Three Things to Know about Finding a Property in Italy

Three Things to Know about Finding a Property in Italy

Every country has its own real estate standards. This article focuses on the differences between the Italian property buying experience and the American property buying experience.

The first step in purchasing a home is finding one, which is pretty simple in the U.S., where more than 80% of homes sold are listed in the MLS (Multiple Listing Service), the electronic database of homes for sale listed by real estate agents. American homes are often prepared for market so they look their best, and it’s not untypical for them to even be staged – this is when the owners move out completely and a service sets up the home with stylish furnishings to make it look and feel the best it possibly can. As a result homes are marketed with pretty photos and enticing video tours. In fact, marketing is a very serious part of a real estate agent’s job. They hold open houses, inviting the public to tour their listings and hand out glossy brochures with property details.

This first step is completely different in Italy. For starters, about 50% of the homes that sell are not listed with a real estate agent, and are undiscoverable online. They are sold by word of mouth. Furthermore, those that do get listed with an agent, aren’t guaranteed to be presented online. So if you are looking for property online in Italy you are missing out on more than half of the potential properties available. Those that are presented online rarely have been spiffed up so that they show well. It’s not unusual to see pictures of unmade beds, rooms stuffed floor to ceiling with old furniture, and unsightly kitchens and bathrooms. Occasionally, you will see a well-presented property, but this is usually a high-end property represented by a non-Italian agency.

The best way to learn about properties you cannot find online is to ask around.  Locals know what’s up and nearly everyone knows someone who wants to sell a property.

Once you find your home it’s really up to you to kick the tires. There are no formal property inspectors, or pest inspection companies. There are no title and escrow companies either – instead there are Notarios, not to be confused with Notaries. Notarios play a role similar to attorneys and escrow officers. They prepare contracts and record them with the officials, but they do not collect and distribute funds.  There is no escrow process in Italy. Instead, buyers wire funds to sellers directly.

If you want to inspect the property, it is best to do so before preparing your offer.  Ideally you have a contractor you can trust who can evaluate the property for you. Buildings in Italy can be hundreds of years old, and often share walls with others, so it is really important to understand what you are getting into before you agree to a purchase.   

Want to learn more? Contact us to discuss your needs with the Villa Magari team.

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