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  • Guide to buying a property in Italy

    12/07/2017

    In this online guide foreigners will find sound advice about the Italian real estate buying process, including solid tips that relate to taxes, fees, commissions, and other costs.

    Who can buy a house in Italy?

    1. Foreigners who do not reside in the country can buy property in Italy if there is an international treaty that permits a material condition of reciprocity between their country of origin and Italy. This is a treaty that also allows Italians to buy a house in the foreigner’s country of origin. It is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that periodically verifies reciprocity between Italy and other countries such as the United States. Notaries are not allowed to draft any forms of property buying contracts involving citizens from “non-reciprocity” countries.

    The Ministry of Foreign affairs stipulates that reciprocity is not required under the following conditions:

    • If the foreigner is an EU citizen

    • A “resident alien” in Italy

    • If there is a treaty between Italy and the foreigner’s country such as Canada that allows mutually requested activities including purchases, companies and so on.

    2. Foreigners residing in Italy legally, their family members who are in good standing, and stateless persons who have lived in Italy for no less than 3 years are eligible to buy property in the country without the need for verification of a condition of reciprocity if they have a residence permit for:

    • Employment or self employment.

    • Sole proprietorship

    • Family reasons

    • Humanitarian reasons

    • Study

    • And if they have a long-term EC residence card.

    3. There are no special requirements for citizens of EU countries, EEA countries such as Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, and stateless persons or refugees who have resided in Italy for more than 3 years seeking to buy property in Italy.

    Services provided by estate agency

    1- Obtaining an Italian tax code (codice fiscale) issued by the Italian tax authority (Agenzie delle Entrate), which is required to purchase a property.

    2- Opening a current account with an Italian bank, which is required before signing the definitive sales document (rogito).

    3- Drawing up of the preliminary sale contract (compromesso or preliminare di vendita), in two languages if necessary, by a lawyer.

    4- Finding a notary (notaio – a public official able to represent the state) to transcribe and register, as per legal requirements, the definitive contract (rogito) in order to effectively take ownership of the property.

    The legal process

    • The first step before you proceed with anything is to get a ‘codice fiscale’ which is basically a personal code provided by Italian Tax Office. The code is a mandatory requirement for all types of investments, contracts, or legal proceedings in the country. The code is also issued at an Italian embassy or consulate.

    • You will also be required to open an account at an Italian bank.

    • Once done, you can then proceed to create a formal offer or ‘proposta d’acquisito’ for the property. It confirms your interest to pay for the property. As a matter of fact, as soon as the seller accepts your offer the formal offer turns into a legal-binding contract, and you will also be required to pay a deposit known as ‘caparra’, usually 10% of the property’s price. That deposit is legally non-refundable if you back out of the deal. But if it is the seller to back out, he will pay back to you the deposit plus an amount of money which is equal to the deposit itself.

    • The deposit seals a contract known as preliminary agreement of sale (‘compromesso’ or ‘contratto preliminare di vendita’ in Italian). It is also called the ‘promessa di vendita’ which is actually a major contract setting out all the full conditions of the sale including all the necessary registry information. The signed contract must be registered within 20 days. The cost of the registration depends on many factors and it is necessary to make it a legally binding document.

    Anyway, the preliminary agreement is not mandatory and the ””final contract”” can be immediate.

    • The next step will be to officially get the property’s title deed known as the ‘atto di compravendita’ or simply the ‘rogito’ (final contract) using the services of a notary, locally known as the ‘notaio’. He or she will validate the contracts dealing with transfer of property ownership, draft a new deed citing you as the new legal owner, and witness the closing of the deal as you hand over the final payment and receive the property’s keys from the seller. Notary fees vary from town to town and also depends on the purchase price of the property. His or her services are quite essential in closing the purchase convivially.

    Taxation

    At the moment there are basically 2 categories of levies that everyone, resident or otherwise, must pay after purchasing a home in Italy:

    1) Levies dealing with transfer of property such as stamp duty (imposta di registro), land registry tax (imposta ipotecaria), cadastral tax (imposta catastale) and VAT (IVA). VAT is generally levied on the purchase for property bought from a renovation company or a developer within 5 years after completion of work on the property. The other three taxes (stamp duty, land registry and cadastral tax) are usually based on the property’s “cadastral declared value” of the deed of sale called the “Rogito.” Notably, the cadastral value is lower than the property’s market price since it is based on appraisals which in most cases were done several years back.

    If one buys his or her principal home, also called prima casa, from a company or a private seller without applying VAT, whereby you can move into the property within 8 months after signing the final contract, live in the property for more than 6 months a year and if the home is not categorized as luxury property, then the registration tax, also known as ‘imposta di registro’, drops from the previously paid 3% to 2% of the property’s cadastral value. This comes with a minimum payment due of 1000 Euros. The cadastral tax (imposta catastale) and the land registry tax (imposta ipotecaria) also reduces from the previous 168 Euros to € 50 in each case.

    For second homes (seconda casa) the stamp duty is 9% and is applied on the cadastral value in case the buyer is a private entity, or on the purchase price if is a business entity. Land registry and cadastral taxes are € 50 in each case.

    2) Ownership taxes: IUC (Imposta Comunale Unica). This is a set of taxes groups including IMU (tax on the ownership of the property), TARI (waste collection taxes) and TASI which are local services levies for amenities such as street lighting, etc. The IUC payment is split into 2 tranches.

    Only owners of primary residences are exempted from Imu and Tasi for properties that are not classified as luxury homes. However, they will have to pay TARI according to the house’s square metres.

    On the contrary if you are buying a second home, you will be required to pay Imu, as well as Tasi and Tari.

    Anyway, we recommend you to check thoroughly the exact amount of the taxes you have to pay for your property in Italy since the situation can change from town to town and depending on political events.

    Banking and mortgages in Italy

    Foreigners can open a “conto estero“, or non-resident account, at most Italian banks. Necessary documentation includes: passport, residence card or proof of employment, a recent utility bill (proof of residence), and a tax code (“codice fiscale”). Tourists typically do not open bank accounts in Italy, instead relying on cash, traveler””””s cheques, etc., but non-residents with second homes in Italy will usually find it more convenient and less expensive to do their banking with an Italian financial institution. Note, however, that deposits must be made either in imported euros or foreign currency. On the “plus” side, you will not be subject to withholding tax on interest earned with a non-resident account, as opposed to a resident account. Additionally, non-resident accounts earn interest at a greater rate than do resident accounts.

    Bank rates, services and fees vary considerably; shop around before opening any accounts. You can open accounts via correspondence, if necessary, but the general recommendation is to do so in-person, which will help you to establish a personal working relationship with your bank-of-choice, which can be beneficial if you will need a mortgage loan in order to purchase property.

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