Buying a home can be a long and complex process, but typically it involves going through these steps:
Define your criteria
Decide what you are looking for in a property – what kind of property you’d like to live in, how many bedrooms you need, size of the garden and all the other details, which are imperative for you – and pick an area on which to focus your search.
Consider what you want in the surroundings: are local schools, transport links and shops important to you? How long are you planning to live in the property for?
Beginning the search
Start scanning the internet and register with estate agents – some properties sell before they are advertised online, so it is worth being on the agents’ books. If you see a property you want to look at, call the agent and arrange a viewing.
Go for some property viewings. You are unlikely to find the home you’re dreaming of straight away, so don’t despair and don’t be tempted into edging over your budget if you don’t like the first place you look at. Buying a house is a major investment, so it is worth waiting until you find the right place.
On the other hand, don’t be too demanding: unless you go for your own project development, you are unlikely to find a house exactly as you have it in your mind. Find a good place and try to see beyond what’s in front of your eyes: with just a few minor works, a place can easily turn into your dream home.
Don’t be shy about asking questions when you are looking around a property, or afterwards. The estate agent should be able to provide you with basic details about the property, and to pass on any other queries to the people who are selling.
Making an offer
When you find the house you like, make an offer. Before you do so, try to glean as much information from the estate agent as possible. Ask how long it’s been on the market and if the seller wants a quick sale and if there are ongoing negotiations.
Many buyers initially make an offer below the asking price, and often this is accepted. You may want to start low and negotiate with the agent to find a price that satisfies both parties. But if you want to be sure you get the property you like, do not play poker. If you think the property is worth the asking price, you may want to offer the full amount straight away.
While the estate agent will check all the financial and urban issues for you, you may wish to arrange your own survey to get an idea of the structural and technical aspects of the property.
The most expensive and comprehensive option is to ask the surveyor for a full structural survey of the building, and this is particularly worth doing if you are buying a property that is very old, has been extensively renovated or clearly needs work. It is also a good idea if you are planning to build an extension or structural changes to the building. However, a cheaper – albeit less comprehensive – homebuyer’s report should highlight any major problems and is a good option in other circumstances.
A good surveyor will talk to you before the survey to find out if you have any particular concerns and afterwards to highlight and explain any issues.
Read the survey when it arrives. If there are a lot of problems with the property and you are not happy to carry on with the purchase, then act quickly to let everyone know, before you incur any other costs.
If a lot of work needs doing, you may want to reconsider the amount to offer for the property.
If your offer is accepted, the deal becomes binding on both parties and you go through a preliminary contract, “Contratto Preliminare di Vendita” or “Compromesso”, which defines all selling conditions such as a description of the property, the sale price, payments and timing, ownership rights and any other relevant clauses . On signing this contract, the purchaser pays a deposit of approximately 20% of the property price, depending on what has been agreed. In the event that you decide not to pursue the purchase, the compromesso will be forfeited or the seller may seek legal action to enforce the purchase. On the other hand, if the seller backs out, he will be liable to pay double the amount you have given as deposit.
At this point, a notary (notaio) is appointed, the independent legal body that prepares and coordinates the searches and deeds, acting on behalf of the vendor and purchaser.
The final contract (“atto” or “rogito”) is signed at the notary’s office. The “notaio” or notary has the responsibility of performing due diligence. Whether he is chosen by the seller or the buyer, he acts for both parties. When the checks are done and you feel everything is clear enough for you, you can pay the final balance and sign the deed of sale (witnessed by the notaio). This requires you to present a valid identification document, and your tax code (“codice fiscale”), which can be obtained through the Italian consulate in your Country, or at the Tax Office (“Agenzia delle Entrate”) in Italy. The notary will issue you a copy of the deed and present copies to the tax office and Land Registry. Purchase taxes and notary fees are paid by the buyer at the signing. Once all documentation is signed and all monies paid, you will finally receive the keys to your new property.