Key questions and answers about Italian real estate – the buying and selling process
1) Is investing in the Italian real estate market safe?
Italy is a country of great natural beauty unparalleled with an unpaired cultural wealth. Moreover it is a founding member of the European Union and a member of the Euro zone.
The conveyancing process as regulated by the Italian Civil Code is extremely safe assuming that the buyer will pay normal care and attention as generally required for an investment of this importance.
2) What is the average amount of time from making an offer to completion?
Assuming no particular problem arises after the legal due diligence carried out by your lawyer, the whole process can be completed quite quickly, often within a month.
3) Is it advisable to purchase using a real estate agent?
Many investors find it easier buying through an estate agent. If this is the case any investor should verify if the agent is registered, as requested by the law, with the local Chamber of Commerce (Ruolo degli Agenti di Affari in Mediazione). Purchasing directly from the vendor is equally acceptable and will save the buyer the payment of the commission fee of the real estate agent (generally 3% of the value of the property). The latter solution is risk free with the assistance of an Italian, bilingual, legal advisor.
4) I would like to use a legal advisor, the real estate agent told me that they can provide me with one. What should I do?
Any buyer should always take due consideration of the “conflict of interest”. Please remember that your real estate agent will be paid only if he will finalize the sale.
The various non-independent parties involved in your transaction might not have an interest in telling you the whole truth about your property because they have a financial interest in the sale. This is why you should always seek independent legal advice.
5) The vendor/real estate agent is asking me to sign an agreement drafted in both the Italian and English language. I do not understand the Italian language, what should I do?
All binding legal documents relating to an Italian real estate transaction must be written in Italian, independently from the nationality of the parties involved. In the case of litigation the Italian version will prevail. Moreover you should be aware that the English translations of such documents are often barely accurate or even unfaithful to the original.
You should never sign any legal document without the assistance of a bilingual Italian qualified Lawyer who can explain in English the full scope of your commitment.
7) Why should I hire a lawyer when I am already using a public notary?
In the Italian system the Notary is a public official who is in a position of neutrality between the buyer and the vendor; this is the reason why he is no substitute for a lawyer who conversely will exclusively look after the interests of his client (generally the buyer).
8) I was told that I needed an interpreter during the Deed of Sale, can I use one appointed by the vendor and/or the real estate agent?
If the buyer is not fluent in Italian, when signing the Deed of Sale, Italian law requires the presence of an interpreter. Our advice is not only to verify that the interpreter is duly qualified from a linguistic and legal point view, but also that he is not acting in conflict of interest. This would be the case if the interpreter is appointed by the vendor and/or the real estate agent.
Your bilingual independent legal advisor has the right qualifications to assist you throughout the real estate transaction. He will not only take care of the interpreting and the translations, but also he will make sure that you have a full understanding of the documents you are requested to sign and the legal consequences implied.
9) I intend to execute renovation works on my property and I am already in contact with a building company. Will I need a contract?
Renovation works in Italy can be extremely expensive and it’s very hard to forecast the quality of the materials and of the execution. The best guarantee for a customer is to have a contract professionally drafted by a lawyer where all the obligations of the building company and prices are analytically listed. This generally is enough to prevent significant problems arising in the future.
10) Do I need an Italian Will for my Italian Property?
It is highly advisable to draft an Italian Will assisted by your Italian lawyer in order to limit the consequences of the “legal succession”. “Legal succession” applies where the deceased has not left a will, and in such a case the Italian law determines which relatives of the deceased have the right to succeed (primarily the spouse, the legitimate and natural children, and the ascendants).
In the case of a lack of heirs, according to Italian law, the hereditary assets present in Italy would be assigned to the Italian State.