There are virtually no obstacles to buying a property in Italy as a foreigner, with the exception of a handful of countries. However, it is a different process to most other countries, but protects the buyer more than in other places. If you are using a legal, registered agent then you should have few problems. If it is a private purchase then make sure you understand anything you are signing. By law you must have a translation (on the pain of nullity) if you don’t speak Italian.
There are usually three steps involved in buying a property in Italy. The only one required by law is the final act of rogito, which is signed by all parties in the presence of a notaio, a legal representative of the State who is impartial and works for both parties involved. If your Italian is not fluent you must have a translator for the signing of the act. It is the equivalent of the ‘completion’ under English law, and from that moment on the legal ownership of the property is passed to the buyer.
The longer between offer and act, the more advisable is it is add the other elements. If you are planning on using a mortgage for your purchase a compromesso is essential, unless you have a very understanding seller and bank!
Both the proposta and compromesso are legally binding contracts – whether drawn up by yourselves, your estate agent or the notaio they all have the same effect – to bind you into the contract with the other party at the risk of losing your money.
To reach the final act can be a long and tortuous process. It can be initiated by a proposta d’acquisto, a formal offer to purchase the property which is usually accompanied by a cheque made payable to the seller, but held by the intermediary. It shows a serious intent to purchase, and usually means that the property is taken off the market while the offer is considered. If accepted, the purchase can proceed to the final act of purchase or to the compromesso. If, after the offer is accepted, you decide not to proceed, you can lose your deposit
The compromesso is often regarded as the most important step in the buying of a property. It is legally binding, signed by both parties and involves the exchange of money. The compromesso binds the seller to sell the property at the agreed price, while the buyer must complete the purchase by the agreed date. If either party reneges on the compromesso the deposit is lost (for the buyer) or restituted (by the seller)
The compromesso can contain clauses inserted by the buyer to give greater security, eg; the purchase will go ahead only if a mortgage is granted on the property and so forth. It is also stipulated that the final act will be signed by a mutually agreed date. It is at the compromesso that a deposit, usually between 10 and 20% of the purchase price is paid. If a proposta d’acquisto has been made previously, the money held by the agent can be returned or given as part of the deposit, (the caparra)
Everything you need to know about buying a property in Sicily can be found in the new edition of Buying in Sicily – available at www.buyinginsicily.com