The following guidelines are presented to help foreign buyers, but are based exclusively on personal experience and should not be taken as strict, legal advice. Please read the site disclaimer for further details as to use of information here. The advice may sound complicated but is designed to help….NOT frighten away prospective investors!
To buy a property in Italy all that is required is that you have an Italian tax code - a codice fiscale. This can be requested at any government financial office or at an Italian Consulate or Embassy. From now onwards you’ll be asked for the codice fiscale every step of the way – when you open a bank account - if you buy a car – when you arrange connection of utilities like electricity, water, gas and the phone – just about any situation in which you need to identify yourself in Italy!
However, if you then want to permanently reside in Italy you’ll have to apply for a permesso di soggiorno (it’s like a green card) and then apply for residency. A supposedly straightforward affair for EU citizens, that is in fact, rather tiresome.
The Italian Home Office official site gives a comprehensive guide to all reciprocal agreements between Italy & other states/countries in the world. There is also information available in English from the Italian Tax Office about how to complete your annual tax return form.
Stage one of buying real estate is the when buyer and seller sign a "compromesso". It is a preliminary binding private contract between the parties in which they are fully identified by their full names, with place and date of birth, passport numbers and/or tax identification number. The real estate itself is also fully identified by not only its commune and province but also its exact plots on the land registry maps (either urban or rural). The sales price is also agreed, as are the terms of payment and the final completion date.
At this stage a deposit is paid, which also acts as a first instalment of the final price (we usually suggest between 10 and 20% of the total - if the buyer pulls out before completion, he loses his deposit...if the vendor pulls out he has to pay double the deposit back to the intended buyer). At the time of the preliminary purchase agreement, the buyer is also obliged to pay the commission to the agent and/or intermediary (3% is average with a minimum fee set for properties at the lower end of the price range).
This preliminary agreement is subsequently followed by the public deed of sale drawn up by a notary. The notary's job is to ensure that the owner has full title and the right to sell and he will always ascertain this before overseeing any deed of sale. Any outstanding paperwork has to be cleared up between the "compromesso" and the final deed.
Both the purchaser and the seller can use a proxy to act on their behalf at the time of the preliminary purchase agreement or for the final deed of sale. In this case, a special Power of Attorney will be needed signed either in the presence of a notary in Italy or at an Italian Consulate or Embassy.
If the buyer doesn’t speak Italian, he or she must be accompanied at the final deed of sale, by an interpreter registered with an Italian court or known personally by the notary, or alternatively a trusted person can be given a proxy as detailed above to act on behalf of the buyer.
Another important question is the marital status of a buyer. Married couples in Italy, unless they declare otherwise, are married under "unione dei beni" which means that everything one spouse buys once married automatically belongs also to the other spouse. eg. if a wife buys a car, a house etc. it will automatically, even if the husband isn't present at the time of purchase, also belong to the husband.
So far, so good. New european legislation rules, however, that even if a foreign married couple who were married in another country, buy a property in Italy, the same rules now apply. So...this means that even if it's only a wife that buys, unless her husband signs away his rights to the property at the deed of sale, it will automatically belong to him as well.
Payment must be made in the place and currency requested by the seller and to this end it’s a good idea if the buyer open a bank account in Italy. You’ll find it useful later too for paying bills via direct debit etc.