For many people who visit Italy, something happens where that “lifelong dream to see Tuscany” becomes a “lifelong dream to live in a Tuscan farmhouse.” You’re not prepared for the change, it just sneaks up on you – and before you know it, you’re looking at the pictures in real estate offices that you pass on vacation, and scouring Italy real estate websites when you get home. Most people don’t ever get much further than dreaming about it, but some end up taking the plunge and living the dream.
Buying a house in Italy isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. You just need to make sure you’ve done your homework in advance. Perhaps the key to a successful real estate transaction in Italy is working with a lawyer – the legal process for buying Italian property is maze-like, and completely unrelated to any other house-buying process you may be familiar with. Getting independent legal advice from someone in your own country, who speaks your language, and who deals with overseas property purchases will be invaluable to you in getting through the process with as few headaches as possible.
Some of other the things to think about before buying property in Italy are:
- Rent before you buy. If you haven’t yet lived in Italy for more than the duration of a holiday there, it’s a very good idea to rent property first so you can make sure that the reality of living in Italy is as good as you thought it would be. Plus, renting will give you a chance to see whether the particular town or city you chose will be a good fit for you long-term.
- Unfurnished really means unfurnished. Even if you’re renting an apartment in Italy, and especially if you’re buying, the kitchen is likely to be completely empty (no cabinets, no appliances), there will be no light fixtures anywhere (only raw wires protruding from holes in the walls) and you may even find that the wood floor has been removed. All of these things are considered personal property, and people take them when they leave. So if you’re looking at a house or apartment, be sure to ask exactly what stays and what goes – arriving to unpack the fridge only to find not only is there no fridge but there’s no lights or floorboards would be a rude shock, indeed. Just find the local IKEA and you should be able to fill in any holes left by the previous owners.
- Test everything. Turn on every light switch. Ring the doorbell. Flush the toilet. Turn on all the heaters. Run the hot and cold water in every faucet. Test all electrical outlets. In most cases, the properties you’ll be looking at in Italy are old, and all electrical and plumbing additions were made years ago – so just because you see an electrical outlet or a radiator, don’t assume they’re all in top working order.
- Heating and air conditioning, or not. Most Italian homes do not have air conditioning, and in many the heating systems are inefficient. If being too hot or too cold is going to be a problem for you, be sure to look into modernizing the existing heating and cooling systems if they haven’t been already. And if you’re planning to “do as the Italians do” and just cool your house in the summer by opening the windows in the evening, make sure you’ve got screens on those windows or you could be eaten alive by mosquitoes or other biting bugs!
- Hire a local lawyer. I know, I said this above – but it’s important enough that it bears repeating. Find a lawyer who knows Italian real estate laws inside and out, and who can help you not only figure out how to navigate the difficult waters of house buying in Italy but also how such a purchase will impact your taxes and finances in your home country.
If you aren’t completely put off the idea of buying a house in Italy, that’s great! Really, while the process is certainly complicated (some would say more complicated than it needs to be), it’s definitely do-able – countless people do it every year. This year you could be one of them.
Browse through the properties listed on this page to see if one of them calls to you – and if you’re looking to sell a property in Italy, you can list it here for free.