FREQUENTLY ASKED LEGAL AND TECHNICAL QUESTIONS|
** Please note that IVA (Italian purchase tax) has been increased to 21% as of 17 September 2011
How long does the buying process take?
A period of four weeks is achievable but 8-12 weeks is more normal, provided there are no special circumstances.
What if I find a house and don’t want to be gazumped?
The standard practice is to deliver a letter of intent – proposta d’acquisto – which, once countersigned by the vendor, establishes an undertaking for both parties to proceed at the agreed price. The letter is accompanied by a small deposit which is not normally refundable if you withdraw without good reason. This letter acts to protect you against most risks of gazumping etc for one month.
Can you help me arrange a mortgage?
Yes we can. Lenders collaborating with us offer prompt and efficient service, at historically low rates at the time of writing (2010). Please email email@example.com outlining the borrowing proposition and we will put you in touch with mortgage providers.
Should I have a survey done?
Certainly, for your own protection and satisfaction, Villatua can recommend a number of surveyors/architects (geometra) or specialist engineers, if required, to perform surveys of various kinds. However, structural surveys do not form part of the standard conveyancing process in Italy, as the principle of ‘caveat emptor’ which governs much of English legal thinking does not apply to the same degree. The reason is that the final contract of sale includes declarations by the vendor who can be held legally accountable for their accuracy. Thus, when he states that the property being sold is, to use a legal phrase which normally appears, libero di vizi, it means that there are no defects which have not been revealed either by him or by the planning and building regulations which govern the building. If an undisclosed defect were to appear (the sort of defect which a structural survey in Britain might be expected to reveal) it is the vendor who can be held to account in the same way as a surveyor might be in Britain. Consequently, although it may be valuable to ask a geometra or architect to give an opinion about a building prior to embarking on its purchase, significant legal responsibility rests with the vendor.
What exactly is a geometra and what do they do?
The function of the geometra needs to be clearly understood. He is an expert on property law as well as being qualified to undertake and oversee structural work. In consequence we always advise engaging a geometra to draw up the preliminario di vendita, (preliminary contract) otherwise known as the compromesso, which is the legally binding contract between buyer and seller. In addition, a geometra is bound by his professional body to observe standards of professional competence and responsibility and can be sued if he fails to match up to them. He will therefore have indemnity cover similar to other professional advisers.
In drafting the text of a contract a geometra is responsible for the accuracy of that contract and for representing his client's interests. Foreign buyers unfamiliar with the role of the geometra may seek to engage a lawyer (avvocato or notaio) but both of these usually delegate the work of conveyancing to a geometra, so the client who engages anyone other than a geometra may well end up paying two fees for no advantage.
What about the choice of a notary?
The buyer bears the burden of the notary's fee, so he has the privilege of nominating the notary to be used. It makes little difference which notary is used as all are representatives of the Republic. Their function is to ensure that the persons appearing as purchasers and vendors are who they claim to be; to ensure that they have the right to enter into the contract in question (i.e. the vendor has title etc); to ensure that the contract is legal and binding; to collect all statutory fees and charges levied by the relevant authorities such as the Building and Land Registries; to register the final contract (rogito); and to archive the original version of the contract for future reference.
Is it true that there are many risks and problems relating to buying property in Italy?
See our STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO BUYING PROPERTY IN TUSCANY for a full description of the process.
There are always risks when buying property from a distance and especially when buying restoration properties. Villatua always advise that care and common sense should be applied when looking at properties and make sure you have the right support in place. The geometra is a very important person in any property deal and it is this person who must ensure that previous works have been condoned, for example.
What are all the hidden costs I hear about?
There are relatively high costs associated with the purchase of property in Italy but they are not hidden by us. Broadly, they include agent’s fees averaging 3% of the purchase price, a survey and land registry search costing around 2%, notary fees in the region of 1.5% (depending on the declared value for tax purposes) and tax + land registry fees around 4% of the declared value. This tax rate is for residents buying their first house. For others, or for certain luxury properties, the rate is much higher but on the other hand the declared value of a property can be relatively low.
And local taxes etc after I have bought?
There are two unavoidable taxes which you will have to pay as a property owner: the first one is a straight property tax payable annually known as ICI (Imposta Comunale sugli Immobili) and based on the cadastral value of the property. The second is a payment for the collection of rubbish (Sistema Ambiente) by the local authorities and based on the size of the property. You will be responsible for arranging payment. ICI should be calculated for you each year by an accountants and paid by bank transfer. Villatua will be glad to introduce you to their own accountants if you wish. The routine payments for System Ambiente and your utilities can be paid by direct debit through your local bank, or you can instruct a property management agency to handle such matters for you when you are away.
Will I find a large farmhouse to restore in good structural condition with lots of land, outbuildings, views, possibility of income, services connected, secluded but not isolated, within walking distance of a village, less than an hour to the airport etc for a low price?
