What are the different steps of the purchasing process in Italy?

Once the price has been agreed, the purchasing process starts with the signing of a “proposta d’acquisto” – a document stating the intent to purchase. Using this written document, the prospective owner shall notify the seller of his/her offer, namely the method and conditions of payment, the period of validity of the offer, a well-defined schedule to the final deed, and suspensive or resolutory conditions, if any (for example, taking out of a mortgage loan). To further bind the two parties, the prospective owner will include a certain sum in his/her offer, as earnest money (cf. Art. 1385 of the Italian Civil Code). This sum is entrusted to the Real Estate Agent (in this connection, it is recommended to make out a crossed check bearing the “not transferable” mention to the seller) who shall give it to the seller if he/she accepts the offer.

 When both parties are ready to proceed, they sign a preliminary purchase contract called “compromesso di vendita”. This document is the most important document of the real estate purchasing process in Italy, as it provides a detailed identification of the property which is the subject matter of the contract, and binds the parties to complete the transaction by a given date. This is a highly technical document. At this stage, a deposit equivalent to 20-30% of the purchase price shall be paid to the seller. These moneys are normally paid by the purchaser as earnest.

Should the seller reject the offer, the cheque will be returned to the offering party; on the other hand, if the seller accepts the purchaser’s offer, the moneys shall be deemed as earnests of confirmation.

Once the notary has completed any research required to verify that the property is not subject to any lien or obstruction, the final contract or “atto di acquisto” is signed. The document’s signing must occur in the notary’s office and be attended by both parties and two (02) official witnesses. This document is an official document and must be in written. For this document (which reiterates the elements already provided in the preliminary agreement) to become valid, one needs to produce other complementary documents such as: the construction permit, an extract from the land registry plan, a certificate of compliance with standards in force, a certificate of habitability (“agibilità”). The sale of property generally occurs as a single operation, i.e. the price is set for the property as a whole. The property is immediately handed over to the purchaser unless otherwise agreed to by the parties.