A Home in Italy: Voices of Experience
Having a home in Italy is a dream for many
Buying a home in Italy is also a major investment. There are many aspects that need careful consideration before taking the plunge: buying structures, tax and inheritance to name but a few.
If you are considering buying a property in Italy, think long-term. Make sure it’s for the right reasons and that you have done your research absolutely thoroughly. We asked some of our clients who own Italian property, what tips they would give to prospective buyers in Italy. Here’s a selection of what they said:
If you think an Italian property is potentially an easy, passive income generator, think again …
To be a success, you will need to work hard to create, market and operate an attractive holiday rental business. If you need to borrow money to finance the purchase of your Italian holiday property and you already have a mortgage at home, you’ll have two debts to service and in reality, your rental income may not cover repayments for your Italian property.
Remember too, that all the maintenance and running costs will be your responsibility and unless you are living locally, you will probably need a management company – or very understanding local friends – to deal with the property on a day to day basis for you.
“Identify your reasons for buying a home in Italy …
… for example: are you looking at retirement, relocation, holiday home or a buy-to-let investment? Always use a licensed, unbiased real estate agent who can work with you to achieve your objectives. Don’t feel pressurised to buy. Take your time – it took us over five years before we committed to our purchase”.
“Ask lots and lots of questions
When choosing a home in Italy, the priorities are about personal preferences, choices and taste. We bought our property for investment purposes, which is totally different. When you are buying a property for buy-to-let purposes, you are starting a business so you need a plan. There are so many things to consider: exit strategies, growth forecasts, potential rental incomes, neighbourhood, property taxes, amenities, infrastructure, transport and future developments in the area. This is where it pays to get professional advice and second opinions from good real estate agents, lawyers and financial advisors”.
“Get your sums right. What can you really afford?
It’s not just about the cost of buying a home in Italy, you might need to add renovation costs or there may be extra costs for shared areas. Not to mention running costs. Investigate and understand the Italian property market. It’s totally different to the US property market. When it comes to selling your property later, even if it’s a really attractive proposition, you need to understand that it’s not likely to get sold fast.”
“Bring in the professionals to help with buying a home in Italy.
Seek legal advice early on. Use your own independent English-speaking solicitor, who has absolutely no links to your seller, estate agent or developer. Do not sign anything prior to your lawyer’s review. Do not make any money transfers until they have been checked and signed-off by your lawyer. If anybody uses terms like capital growth or rental yields when viewing a property, be very sceptical. Ask to see evidence. Before deciding whether it’s a good buy, factor in all the likely costs, taxes and above all, don’t forget maintaining the property and managing the rentals. Think carefully about the pros and cons of different ways of buying the property and check for the best deal on mortgages and currency”.
“Viewing the property at different times of day is important.
For example, we viewed a property during afternoon siesta and it seemed perfect … a really attractive property in a quiet location. But, when we revisited the place another day around mid-morning, we discovered we could hear the loud rumble of traffic on a nearby main road. Consult a good property lawyer before making any final decision. Many lawyers will offer a free consultation to discuss your general situation. Ensure you double-check everything with your lawyer and a tax advisor before making any decisions. The person at the local bar or the village shop might know a thing or two from experience, but those experiences shouldn’t inform your decision-making.”
“Research is key when buying a home in Italy.
When we were researching properties online, the maps on website listings were not always 100% accurate and showed the nearest village rather than the property itself. This is for safety reasons as houses used as second homes are often empty for long periods of the year and can become targets for burglars. Contact the estate agent and get coordinates for a satellite view of the property and surrounding area. Study it closely. In many parts of Tuscany, for example, it’s difficult to find a country house within walking distance of a village. It means that you, or your rental guests, will have to drive to the nearest shops, bars and restaurants.”
“Understand the rules regarding Italian tax …
… so that you know what you are in for. Remember that when purchasing property in Italy, you need to take into account agents’ commission, notary fees, and registration fees as well as future property tax and other costs. If you are planning to live in Italy, find out about residency rules. Have your financing in place and get a good international residential conveyancing lawyer.”
“Always negotiate on the price …
… use a reputable real estate agency and engage an Italian lawyer. Never part with any money unless you have the express approval of your lawyer. If, like us, you are buying off-plan or during construction of a new build, getting independent legal advice is even more important. Your lawyer will make sure that all the necessary contractual, bank guarantees and insurances are in place to protect you if something goes wrong like the completion of the building does not occur on time.”
“Get a good lawyer to represent you in the purchase.
If possible agree legal fees up front. Find a reputable estate agent to assist you in your property search. But don’t rely on the agency to put together contracts and handle the conveyancing. Make sure your professional team speaks your language. Make sure that they fully understand your requirements and that they don’t waste time showing you properties or areas that don’t match your brief. Ensure that you fully understand all the costs, taxes and fees involved with the purchase. It can impact hugely on your budget. Always instruct a surveyor to carry out a survey to ensure that there are no structural, planning, zoning or geological issues with the property. Take your time. Don’t rush into the first deal presented to you. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Take a step back and get a second opinion.”
“Start by asking yourself: how easy it’ll be to sell this property should you need to?
Location, location location! If you want to make money, this will only actually materialise when you rent or sell the property. Until then it’s all just a theoretical paper profit. If you are looking at the property as an investment, think about the property. Why would people want to rent it? Why would people want to buy it from you? The reasons will tell you whether the property is likely to be a good investment.”
De Tullio Law Firm has been guiding overseas buyers with their Italian property investments for over 55 years. If you need any advice about buying or selling a property in Italy, if you need an independent second opinion or, if you would just like to discuss your options with a specialist, we are here to help.
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