The buyers guide to purchasing a property in Italy

Once you have decided to retire to Italy and have found a property you want to buy, you should carefully consider the legal implications.

There are many ways to purchase a property, through an estate agent, directly from the owner or a third party, knowledge is the key to having a trouble free purchase.

• The services of an experienced Italian property solicitor will ensure your interests are protected throughout the process.
There are 3 key stages to the Italian property purchasing process:
1. Proposta irrevocabile d’acquisto (Reservation Offer)
2. Contratto preliminare di vendita (Preliminary Contract)
3. Atto di vendita (Deed of Sale)
•Proposta Irrevocabile d’Acquisto (Reservation Offer)
This is the first document you will be called upon to sign,this is standard practice when purchasing through an estate agent. In contrast, when purchasing directly from the property vendor (private sale), this document is not normally used. There are many legal implications dispensing with a reservation offer and you would be well-advised to consult a solicitor regarding your purchase.
By signing the reservation offer, the seller is agreeing to remove the property from the market for 15 days, giving you exclusive property rights, during this time searches can be carried out through your solicitor to check the property is without mortgages, debts etc. This due diligence is essential in uncovering problems which might otherwise present themselves later on in the buying process.
You will pay a small deposit to the estate agent or solicitor, held by them until your purchase offer is formally accepted through a signed document by the seller. This deposit is considered partial payment of the purchase price. This deposit is returned to you should your offer not be accepted.
•If the buyer and the seller agree to continue with the purchase, the preliminary contract (Contratto Preliminare di Vendita) It is essential not to leave this crucial part out as it sets out the detailed terms and conditions of the sale, you should have this drafted through your solicitor or read by them if drafted by the other party. The essential element of the preliminary contract is the payment of a deposit (caparra confirmatoria), normally equivalent to a minimum of 10% of the purchase price.
The final date to finalize the sale in front of a Notary Public is also set at this stage.
Note: This deposit will not be refunded if you back out of the preliminary contract without a valid reason. If the seller pulls out of the sale, the seller will have to refund your deposit in full. You also have the right, if you wish, to claim an amount equal to the deposit through the Italian courts.
•Atto di Vendita (Deed of Sale) The deed of sale is drafted by the Public Notary. It must be fully compliant with the details contained in the preliminary contract and must under Italian Law, be drafted in Italian. For non Italian speakers this is translated by a mother tongue speaker, note that under Italian Law the Italian version will prevail.
The signing of the deed of sale usually takes place at the Public Notary’s office. The Public Notary will read and explain the Italian version of the deed of sale contract in the presence of the sellers and the buyers, or their legal representatives. Both parties have the opportunity to read and check the relevant language version of the deed of sale to ensure correct. Having your own bilingual solicitor ensures your own best interests are protected and that you have clarity and confidence in the whole conveyancing process.