Does it “take a village” to buy a property in Italy? The real estate purchase process in Italy, though it can be frustratingly convoluted, is designed to protect the interests of all involved parties, and it’s also structured to preserve property values. Great care is taken, therefore, before any deal is completed, to ascertain pertinent data that applies to a property in question.
Buying a home in Italy requires that three main parties be involved: the buyer, the seller, and a notaio (notary). Other parties, though not required by law, may be strongly recommended, and these can include a real estate agency, an attorney, a geometra (surveyor), a translator, and/or others.
We will discuss the roles that each performs.
Buyer, Seller and Notary
Buyer – The buyer, aside from being a necessary component in the real estate process, has certain responsibilities and performs functions that are vital to the acquisition of real property. Generally, it is the buyer who selects, and pays for, the notary who will be charged with the validation of documentation. It’s also incumbent upon the purchaser to provide proper identification, a tax code, and to meet all financial qualifications.
Seller – In simple form, the seller must be able to demonstrate that he/she has clear title to the property in Italy which is under consideration, and that the property is in compliance with all applicable codes and statutes. The seller must also show current status regarding property taxes and any fees that attach to the real estate.
Notary – The notary, or notaio, is a public functionary who is appointed by the government. In addition to certifying documents, an Italian notaio bears additional responsibilities in any real estate transaction. The notary, though normally chosen and paid for by the buyer, actually performs as an independent mediator and facilitator, working with an eye toward eliminating any and all causes that could engender future litigation.
The notaio will confirm buyer/seller identification, and see that each is eligible to complete a transaction. The notary will also perform due diligence as it applies to metes and boundaries, easements and/or rights-of-way, and any encumbrances upon, or liens against the title. The notary will also figure transaction taxes, collect these taxes, and disburse them in accordance with the law. Deed assignation is witnessed by the notary, who then will register the sale and process the transfer of title.
Other Parties Involved in the Home Buying Process
The aforementioned buyer, seller, and notary are factored into the real estate equation by law, but there are other people and agencies who may be “optional”, but who can be just as important to a successful negotiation, and some of these are listed below.
Real Estate Agent/Agency – In Italy, a real estate agency truly epitomizes a “middle man” position, one whose function is to bring buyer and seller together, and to aid in the negotiation of a deal. Hence, the agency fees are usually a shared expense between the two principal parties.
Attorney – A qualified real estate attorney is indispensable to anybody who isn’t intimately familiar with Italian real estate law. Contracts, of course, are binding agreements, and it is imperative that they be formulated in a manner that withstands all legal scrutiny.
Surveyor – The exact function of a geometra puzzles foreigners, since there is no close equivalent position in other countries. The role of the geometra has been evolving along with the “legge antisismica“ (or anti-seismic laws). He is something of a jack-of-all-trades, entrusted with the collection of land-registry documents, obtaining permits for renovation projects, and overseeing work performed.
Translator – Translation and explanation of often-complicated legal jargon may be needed by foreign investors, even those who speak fluent Italian. The attorney or real estate agency may provide this service, or a buyer may employ a translator independently.
Others – Depending on specific needs, others involved in a transaction could include other attorneys, accountants, surveyors, architects, and various trades people.