Buying Real Estate in Italy
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Important facts to know before buying real estate In Italy
So, you have seen the movie Under the Tuscany Sun (by the way, it's based on a lovely novel on life in Italy you should read if you like the genre!). You like how the female protagonist bought a villa and decorated it and learn to love even more Italy and the Italian lifestyle while she was at it.
Well! That is a good inspiration, but we have to accept reality is very different from motion pictures. Purchasing real estate is not as simple as shown in the film, where the female protagonist just steps out of the bus and buys a villa. Hollywood is Hollywood, but the chances you actually have to find an old lady in Tuscany who sells a villa because of a Godly sign are as good as finding a rent controlled apartment in New York City.
Not long ago, somebody told me he was looking for a house near Rome for 18.000 Euros... Ok... it may not be mathematically impossible, but he has a better chance to buy a winning lottery ticket.
So let see what we have to do realistically.
- Visit Italy to see if and where you would like to live
- Decide if you want to purchase in the countryside, in a small town or in a city
- Find a place you like and, if you plan to buy there, rent an apartment for a while using airbnb or a similar service
- Get a realtor
- Plan financially, by checking how to get a mortgage in Italy
- Study the buying process in Italy
- Buy the property
- Enjoy (we hope) your stay
First steps towards your dream
The first step is to research the process. You have made a good start: you are reading this article, so let's not waste any time and get down to business.
As we said, you need to conduct your research on the process of buying a home in Italy. A big help would be the internet. Today, in the times of the World Wide Web, you find information on any aspect of the buying process by few simple clicks of your mouse.
Any good search engine can provide you with various links to the subject. As you read on and educate yourself, you will realize that there are many differences, both in the terms and about financing options. It would be prudent to hire a realtor and get some legal help as you begin the buying process. I also suggest you check with your accountant in the US for tax implication, as you may be entitled to some deductions. If you decide to hire a legal representative, make sure they have experience in undertaking such type of international transactions.
Ideally, you should really do some reading on the real estate market in Italy. As we mentioned earlier, some terms and condition of purchase may be different from those you are used to back home. When we say terms, it does not restrict it to terms of contract, it can also mean the terminologies used in the real estate market.
We in the United States are used to terms such as apartments, condominiums and houses. But you may come across terms such as seminterrato (a basement apartment), bilocale (a two bedroom apartment), attico (an attic), villetta a schiera (detached house in an estate) or cieloterra (independent houses, that is, that you buy from sky to land). It would be wise to familiarize yourself with these terms so that you can select the type of Italian real estate you are looking for. If you are into the market to buy or sell a house, experts have always suggested that you should contact a Real Estate agent. Be aware however that while in the US the seller pays the real estate agent in Italy each side pays his own agent.
Another important step would be educating yourself with the various applications you need to file, contracts that you will be required to sign and the applicable fees. Do not be surprised when you see a high set up fee, as the real estate market is different in Italy from here, back at home: unlike the United States, which considers real estate as an investment, Italians are known to buy real estate to keep it. In the United States you may have seen many television advertisements about lender fees. Different lending companies compete for the precious customer, YOU. But this scenario does not exist in Italy. Therefore, the retail banks are less competitive and aggressive.
Be prepared to pay for higher transaction fee than we are used to in America. Also note that you will be required to pay agent fees and taxes (which may be higher there). That brings us to another important aspect, mortgages. Well! You do have two options: you can either take a mortgage in Italy or you can get financing with your local bank back at home. However, your bank would need to have banking facilities in Italy, too.
You can also approach any international bank which provides this service. Last option would be to get a home equity loan here in the US (or wherever you live) and then wire the money to Italy. Since usually interest rates are slightly lower in the US, and it is easy to get and or pay off the loan it may have its advantages. Do not get surprised when you see a different number of years mentioned under the section of repayment. At times, you may come across banks in Italy asking you to repay your mortgage in 15 years or 10 years. Some are also known to have stipulations such as the loan to be repaid by your 70th or even 65th birthday.
By Paolo Nascimbeni