Considering moving to Italy? It’s easy to see why, as this country of wonderful food and wine, vibrant culture and romantic scenery has many alluring attractions.
Whether you’re thinking of buying property in Rome, Milan, Naples or anywhere in between, you’re likely to be greeted with a plethora of housing styles, ages and levels of upkeep.
In Italy, over 70% of people own their homes, a statistic maintained by a culture of passing property down to family members.¹ Plus, high rent prices in some areas can make buying more attractive, as the investment is quickly paid off and you can potentially use property to earn an income.
So, what do you need to know before you get started? This guide will walk you through the most important tips and steps for buying property in Italy as a foreigner.
In general terms, Italy’s property market is reasonably stable at the moment. This is great news in the wake of the economic shocks of the coronavirus pandemic. People are committed to buying property, considering it a safe investment. And according to real estate portal Idealista, house prices increased by 1.1% (after adjustment for inflation) in the year to February 2021.²
There are some restrictions on who can and can’t buy property in Italy, however, it’s largely seen as a “no restrictions” country.
UK nationals can buy property in Italy whether or not they live in the country³. The same goes for citizens of any other country that has a similar reciprocal agreement with Italy.
If you were living in Italy before 1st January 2021 (the end of the Brexit transition period once the UK officially left the EU), you shouldn’t need a non-EU national residence permit (permesso di soggiorno) to buy property.³
However, you may need to provide documentation to prove your rights under the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement, such as an EU residency certificate (certificato di residenza).³
While non-residents are free to buy property in Italy, owning a home doesn’t entitle you to a visa or allow you to reside in the country permanently. You’ll need to look into the different visa options to find the right one for you, and apply for permanent residency through the usual routes.⁴
The price of property in Italy varies greatly based on exact location and property type. So, for example, you could pay just €16,000 for an apartment if you buy property in Sambuca⁵ in Italy, but you’ll expect to pay much more if you go property hunting in Venice or Milan - Italy’s most expensive cities.
Believe it or not, there are even some spots where you can buy property in Italy for 1 euro - such as Delia, Troina, Salemi and Castiglione in Sicily⁶. Such super cheap properties are rare and usually get snapped up quickly, but they have been successful at helping bring some of Italy’s abandoned villages back to life. So if you don’t mind a rural or remote location, you could snap up some very cheap property indeed!
Here’s a guide to average property prices in some of the most popular Italian cities:
|Location||Price per sq.m - apartment in city centre⁷||Price per sq.m - apartment outside city centre⁸|
Finding the perfect place to buy property in Italy will always be a balance of budget, lifestyle and the kind of location you’re looking for. Some people love the idea of living in one of Italy’s culture-rich cities, while others dream of rustic countryside living or a beachside bolthole.
For inspiration, here are some of the most popular places for Brits to buy property in Italy right now:
Costa Smeralda in Sardinia - a beautiful stretch of coast in north-east Sardinia, with a rather glamorous reputation. You may need a bigger budget, but the turquoise seas and stunning beaches could make it a worthwhile investment.
Italian Lakes, Lombardy - many Brits buy homes in this breathtaking part of Italy based on fond holiday memories. It’s a great location for active expats, with plenty of opportunities for watersports, hiking and skiing nearby, along with the beautiful lakes of Como and Garda.
Tuscany, Umbria and Abruzzo - if a rustic countryside life appeals to you, you’ll find charming village houses for sale in Italy’s green heart.
Catania, Sicily - one of the most affordable places in Italy to buy property, Catania and other towns such as Taormina offer farmhouses, coastal homes and properties surrounded by olive groves and vineyards.
For the most part, it’s advised to use an agent when looking for property in Italy. Most buyers contract an agent or lawyer in their home county, who then works with the Italian real estate agent.
It’s not uncommon for real estate agents to work in dual languages, and depending on where you live you may find a local agent who speaks Italian.
If you do decide to skip the realtor or if you want to start by doing some window shopping, these websites are all good places to check out property in Italy:
One of the main pitfalls of buying in Italy, or buying in any country abroad, is the risk of scams. However, there’s no need to worry unduly, as there are many ways you can help protect yourself in the buying process.
Never buy a property unseen. Thanks to the plethora of historic properties available in Italy, there are many that have been neglected for years and are just popping up on the market. While these properties may look ok online, they’re often riddled with problems, and sometimes don’t even have working electric or plumbing. It’s important to do a thorough evaluation and walkthrough in person.
Always check that the seller has the right to sell the property. One of the more common scams is “fake” owners selling property they don’t have any right to, and disappearing when you find yourself in legal trouble or unable to occupy the home. In order to avoid this, check the titles and registration on the property against the person who is selling it, and never fork over money until you have a legal title in hand.
Don’t work with a seller who won’t meet in person. If the homeowner refuses to meet in person and asks for everything to be done by mail, they’re often just a scammer who is waiting for you to send cash before they disappear. Meet the seller in person, and exchange all titles, keys and money only after you’ve seen proof that they are the real owner, have the real property rights and are selling a real, unoccupied property.
