Whether it’s a Tuscan farmhouse, Sardinian villa or an apartment with views of Lake Como, we find it hard to resist Italy. But what can you buy there and how do you go about it?
There are a number of reasons why so many people dream of buying in Italy. There’s the art, the historical ruins, shimmering lakes and elegant churches with frescoes by Michelangelo and Giotto. Then there’s proper pizzas served on vine-covered terraces, with superb local wines, overlooking rolling green valleys and tall cypresses.
Oh, and let’s not forget the fashion and the stylish shopping just about everywhere. Tuscany (“Chiantishire”) and the lakes north of Milan are still the firm favourites, but new areas have opened up, notably in the south and east of the country – and, whilst renovating beautiful old properties is still popular, new-builds and apartments have increased in popularity too.
The market has held up reasonably well over recent years – much better than Spain – though it remains to be seen what effect Italy’s debt crisis will have. Over-inflated prices in Tuscany have dropped by 30 per cent, but areas with a finite supply like the lakes, have held their values. Mortgages have certainly become much less easy to find.
Going north to south, the Lakes are the closest to the UK. Choose from genteel Maggiore and Lake Lugano in the west, fashionable Como, home to George Clooney, in the middle, and Iseo and Garda in the east.
Popular with foreign buyers from all over the world, the lakes are a drivable distance from the UK, with flights all year into Milan and close enough to the Alps to have four-season appeal.
All this and yet you can still buy a townhouse with lake view for under €300,000, or an apartment in need of TLC from under €100,000.
The summertime crowds – and the expense – take a little of the gilding off Tuscany and its ancient cities like Florence and Siena, but it’s an alluring area all the same.
Properly renovated homes with original features don’t offer much change from €5,000 per square metre. However, up in the north beyond Bagni di Lucca you can get houses in the hills for less than €120,000.
Cheaper country areas are Le Marche, south of Tuscany, and even cheaper is Abruzzo, hugging the eastern coast and combining the dramatically rugged National Park of Abruzzo with seaside resorts like Pescara. Restored farmhouses go from €250,000. For unrestored ones, you can halve that.
Further south again is Puglia, with towns like Ostuni attracting a lot of British buyers, including Dame Helen Mirren and our own Amanda Lamb. Southern prices are cheaper than the north – though not by that much – and houses are available for well under €100,000.
The buying process starts with a proposta d’acquisto, a short contract and small deposit (up to 5 per cent) taking the property off the market while basic checks are made. The deposit is usually repaid if the purchase fails due to legal problems.
Next is the legally binding preliminary contract, contratto preliminare di vendita, which defines all selling conditions such as a description of the property, rights of way, payments and timing, ownership rights etc. On signing this contract, the purchaser pays a deposit of approximately 20 per cent of the property price. At this point, a notary (notaio) is appointed, the independent legal body that prepares and coordinates the searches and deeds, acting on behalf of the vendor and purchaser. The final contract (atto or rogito) is signed at the notary’s office. Purchase taxes and notary fees are paid by the buyer at the signing as well as the balance of the purchase price. Once all documentation is signed and all monies paid, you will be handed the keys to your Italian property.
If this is your main Italian home and you take Italian residency, you pay tax of 3-4 per cent of the “book value”, usually slightly less than the purchase price, while non-residents pay 10 per cent. Notary fees are 1-1.5 per cent, plus the price of a translator if you’re not fluent in Italian. Agency fees are around 3 per cent.
When a rural property is sold, neighbouring farmers have the right of first refusal. Under such circumstances, it is necessary to notify neighbouring farmers of the preliminary contract. They have a set time period – typically three months - to exercise their right.
Details provided by GK Italian Property