Do you still have doubts about purchasing a house in Italy?
This interview with Luca Bianconi from Abitare Gruppo Immobiliare – a real estate agency based in San Benedetto del Tronto (Le Marche) with over 10 years of experience in selling property to international home hunter – will be a precious source of information that will help you to navigate the process!
1. Hi Luca! How do you usually organize property visits?
“Once the client has contacted us and told us what they want and need, we do a screening to see which properties in our database meet their requirements. So they can identify one or more interesting homes and organize their journey to Italy to see them. We accompany them to take a tour of the property. Usually we spend the whole day with them, we have lunch together to get to know each other better. We cross some properties off the list and add some.
When they arrive here in Le Marche we already know what properties to see, those that he or she has chosen by email, and we have already arranged the tour so we know the schedules of the owners with whom we will already have made an appointment.”
2. Once one has found the right property, does the agent take care of all steps to ensure that in the end the buyer has a legal and binding agreement? And does the agent represent solely the buyer?
“In Italy the agent is the person that pulls everything together for a property purchase (solicitor, buyer, seller, notary, etc.). We negotiate on behalf of the buyer but partly also for the seller, because in Italy the real estate agent is an intermediary figure that works for both parties to find an economically viable agreement in respect of both. Once a financial agreement is reached we proceed to the preliminary sale that is usually drafted by ourselves, or sometimes by one of our trusted lawyers. That’s when you know how long it will take to sing the final deed with the notary who represents the Italian state and is an impartial figure that guarantees both for the seller and the buyer and ensures that the property is problem free. His intervention is compulsory and the buyer will have to pay for his service as it is not included in the commission.”
3. In some countries, such as UK, the transaction is made between lawyers. In Italy is such a figure required?
“In Italy it is not necessary because the buying process with the agent is already very safe. However, once the economic deal is underway, many of our clients are more comfortable getting advice from a lawyer who, moreover, would take care only of the interests of the buyer who pays for his services. In this case we also have several agreements with trusted lawyers that can assist you further.”
4. How long does it take all the buying process after you make an offer?
“It varies a great deal and is heavily dependent on the property’s documentation. If the house has all the necessary documentation the whole process usually takes about two or three months at least from the offer through to purchase. Because in the meantime you also have to obtain an Italian tax code, go to the bank and open a current account, take all the documentation from the notary.”
5. Who pays the agent, the buyer or the seller?
“You will pay a commission which is around 3% of the purchase price + VAT (22% of the fee). Usually this percentage is not divided between buyer and seller, but each one has to pay a 3% + VAT commission.”
6. Do you provide additional services?
“The first post-sale service we provide for example is already included in the commission, and is the change of ownership for the utilities and the transfer of electricity, Internet, telephone, water, etc.”
“We also arrange the maintenance of the property by relying on reliable companies providing these services for us based on the area where the property is located.”
7. If you use an agent for a purchase and subsequently there are issues, can the agent be held accountable?
“In Italy, the law stipulates that the agent is the person to put the seller in contact with the buyer and who actively participates in the negotiation to reach an agreement between the parties on price. The agent should be as transparent as possible in describing all the features of the building, not omitting anything they know of. I think each case should be taken separately and fortunately it has never happened to us.”
8. Apart from the valuation made by the agent, is there any other way of knowing whether the house price reflects market value or is inflated?
“We always make a real estate market valuation of every property we offer for sale. By browsing the Internet you can find the tools to do it, but the variables are so many that it is difficult to get an accurate valuation automatically. What you can do, though, is compare the property with others of the same type and in the same area. That way you’ll see immediately if the price is unreasonable or not. You can do this especially when you surf websites collecting a large amount of properties, such as Gate-away.com. But you also need to bear in mind that there could be 40-50 thousand euros of difference, that might simply be due to the type of property, the location, property services, and construction quality. It’s fair to say that the variables are infinite.”
9. What about determining if a property is adequately/safely built to withstand earthquakes?
“The owner is the one who guarantees that the building is in line with building regulations and signs to this effect on the day of the sale. The agent should, however, further guarantee it by first checking the documentation and making sure everything is OK. As we also have surveyors on our team, we do this free of charge. Even before we take on a property we check all the documentation and so we know from the start whether it’s OK or not, if there is some work to be done on it, and if the work can, indeed, be done and if all the necessary documentation is present. For properties where documentation is missing, in some cases we refused to handle the sale. But not every agent does.
In cases where there is something abnormal as regards urban planning regulations, we inform both the seller and the buyer. In this case we may still take on the property but only on the condition that that the owner fixes the problem before the sale, or the contract is terminated.
However, if the buyer is not sure or wants a second opinion from another technician (engineer, engineer or architect) with a survey that certifies that the building is OK, also from an anti-seismic point of view. The buyer have to pay for a technician as his services are not included in the agent’s commission.”
10. There’s a lot of talk about ‘rent to buy’ these days, mostly overseas. What is the situation in Italy? Are there many sellers selling houses using this formula? Can a prospective buyer propose this method to the seller?
“Yes, but especially when it comes to foreign buyers it is almost never used according to my experience, and the sale is always made in the usual way. However, in recent years, we have used various other similar payment methods to help buyers, such as ‘deferred payment’. That is, buyers have paid for properties in stages at different times: spread over months or years. This is a sale method that is absolutely legal and is guaranteed by a public official – a notary – who notes and records all the details in the sale documents regarding the payment deadlines agreed by both parties. So, this is something very similar to rent to buy that provides legal guarantees to both parties.”
11. If you buy a property in Italy, am I responsible for any taxes that were not paid by the previous owner?
“No, the tax always ‘follows’ the person not the property. You become responsible for paying taxes immediately when you become the owner. In addition, the notary certifies in the act that the property is free of any legal issue.
So, in private sales, and more so if done through an agency, you can rest assured. You just have to be careful if the property for sale belongs to a company that might have unsecured debts, as this could lead to the sale being revoked. Such situations require more careful attention.”
12. Is the property buying process in Italy less complicated if you are an EU citizen?
“European citizens have no limitations on buying property in Italy. It is often the same for buyers from outside the EU, but it depends on the reciprocity agreements between states. But for non-EU buyers, but there will definitely be a different process to follow when it comes to establishing residency.”
13. In the US there’s MLS which includes all properties that are on the market for sale. Does it exist in Italy or there’s something like that?
“In Italy MLS has been active for a few years, as well as other databases, but not all of them can be consulted because there is no common point of reference, making them very limited in value.”
Do you have other questions for Luca? Leave your comment below!