There are no restrictions on foreign citizens purchasing property in Italy. A transaction can be made on behalf of legal entities or individuals. Buyers should know that things in the north and south of Italy don’t necessarily work the same way.

How it works in Italy:

1. Find a property. A local real estate agency offers properties that match your preferences as a buyer. The city, district and your budget are the main things to take into account. Once you have found one or more options that interest you, the agency will arrange viewings. Don’t hesitate to ask your real estate agent any questions about the property, payment procedures or potential discounts.

When choosing a property in Italy, you should take into consideration the complexity of obtaining a construction permit, especially in historical cities or protected natural areas. It can be hard to find vacant lots for development purposes in some regions such as Liguria and Lake Como (Lombardia). If you are a developer intending to build in Italy, you should first clarify the terms and conditions regarding construction permits with the local authorities.

2. Get a tax identification number. You will need a tax identification number (codice fiscale), to open a bank account and purchase property. To apply, head to the local state police station (Questrura), which can be found in each Italian province, with your passport.

3. Open an account. With you codice fiscale and passport, the banks will be able to open an Italian account on which you must deposit about €500 (as determined by each bank).

4. Make an offer. To make an offer (compromesso or proposta d’acquisto or riserva-offerta), you will be asked to put down a deposit totalling 1% of the purchase price or a fixed amount (e.g. €1,000) and agree upon the timeframe for buying the property (5–30 days) during which the seller can consider other offers.

5. Pay your deposit. Once the price has been agreed upon, you need to sign a reservation offer (proposta irrevocabile d’acquisto) preventing the seller from accepting a higher offer by another buyer and make a down payment (caparra) amounting to 10% of the purchase price. If you change your mind and decide not to buy the property, this money will not be refunded and cannot be used to buy a different property.

6. Sign the preliminary sales contract. At this stage, you and the seller need to sign the preliminary sales contract (compromesso di vendita or preliminare di vendita) specifying the property details, payment terms and schedule as well as mortgage approval. The contract is drawn up in Italian and the buyer’s native language.

7. Sign the final sales contract. Now you have to pay the outstanding amount and sign the final sales contract (contratto notarile di compravenditaoratto notarile) which includes the property’s technical specifications (servetutte) and an electricity certificate (certificazione energetica). This must be witnessed by a notary and generally takes place 1–3 months after the preliminary contract has been signed. The notary ensures regulatory compliance of all the documents and informs the local police about the property ownership transfer, as required by anti-mafia law. Unlike other countries, in Italy ownership is transferred when the final sales contract is signed.

8. Register your contract. Once signed, you need to get your contract officially recorded on the real estate register (conservatoria dei registri immobiliari), which takes 35–40 days. The new owner then receives the keys, sales contract and excerpts from the real estate register.

9. Get your transfer certificate. It’s better to obtain a transfer certificate even if it is not compulsory. To do so, you need to appear before the city council and declare your ownership within 24 hours of signing the contract. You will also have to take readings of the electricity, gas and water meters and file them with the city council to make new contracts or check to see if it has already settled by your real estate agency.

Additional costs and fees

Registration fees. Existing property has a fixed fee (imposta di registro or tassa di registro): permanent residence acquisitions are taxed at 2%, whereas vacation retreat purchases are subject to 9%.

Notary fees vary from 2% to 4% of the assessed property value and cover the Land Registry tax (imposta catastale), the mortgage tax (imposta ipotecaria) of €50 or €200 depending on whether or not the buyer has a residence permit, €230 state duty (imosta di bollo), €24.71 national notary tax (tassa archivio notarile), €90 ownership transfer tax (trascrizione e voltura) and the notary's fee of 1.0–2.5%. For instance, property worth €300,000 to €1M will be charged a fee of is €5,000–7,000.

VAT (Imposta sul Valore Aggiunto, IVA) at 4% is imposed on newly-built property for permanent residence, 10% for recently developed vacation retreats and at 22% for luxury pre-owned real estate. Non-EU citizens buying a house or an apartment in Italy for permanent residence purposes will have to obtain a residence permit no later than 18 months after the acquisition.

The cost of buying a property in Italy

Newly-built property Existing property
Permanent residence Vacation retreat Permanent residence Vacation retreat
Registration fee €200 €200 2% 9%
Land Registry tax €200 €200 €50 €50
Mortgage tax €200 €200 €50 €50
VAT 4% 10% or 22% - -

Real estate agency commission is 3% on average but can reach 4% if the property is sold for less than €250,000. The commission is paid when the preliminary contract is signed.

Legal fees are 1–2% of the purchase price.

The buyer will also need a technical expert review (perizia) which costs €200–300 for property worth about €100,000.

Home insurance is compulsory if the buyer has taken out a mortgage and costs vary from €350 to €500 per annum.