Buying property in a foreign country can be a logistical, cultural, and legal minefield. When I started house hunting in Italy, I was a complete novice, and with hindsight would have done many things differently – learning to speak Italian at least semi-fluently would have been number one on my to-do list!
I’d passed through Italy briefly on an Interrail trip years ago and seen Gladiator enough times to mistakenly consider myself an expert, but Italy is a diverse place and it’s important to have a feel for the country as a whole before you consider making a purchase.
I had my heart set on Italy’s Alpine North and immediately began contacting private sellers (this could have been a result of the seemingly constant Italian coffee-high I found myself on). And while this tactic meant I avoided agency fees, it wasn’t without its difficulties. My limited Italian, combined with sellers’ limited English, meant that correspondences were sometimes confusing, and before I knew it the deal was done, without really knowing what I had gotten myself into.
Given this was my first property purchase abroad, I’d forgotten to ask about additional costs, like utility bills and regional tax policies. This isn’t to say that working with estate agents will result in a better process, but if you do go through a private seller, I suggest having a list of important questions ready from the get-go. It also helps if you have someone there to act as a translator, just in case things become a bit heated or confusing and you both end up speaking of different things while thinking you are in agreement.
There were also numerous legal hurdles associated with living abroad, so settling into your new home straight away will likely not be a reality. First, you need to acquire a “codice fiscale,” which is provided by either the Italian Tax Office or the Italian embassy. You’ll then need to open an Italian bank account, make a formal offer, and pay two separate deposits (the second of which is non-refundable). I know, I too thought, “why do I have to pay two deposits to secure a home?!” And in truth, that is just one way of ensuring you can’t change your mind nearing the closing point of the contract.
Luckily I was moving to Italy from within the EU, so the logistical challenges after all the aforementioned hurdles seemed much less significant, but it is worth bearing in mind that if you are considering a move abroad, anywhere, take a look at expat blogs and find people who have been in the same situation. Taking their advice and asking general questions is wildly helpful. These communities are, more often than not, made up of wonderful people who really do want to help you get off to the right start in Italy. Besides that, I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have a checklist of the steps required to buy a property in Italy. I spent hours searching in forums and scouring the internet for answers to my numerous questions, but I did discover that companies like Gate-away tend to have useful guides and tips for anyone wanting to move to Italy, with a multitude of information gathered in one handy place. After all, even if you are very organized, it does not mean that the people you will be doing business with will be, and you may end up having to produce any number of copies of documents.
It may seem like a given, but if there is one last thing to prepare for, it is the local weather. My Italy trips occurred in the height of summer and did little to prepare me for the snow-filled winters in Torino, although it has prompted me to take up (beginner) skiing lessons.
- Carin talks about gelato and beaches on her summer vacation in Terracina.
- Bought your Italian villa? Time to get cooking! Steve shares advice on mastering traditional Italian cuisine.
- Chocolate, coffee, and cream? Yes, please! Afar advises at least one cup of bicerin on your next Italian vacation and even gives you a recipe to make it back home.
Written by Imogen Davies for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.