Purchasing a Home in Italy

Purchasing a home in Italy

Many of us dream of owning a home in Italy.  But we hesitate.  Buying property abroad can seem like a daunting task.  I know this personally, because I hesitated, too.  I eventually bought property, but it took a long time and a fair amount of research before I acted.

I’d like to make the process easier for other buyers.  So my real estate brokerage, Small & Associates Real Estate, has teamed up with a number of Italian brokerages to bring you offerings in Italy.  These brokerages include ones we have relationships with through our international networks (Realm, Leverage and Luxury Home Marketing).  And some are brokers we know personally from spending a lot of time in Italy and observing Italian real estate over the past 30 years.

Together, we can help you buy that dream home abroad.  In the meantime, here are some insights I gathered as a buyer myself.

A similar process, but with different labels

When I purchased my apartment in Florence, I learned a lot fast. But it took me a while to get there.  For years, I’d toyed with the idea and learned a little bit about the process from my Italian friends.  I even looked at properties occasionally while visiting and had an “almost buy” moment in 2006.  But I’d never gotten around to pulling the trigger, mainly because I wasn’t confident.

In 2017, I finally decided it was time to act. Why?  Because a dear friend reminded me that I shouldn’t wait until I was too old to enjoy it. She was correct (as always).

Buying a home in Italy isn’t as complicated as you might think. In fact, it’s surprisingly similar to buying a home in the U.S. But the process has different labels than we’re used to here. And there are a few things you should line up before you make an offer.


First of all, figure out the money. Where will you get it? How will you transfer it? The easiest process is to make a purchase using cash. Italian mortgages are vastly complicated for non-residents. They’re not impossible, but it’ll take some work. Transferring funds to Europe can be complicated and expensive, but if you shop around a bit and learn about the process, you can figure out the best approach for you. Getting familiar with this ahead of time will help your stress level once the process gains momentum.

The Players

Who can and will help?

The Broker:  Once you know where you want to be, finding a reliable broker to work with will make things easier for you. And only make inquiries on a property through your broker.  If you request a lot of information before hiring a broker, the property’s broker can claim they should be paid.

The Notary (Notaio Pubblico):  Your broker will be able to recommend a reliable notary. In Italy, the notary does all the organizing and brings the transfer to a close. They make sure all the necessary documents are in place before closing, and they also receive the funds and distribute them to all parties when the sale closes.  As I was told during my own purchase, attorneys are not really necessary. But as an American real estate broker, I wasn’t convinced.  So I hired an Italian lawyer who cost me a lot of money without bringing much to the table.  (At the time, it made me feel better.  But in retrospect, it wasn’t worth the exorbitant fee.)

The Process

So you’ve figured out where you want to be, and you’ve toured properties and decided on one to make an offer on.

So many things I read say you should make an offer verbally.  But doing it this way leaves too much hanging. It’s best to work with an agent who puts offers in writing and prefers doing it that way. This document is the Proposta d’Acquisto.

The next stage of an Italian purchase is Contratto Preliminare di Vendita or Compromesso. Typically at this point, the purchaser increases their deposit substantially. The final contract of sale (Atto di Vendita or Rogito Notarile) is signed by both parties at the notary’s office and is countersigned by the notary.  (When I purchased my apartment in Florence, I asked if we could combine the last two steps. All parties were agreeable.  We contracted, and one month later, I came back to Italy and closed.)

At some point prior to purchase, you’ll need to obtain your Codice Fiscale, which is the Italian version of a social security number. Upon closing, you might also need to be registered with the community you are purchasing in.  And if you are planning to rent your home, you might need to get another certificate to do that.

This is all fairly straightforward and can be accomplished with the assistance of the broker and the notary. Fair warning:  Learning fine nuances after closing is a never-ending process, but there are many resources to assist.  Newspapers, websites, blogs, newsletters and Facebook groups for expats abound.

No matter what, once you do it, you’ll find it’s a rewarding experience. Being a former beach house owner, I tell people it beats owning a beach house! I’ve solved problems, made lots of good friends and learned a lot in the process. It sets you apart as someone who takes action and turns daydreams into reality.  So in the words of my dear friend: Don’t wait until you’re too old to enjoy it!  Life isn’t a dress rehearsal.

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