Buying a home in Italy, Italywise

Buying a home in Italy is easy, as long as you know the ropes.

When I bought my home in Italy I was surprised as just how easy it was. In fact, in was far easier than buying a car (which, unlike buying a house, requires being an Italian resident). I’ve written about purchasing a home in a prior post, but I feel compelled to call out the parts of the process that may throw you off balance if you aren’t forewarned.

When you are buying a home in Italy, you are buying the structure of the house, and not most of the fixtures in the house.

Unless you negotiate with the seller, don’t be surprised, when buying a house or apartment, to find every light fixture removed from the walls and ceilings, and much (if not all) of the kitchen removed. If you’re coming from the States, don’t be surprised by this different, but common, practice. Aside from lighting, bathroom fixtures come with the house (unless it is new construction and still you may have to add mirrors, shower enclosures, sinks and vanities).

Just don’t assume anything is “standard”. As long as you are working with a reputable agent (get references), he or she will help you with these important “ropes”. Anything is negotiable, and some sellers are amenable to selling some of the furnishings and fixtures in the house.

When you view potential properties, you may ask yourself how and why would the owner would remove the entire kitchen, since kitchens aren’t a one-size fit’s all. In reality, most owners don’t want to dismantle an entire kitchen, so be prepared to negotiate an additional cost to keep the existing kitchen (that is, if you like it).

Whatever you decide, make sure all is specified clearly in the compromesso di compravendita (the sales agreement).

A house inspection, as a condition of the sale of the house, isn’t a common practice in Italy.

You certainly can pay a geometra (the general work manager, or choreographer of engineers, builders and architects) to inspect a house and give you their take on the state of the house including any potential issues, and potential improvements (expansions, additional windows, etc.). But, you’ll have to do this before negotiating and signing the compromesso. Once you’ve signed the compromesso, you will have paid a sizeable deposit, which you will not get back if you decide to back out. And, if you do back out, still you may find yourself in legal proceedings.

You’ll need the certificato di agibilità before you can close on a house.

This applies to new and old construction. This important document registers the “fitness” of the house and testifies that the systems have all been done properly. Older houses (I’m not certain prior to which year), which have not had major renovations are not subject to a certificato di agibilità, as long as the key mechanical systems are registered as being brought up to code. The seller and your real estate agent should provide clarity on this, and make sure proper documentation is delivered, as required by law, for the sale of the house. You’ll also need the certificato di agibilità when applying for your permesso di soggiorno, as the immigration police want to be sure you are living in a home that is up to code.

Getting your utilities turned on can be an ordeal, and it can be expensive.

You’ll need to have water, gas, electric, and rubbish services arranged for your home. The companies hit you with hefty connection fees if you’re purchasing new construction. For us, here in the Veneto, water was a breeze (though we paid over 200 euro for the connection) and only required a quick trip to the office. Electric was arranged via phone, at a similar connection fee. Gas was the one utility that took five weeks to get connected, causing much angst and difficulty for coordinating our move to the new house. We also paid over 500 euro.

Be sure to review any easements or agreements with neighbors on common areas.

This can pertain to detached houses and attached dwellings alike. You’ll want to be clear on the do’s and don’ts in regards to your property and how it relates to your neighbors’ homes. Certain things tend to surface as the notary is preparing the necessary documents for the closing. You may find that a road on your property was not done with proper permissions, and the sale can be held up until the issue is dealt with. Hopefully anything like this will come up when you’re doing your initial review of the property and before you sign the compromesso. A good real estate agent will steer you away from properties that are encumbered with such “sticky” issues, or help you with a “fix”.

Lastly, learn the expectations and unspoken rules of your neighbors.

I liken this to my experience in some churches, growing up, where many people had claimed certain “pews” as theirs, even though no such ownership or designation existed in the church by-laws. When you have a private home, away from other houses, this shouldn’t be an issue. But, people who live in groupings of houses often establish their own set of expectations for “proper” communal behavior. I don’t mean to suggest this is anything onerous. It’s just something that you might want to be sensitive to so that you can fit in and endear yourself to your community.

These opinions and suggestions are based on my personal experiences. Please do you own research and obtain advice from the appropriate authorized institutions for your particular circumstances.