While it can be difficult to read up on every scam that’s out there, a good rule of thumb is to go with your gut. If something seems fishy, it’s ok to hit the brakes.
Italy offers a range of property types depending on the region. If you’re moving to the country, there are plenty of detached houses and villas available. In Rome or Milan, you’ll be lucky to get your hands on a small apartment.
While your decision should ultimately be based on your needs, what type of property you want to live in should be based on where you want to live.
Technically there are no requirements for property sale, as many houses are considered to be restoration projects. It’s a good idea to hire your own surveyor to check the property out before you buy, especially if you’re looking for a home that’s move-in ready.
Because many Italian homes are old, you may want to keep a special eye out for the condition of plumbing and electric, and the presence of asbestos and lead. While all of these things can be easily hidden, they can be a pain to fix or get rid of once they become obvious.
While the steps to buying a home are similar anywhere, use this list as a guide to get started in your Italian property purchase:
- Look into a mortgage. While most Italian banks will lend to foreigners, it’s smart to get an idea of just how much they’re willing to lend before you get started.
- Engage a realtor. Whether you’re working with a realtor in your home country or in Italy, using an agent is truly the best way to get a good deal and see properties that are well-suited to your needs.
- Choose a property and make an offer.
- Get a sale contract. This will need to be drafted, looked over and stamped by an Italian notary.
- Sign the contract.
- Pay taxes.
In many cases, buying a property in Italy takes around six months⁹ - although it could be more or less.
For the most part, the legal requirements for a property in Italy are pretty straight forward. You’re not required to retain a translator, but you should if you aren’t fluent in Italian. You’ll also need to engage a notary, who will handle your contracts.
Up-front fees on the purchase include a 1% deposit of the purchase price¹⁰ when you make your offer - this is seen as a feature of good faith. The deposit is increased to 10-20% of the sale price¹⁰ once the preliminary contract (compromesso) is drawn up and signed.
According to Italian property law, if you decide not to proceed with the purchase, you are likely to lose this deposit. But if the seller backs out of the transaction, they will be liable to pay you double the deposit amount as compensation¹⁰.
Most Italian banks will give mortgages to non-residents, assuming they meet the general requirements.
However, banks in Italy can be cautious lenders, so you may need to show lots of paperwork to prove that you’re a low risk borrower. For example, you’ll need your passport, proof of address and extensive proof of income in the form of bank statements and employment contracts. You may need to get your documents translated into Italian and certified⁹.
The process for getting a mortgage in Italy is as follows¹⁰:
- The bank will review your personal finances and information about the property
- You will make an informal mortgage application
- A surveyor will be appointed to inspect the property and report any issues
- The notary that you hire issues a title check report to the bank, proving the seller has the rights to the property and that it has been successfully transferred to you
- Assuming all of your finances and the home have checked out thus far, the bank will issue you formal mortgage approval
- You’ll agree on a signing date, and the funds will be released.
As you set your total budget, it’s a good idea to keep these taxes and fees in mind¹¹:
- Registration Tax: 3-7%
- VAT: 4-22%
- Land Registry Tax: 1%
- Notary fee: 1% to 2.5%
- Translator fee - approx €250 to €350⁹
- Estate agent fee - 1.50% to 4%, plus 22% VAT
- Legal fees: 1% to 2%, plus 22% VAT
If you’re planning to pay your deposit from abroad, or even pay for the entire property purchase, you’ll need a safe and cost-effective way to do it.
Open a Wise multi-currency account and you can send money from the UK to Italy for tiny fees and the real, mid-market exchange rate. In fact, it could be as much as 7x cheaper than using your bank.
You can use your multi-currency account for everything - from deposits to estate agent fees, and making a transaction is quick and easy. There are no hidden fees to worry about and the recipient doesn’t need a Wise account, only an ordinary bank account.
Making a property purchase typically involves large sums of money, so it’s understandable to be nervous when sending payments overseas. The good news is that Wise is FCA regulated and uses sophisticated security and anti-fraud measures to keep your money safe. You can even track your payments online or via the handy Wise mobile app.
Once you’ve considered your options, the price, and the best way to search, you’re ready to embark on an incredible new experience in food-loving, sunny Italy. Good luck with purchasing your property!
Sources used for this article:
- Statista - share of homeowners in Italy
- Global Property Guide - Italy’s housing market
- Gov.uk - living in Italy
- Italian Real Estate Lawyers - do you get residency if you buy a property in Italy
- Idealista.it - property for sale in Sambuca
- Idealista.it - 1 euro homes in Italy
- Numbeo - property prices in Italian cities
- Numbeo - property prices in Italian cities
- Property Guides - buying property in Italy
- Studio Legale Metta - Italian mortgage for non-Italians
- Property Guides - buying property in Italy; transaction costs
Sources checked on 2-July-2021.
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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