Giandomenico De Tullio, Managing Partner at De Tullio Law Firm provides some insightful information on the Italian property purchase process, particularly key legal considerations.
Buying a property anywhere is a major financial investment for most people and a process which can entail some element of risk.
If you've ever bought property in the UK, you more than likely would've instructed a solicitor to manage the legalities on your behalf. While DIY conveyancing is an option in the UK, buyers rarely purchase properties that way, because most people recognise that doing it yourself comes with added risk.
As in the UK, there is no legal requirement to engage the services of a lawyer when buying a property in Italy, however, it's highly advised.
The purchase process in Italy is different to the UK but it's equally complex in terms of due diligence, searches and conveyancing. Plus, everything is written and communicated in Italian - making it imperative to seek legal advice from professionals who understand the language inside out.
Ideally, you should engage the services of a bilingual lawyer specialised in Italian property law who'll support you throughout the entire buying process. Having your own lawyer will ensure you obtain the most favourable terms and conditions for your transaction and that you identify and address all legal issues prior to making any binding decisions. You will also have someone trustworthy on whom you can confer a power of attorney should you be unable to attend completion of the Deed of Sale in person.
Briefly, the property purchasing process in Italy can be broken down into three stages:
- Proposta irrevocabile d’acquisto (Reservation offer): the property is removed from the market for a short time while due diligence is conducted.
- Contratto preliminare di vendita (Preliminary Contract): this formalises the agreement between the buyer and vendor and details terms and conditions of the sale, including price and completion date.
- The Atto di vendita (Deed of Sale): completion of the purchase. In accordance with Italian law, the deed must be drafted by a public notary (notaio), and must be fully compliant with the Preliminary Contract. Once the Deed of Sale has been signed by all parties, the balance of the purchase price is paid to the vendor, keys are handed over and the process of registering new ownership gets underway.
Many foreign buyers assume that the notary is acting as their lawyer and that if anything untoward is found, the notary will inform the buyers - but this isn't the case. The notary is an impartial public officer employed by the Italian State to oversee completion of the transaction. Legally, a notary cannot specifically protect the interests of one of the parties to the transaction.
All three stages of the purchase process involve signing legally binding paperwork. While these documents can be translated into English, Italian versions will prevail in a court of law, so you should always get your lawyer to look at paperwork before you sign it.
You will also be required to make deposits at each stage. If something goes wrong and you do not have your own legal representation, you may find it a costly, difficult and protracted process to get your money refunded.