This is the typical “wish list” which describes a very elusive property. Getting to know the market and what values currently apply to various types of property is the key to judging what to buy. Villatua’s portfolio on the website is divided into clear price bands and these are intended to give you a good indication of what you are likely to get for your money.
How much does restoration work cost?
In recent years we have observed costs of around €1,500 per square metre for restoration works in normal situations. In our experience budgets for complete rebuilds should not be less than €2,000 per sqare metre. Costs vary from area to area and competitive quotes are crucial for major works. In addition quality levels for essential items such as tiling, widows, doors, bathroom and kitchen fittings vary widely and need to be researched carefully to avoid costs running out of control.
Can you help me with restoration?
Yes, we have been assisting people with restoration and improvements for more than 15 years (longer than most of our local competitors) and have many satisfied customers. We are happy to assist in projects for properties we have not sold and, again, have done so in many situations. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
I like one of your barns but there’s no planning permission in place. You say I can convert it into a house but how do I know I’ll get planning permission?
Each area has different planning regulations. We normally check beforehand with each individual comune (local authority) to ascertain what can and can’t be done, and often plans will have been prepared in anticipation. A common practice is to draw up the preliminario di vendita on the basis that permission will be obtained before the rogito (final contract), with a “get-out” clause in the case the plans are turned down.
Apart from rebuilding barns, can I always enlarge a property?
This largely depends on the planning regulations for each area. We can give specific advice on any given property and what you are hoping to achieve. If you have established residency and are applying for an increase in living space in your first home, the prospects are much improved.
I have done building work in the UK. Can I carry out the works myself?
Plumbing and electrical installations and wiring in all types of property be certified so it is advisable to leave such works to registered professionals. Building work can be completed in economia by the owner of the property but there are issues such as anti-seismic reports, site security plans and local comune permissions that create difficulties. Generally it depends on the scope of the works and exactly who is going to perform them.
If there’s no water and electricity, what do I do?
Electricity – invariably you will be able to connect to mains electricity but the cost can be considerable, depending on distance. If you restore the house first (using a generator for electricity), the electricity board has a duty to connect you and it may cost less.
Water – mains supplies are less certain to be available and may involve considerable cost, again depending on distance. In hilly areas natural springs are often good alternatives while geological surveys may reveal the feasibility of digging a well. If all else fails the final solution might be to bury a large tank holding perhaps 30,000 litres, partly fed by rainwater collection but mainly supplied by deliveries.
How much does a swimming pool cost?
There is no hard and fast rule on swimming pool costs. For more information on this subject please contact us.
I’ve heard I can save money on the exchange rate when I send funds to Italy. How?
Yes, you can. We work with a couple of currency exchange companies. Please visit our LINKS page or contact us at email@example.com for information.
What about insurance?
Depending on your nationality we can arrange quotes from British or Italian companies for your property, its contents and the type of use you intend to have (e.g. holiday rentals).
I can’t make it to Italy to sign either of the contracts. What shall I do?
We can arrange special power of attorney for someone to sign on your behalf.
What advantage does the agent offer to me the buyer?
Agents such as Villatua are positioned differently from the traditional local estate agent. We pride ourselves on creating long lasting relationships with our clients and offering a much greater level of support throughout the buying process. Once the purchase goes through we can offer many additional services which are detailed on our web page headed SERVICES
Why do house prices in Tuscany vary so much and does a house that I have seen advertised offer an opportunity for a good deal?
Much like any region, Tuscany is a varied and extensive place with many localised factors that affect house prices. Prime factors obviously include distance from main centres of interest (e.g. Lucca, Florence, the Mediterranean etc), local “hotspots” (e.g. the San Stefano zone just outside of Lucca). The style of property, condoned floor area, view, amount of work required, ease of access and distance from amenities all affect the price.
Permission for new construction in the Tuscan countryside is nearly impossible to obtain so restoration of existing properties, and in particular gaining an increase in existing living space, are premium factors. The ratio of sales to property stocks in the Italian market is much lower than that of the UK or USA, for example, and the mentality of vendors is very different. Often they are in no rush to sell and are prepared to allow properties to remain on the market for a number of years. This does tend to have an anticipatory effect on the pricing of properties.
Can I just turn up in Italy and go and see some houses with Villatua?
This is not the advised method as many property owners need prior notification before viewing their homes. Where possible we can make an appointment for the next day. To book an appointment before your trip please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s the best airport for Tuscany?
Pisa has frequent flights from many UK and European airports, as well as flights to JFK Airport New York and Moscow.
Then there is Florence, which does not have such a good selection of destinations.
Bologna and Genova being about 2 hours drive away from Lucca.
Visitors from further a field will probably find it necessary to travel via one of the major hub airports such as Rome or Milan.
FOR FURTHER GENERAL INFORMATION WE RECOMMEND READING OUR STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO BUYING PROPERTY IN TUSCANY
IN ADDITION CLICK ON THIS LINK FOR DEFINITIONS OF ITALIAN PROPERTY TERMS: GLOSSARY