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Finding, Buying and Renting for Expats in Italy

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: April 2014

Finding Property

While you are in your home country, the internet will be your best property searching tool. Some popular websites for both rental and purchase are given below:

In Italy, you will be able to look in local newspapers and walk around the area you want to live looking for available properties. There may also be adverts in shop windows or on bulletin boards, for example in supermarkets. Nevertheless, the best thing to do is visit a few estate agents local to the area. Note that there is generally a fast turnover for good rented accommodation, so you will probably need to act quickly.

Renting

In Italy, it is usual for newly-arrived expats to rent property. Bear in mind that a lot of rented property is completely unfurnished or ‘empty’ (vuoti), with no fittings at all; the remainder is partly furnished (with fittings and white goods), or fully furnished.

You are free to negotiate the amount of rent with the landlord before you sign a contract. Nevertheless, the initial outlay for renting can be hefty. Estate agent’s fees are typically 10% of a year’s rent or one month’s rent, and the deposit can be up to three months’ rent, making a total of around five months’ rent. In an apartment with shared corridors and other spaces such as gardens, you may also be required to pay service charges. You will also need to pay registration fees of two or three percent of the annual rent at the local registry office.

There are two types of tenancy contract: a ‘free market contract’ which lasts for four years with an option to renew for a further four years, and a ‘convention contract’, which is for three years with an option to extend for a further two, and has other conditions attached.

If the landlord does not offer to take an inventory of the property, you should insist on one when you move in to the property. When you leave, provided the leaving inventory shows that there is no damage to the property, the landlord is obliged to return your deposit, plus any interest that has accrued, within two months of your departure.

Your landlord must normally give you a minimum of six months’ notice to reclaim the property, and if he or she intends to sell the property, you will get first refusal. Additionally, rental price controls are in operation in Italy. Landlords are only permitted to increase rents by three-quarters of the annual inflation rate.

Buying property

House prices in Italy have been falling since the early days of the credit crunch and are not expected to rise for at least another two years. It may be wise to wait for prices to even out before looking into buying. The housing market in Italy is not especially busy as property investment is not common. Furthermore, demand in general is low as many Italians inherit a property from their parents and never need to buy one.  In Italy, the majority of accommodation is in the form of apartments.

Non-residents are free to buy Italian property without any restrictions. Many properties are over 40 years old, so it is vital to get a survey done. You will need to appoint a bilingual lawyer to represent your interests, especially if you are not fluent in the local language.

Firstly, you will usually be asked to sign a precontractual commitment known as a compromesso. Note that this obligates you to buy that particular property and no other; conversely, the vendor may consider other from other people. At this time, it is usual for the buyer to pay a holding deposit, normally of 10% or 20% of the property price. If you now decide to pull out of the purchase, you will lose your deposit and may be sued. Conversely, if the seller decides to pull out, they will have to pay you double the deposit amount.

The legal process of completing property purchase is handled by a notary. He or she also performs all the necessary checks on the property such as with the land registry. Once these are completed, the notary can issue the deed of sale, you pay the remaining monies and the purchase is completed.

Property purchase fees are quite high in Italy, typically 10% or 20% of the property price. The registration tax (i.e. stamp duty) takes up about half this amount.

 

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