When looking for a house in Italy, if you use an agency, the agency has an obligation to be a Registered Estate Agent, who has been accredited and fully licensed by the Chamber of Commerce. Unless this is the case, you are not legally covered.
To buy an Italian property, the legal side falls into three parts; the offer, the preliminary contract (compromesso di vendita) and the completion deed (rogito notarile).
Step 1: Offer to Purchase
- A purchase through an agency may involve an official ‘offer to purchase’.
- This is the initial declaration of interest by a buyer, and could come in one of two ways:
- a verbal offer
- a written offer which with the vendor’s signature as acceptance automatically turns into a preliminary contract to be signed by the buyer and the vendor.
- In the case of a verbal offer, the preliminary contract would still have to be written afterwards, and signed, to render it an official preliminary contract.
Step 2: Preliminary Contract (Compromesso di vendita)
- The preliminary contract establishes the terms and conditions of the final contract (Rogito notarile): price, method of payment, date for completion, the nature of the property and guarantees from the seller. It may also include any other relevant legal details.
- Usually when the initial offer is signed, a commitment is made to send the deposit through bank transfer after the vendor accepts. A deposit may also be left as a cheque for the equivalent of 10 % of the offered price. This would be held by the agency, and returned to you in case the offer is not be accepted by the vendor. If the offer is accepted, the vendor cashes that amount as part of the purchasing price.
- In all cases the deposit will be released (by cheques) or made (by bank transfers) only after checking that the property is free of any third party rights.
- The deposit is forfeited if the purchaser does not proceed, and if the vendor withdraws, double the deposit is paid to the buyer by the vendor.
Step 3: Completion (rogito notarile)
- The vendor and the purchaser must use the same notaio (a notary public who represents the Italian government) to execute the deed. At this point the buyer must pay the property registration fees, plus the remaining balance of the agreed purchase price as well as the notary’s fees.
- Then both vendor and purchaser have to sign the rogito notarile; the definitive contract equivalent to the Deeds of the property.
- All registered property transactions in Italy must take place in front of a notaio. The notaio’s job is to:
- check that the sale documents are correct
- to verify the identities of the parties involved
- to collect the tax on the sale due to the Italian government
- to ensure that the entries in the registry are updated to show the new owner.