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Italy, known for its wine, weather and beautiful landscapes and architecture has been a favourite location of UK buyers since the 1950’s. Tuscany is one of Europe’s premier playgrounds for the elite to relax and retreat from hectic lifestyles. Yet many affordable parts of Tuscany and Italy as a whole can still be found. The growth in buyers looking at the southern coasts, and cities such as Venice, Naples and Milan, mean there is increasing demand for UK buyers to understand the marketplace and the buying process of this wonderful European nation.

When buying in Italy rule number one is ensure that your estate agent is registered with the Italian “camera di commercio” Chamber of Commerce. Other important organisations that agents should be members of to show there legitimacy are the F.I.A.I.P. and the A.I.C.I. (Federazione italiana Agenti Imobilari Professionali and the Associazione delle Istituzione Cultuali Italiane). These trade bodies are strong indicators of an estate agents credentials, more information on the organisations can be found at www.fiaip.it and www.aici.it.

Once you have found your ideal property the process of buying a property is quite similar to the UK’s. A “caparra”, the deposit, is paid once the preliminary contract is signed; this contract is know as the “compremesso”. A “rogito” is signed upon completion. An estate agent might ask that you sign a “proposta irrevocabile d’acquisto” which although sounding like a binding contract is in fact not. You have not made a binding commitment to buy the property until a “compremesso” is signed. The “proposta irrevocabile d’acquisto” does however signal your intentions and in terms of professional courtesy it does create the relationship between Agent and buyer. Do not hand over your deposit without signing the “compremesso” as that is the legally binding exchange of contract.

The Compremesso itself is legally binding and indicates on it the sale price, the exact description of the property, the details of buyer and seller and places a time scale on the completion of the sale’s process. The deposit should be paid once this information has been checked and the document signed; this deposit can represent one third of the properties price. Your estate agent will then register the compremesso with the local tax registration office.

Once the compremesso is signed it is extremely difficult for either buyer or seller to withdraw due to the financial implications. On signature the transfer of the property will almost certainly go through. As soon as the compremesso is signed you need to obtain a tax code “Codice fiscale” so that tax can be paid on the building.

At the completion date set out by the compremesso a "Notaio" (Lawyer / Notary) will be present at the signing of the Rogito (final contract). This contract is legally binding. The notaio is required to be present to witness the signing and to ensure that the transfer is registered with the Land Registry and that collection of the tax on the property occurs. The Rogito includes a description of the property, the date, the relevant names and the declared value of the property (please note that this can be different from the purchase price). It is possible to have a simplified version of the Rogito, however it is always recommended that during the signing of the Rogito you have a representative who can translate and ensure that everything is 100% understood.

The costs involved can often be higher than expected as a number of extra costs need to be considered on top of the purchase price. Firstly the estate agents fee (usually 3% of purchase price). Secondly; Notaio’s fee (Usually 2.4% of the purchase price). Thirdly; Stamp Duty (1% of purchase price). Lastly and possibly most importantly is the Purchase Tax. This tax is charged at 11% if you are a non resident (and 4% if you are a resident) of the declared price (not the purchase price).

It is therefore clear to see that the cost of buying is quite high, with additional costs coming in above 10% of the purchase price. However; if you take these costs into account when searching for your property and adjust your budget accordingly, then you can still find your dream property in Italy.

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