and holds the buyer to it. The buyer can retrieve it unless it has been formulated as an irrevocable offer, as it usually is. In this case, he can only wait for the seller’s decision to accept or not, within the agreed times. In the meantime, the seller is free to evaluate other offers.

When the seller’s acceptance has been communicated to the buyer, both parties are mutually and irrevocably obligated to stipulate the definitive bill of sale.

>> It is a very important and delicate step that is better to carry out only if you are really convinced about purchasing that home in Italy and, where possible, after having made the necessary checks on the property, because once your signature is on this form it will be very difficult to take it back.

N.B. In case of urgency, if all the necessary checks (e.g. the flat’s conformity to standards, the urban-construction regularity, etc.) cannot be made before the proposal, one can sign but it is better to insert the conditions that make getting out of the obligation possible, in the eventuality that they don’t come to be.

#2 The Preliminary Contract (contratto preliminare or compromesso)

Once the seller accepts, the buyer’s offer automatically becomes a preliminary contract: an agreement between seller and buyer that must be registered and transcribed to avoid inconveniences and through which each party is mutually obligated to stipulate a consecutive and definitive purchase agreement (deed). The transfer of the rights on the property will only take place when the deed is signed.

Often, the preliminary contract is stipulated when the immediate sale of that home in Italy is not possible: because, for example, the buyer is looking for a mortgage or the seller is waiting for a new house in which to move to. The reason why the preliminary contract is signed is so that both parties are juridically bond during the time needed to solve these problems.

From a purely juridical point of view there is no difference between the accepted offer and the preliminary contract as they both obtain the same very important effect: if one of the parties changes mind before the definitive deed, the other party, that wants to maintain the obligations, can turn to a judge and obtain a sentence that transfers the house according to the conditions foreseen in the accepted offer or in the preliminary contract and, where not agreed upon, to the conditions of the law.

The preliminary contract usually contains many more details and agreements than in the accepted offer and must already contain all the aspects that will be inserted in the final deed, like for example:
– The data of each contractor
– The price of the property
– The payment modalities (cheque, promissory note, etc.) and relative expiry dates
– The description of the house (cadastral outcomes, rooms, relevancies) and of the confining properties
– The date of the deed
– Clauses regarding the down payment (caparra)
– The presence of eventual restrictions (mortgages, etc.)
– Conformity to building norms.

Usually, when the preliminary contract is stipulated, the buyer also pays a sum of money as down payment which usually equals 10-15% of the value of the property (but it can vary) that at the moment of the definitive sale will be subtracted from the total sum due for your home in Italy. In case the sale doesn’t take place because of the buyer, the seller can keep the down payment as compensation; if it’s the buyer’s fault, the seller has the right to have the down payment back.

#3 The Final Deed (rogito or atto di vendita)

This document is signed by all the parties usually in front of a notary. The choice of the notary is generally left to the buyer who also pays for the notarial expenses.

Once the deed is signed, the house will be definitively yours and you will be its new owner.


One thought on “Buying a Home in Italy: From the Proposal to the Purchase

  1. Alejandro

    Very helpful article, but you should know that in English (I live in California) we don’t use terms like “juridical”, we simply say legal (or legally for the adverb). Additionally, we also don’t use terms like “cadastral”. We usually say assessed value, or property tax value, which imply that these are the values placed on the property by the local governmental agency. In the USA this agency is usually the Assessor for the local county in which one resides. I’m guessing you’re translating these terms literally because in Colombia (where I was born) we have a legal system much like Italy’s, where notaries are used all the time and we use terms like “jurídico” and “catastral” frequently with regards to legal and/or property issues.


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