The complete guide to buying a house in Italy as an American

June 17, 2022

Everyone’s head over heels with Italian houses!

A honey-colored farmhouse in Tuscany, a rambling seafront villa in Sardinia, or a snazzy studio in downtown Milan. All around, and within a brief scenic drive, vineyards, mesmerizing art, and the best food in the world. Most US travelers who visit Italy and fall in love with its scenery, wine, and cultural scenario fantasize about owning a charming Italian casa. On the flight back home, many start wondering “can an American buy a house in Italy?” or “how do I buy a house in Italy?”

Tax benefits and remote working make buying property in Italy all the more popular

This shared fascination is all but a fad. Italy, its attractions and beautiful houses, have been luring foreigners since the 17th century. On top of this, Italy offers investors tax benefits, fiscal advantages, and very advantageous prices compared to most other European countries. These factors, alongside the option to work remotely and hence relocate, are attracting more and more buyers. All in all, recent studies reveal investing in real estate in Italy may very well be the smartest thing one can do in 2022-2023. Learn all about the tax benefits and renovation bonuses, and get useful tips on where to invest in Italy.

Can foreigners buy real estate in Italy?

Is having a little corner of Italy to call their own bound to remain a fantasy? It most certainly is not, providing one is well aware of the dos and don'ts, and knows the ropes of real estate sales and purchases in Italy. And as long as the foreign national in question is legally entitled to buy property in Italy. The dream can come true, but understanding the Italian laws and rules implied is key. This guide on how to buy a house in Italy aims to help US citizens gain insight and understanding on buying a house in Italy as an American. Read on for frank, step-by-step information, and get the facts straight about how to buy a house in Italy.

Can an American buy a house in Italy?

This is the first question most prospective US buyers ask themselves, and doubtlessly a crucial one. Well, great news: the answer is yes! US nationals, regardless of their country of residence, are entitled to buy property in Italy thanks to a standing “Reciprocity Treaty” between the Italian and US government. A Reciprocity Treaty is an international agreement between sovereign states that govern how their citizens can operate in the other state as regards property purchase, owning shares in companies, and other business-related issues.

Reciprocity Treaty, and Italian laws and bureaucracy

Specifically, today, the standing Reciprocity Treaty maintains that an American can buy a house that rises on Italian soil just as, and because, an Italian can buy real estate in the United States. At once, however, according to Italian law, all foreign residents who wish to purchase property in Italy need to obtain a Codice Fiscale, i.e. the Italian fiscal code, or tax code number, that identifies people and businesses. This is just one of the (many) bureaucratic issues involved in buying a house in Italy as an American, that sometimes discourages prospective buyers.

Why buying a house in Italy as an American can be complex

Truth be told, Italian law is at once very strict and very intricate in all that concerns property purchase, sales, and renovation. Non-compliance with standing regulations is severely punished, and one missing piece of paperwork can result in purchase deals falling through in half a minute. The intricacy of Italian building-related legislation also results in needing a vast number of different professionals to work with/for you. Throughout the process, you will need one (or more) real estate agent, a real estate lawyer, one (or more) surveyor and/or architect, and a fiscal expert. You might also need an accountant and builders. To finalize the purchase of your house in Italy, and sign the deed, you will need a notary.

Baffling local regulations and the language barrier

The main difficulties Americans run into are due to the bureaucracy, legal framework, and language barrier: there are a lot of red tapes involved, and unfortunately many of the “people in charge” don’t speak perfect English. Now, the problem is that all the above-mentioned aspects tend to mesh, leading to misunderstandings and “lost in translation” issues that end up being hard to solve, and costly, for someone that lives overseas.

Is buying property in Italy a hazard?

Numerous prospective buyers feel daunted by the pressure and exposure, but, to be perfectly honest, they shouldn’t. For one thing, Italy’s scrupulous laws on property purchase - from the need for real estate agents to be licensed to the (complicated and lengthy) drafting of legal and technical due diligence - protect the buyer as much as the vendor and act as a guarantee against frauds. Second, but most importantly, the whole process of finding, securing, inspecting, and buying a house in Italy as an American can be carried out smoothly and time-effectively. How?

How do I buy a house in Italy?

With the assistance of qualified English-speaking professionals on-site, that is to say in Italy. Being able to count on experts who will share their insight into the local rules and regulations and see you through the maze of offices and paperwork is the key to success. Also, dependable local professionals will be able to facilitate your search for the perfect house supplying exclusive contacts, and facilitate the strictly legal issues acting on your behalf (and in your best interest) is, and when you are abroad.

One company, a crew of highly qualified pros

Seeing as you will be needing a variety of different pros, the best option is securing the help of a company that can provide you with all the specialists you’ll need throughout the process. That is to say, one firm that comprises them all, from real estate agents to property lawyers to accountants, to architects, and surveyors, all specialized and perfectly English-speaking. In my opinion, as of today, IRECOM is a trustworthy and far-reaching company in the real estate market.

A step-by-step summary of how to buy a house in Italy

Let’s take a look at the main phases and basic paperwork you will need to handle when buying a house in Italy as an American, with an eye on the issues you might have.

Step 1- Finding your dream property

All Italian regions, cities, towns, and even neighborhoods have something special and unique. To choose where to start looking, and then select the property you prefer, focus on your needs, and on how you aim to use the house you buy. Keep in mind that most Italian real estate agents operate locally, so if you do not have a specific location in mind, you’ll be better off referring to a company that specializes in property sourcing throughout the whole of Italy.

Step 2 - Having the property inspected (legal and technical due diligence)

This is an essential, vital step that needs to be carried out with the assistance of dependable and skilled professionals. Among other issues, the due diligence will have to ascertain that the property:

  • is actually for sale
  • is not subject to encumbrances and/or rights held by third-parties
  • is properly registered with the Land Register
  • has building and planning permits as maintained by Italian law
  • has an energy rating certificate (APE)
  • has a certificate of habitability (certificato di agibilità)

Step 3 - Having the property evaluated and ascertaining the taxes you will have to pay for purchase and ownership

Needless to say, knowing whether the price the vendor is asking is correct and proper and understanding the fiscal impact, i.e. the taxes you will have to pay, for your upcoming purchase is imperative. Having a dependable, perfectly English-speaking fiscal consultant by your side is indispensable.

Step 4 - Drafting a purchase proposal (offerta in Italian)

This is a preliminary non-mandatory document via which the prospective buyer informs the vendor he/she is interested in the property and how much he/she is willing to pay. The purchase proposal must be drawn up by a lawyer. This step can be avoided if desired: in this case, the buyer has a preliminary contract drawn up directly.

Step 5 - Drawing up the preliminary contract (preliminare)

The preliminary contract is a private agreement between the vendor and buyer that comprises information on the agreed-to price and conditions. The buyer is generally requested to pay a deposit (usually between 10 and 30%) and the preliminary contract must be registered.

Step 6 - Signing of the final deed of sale (rogito)

The last step of a purchase transaction is called rogito in Italian. It is, quite simply, the official signing of the final deed of sale before a notary. The notary’s role is essential: his/her responsibilities include checking all the paperwork is in order, reading the contract, and ensuring both parties are well aware of what it entails and agree. When foreign buyers are involved, it is best to have a notary fluent in English, or a professional translator.

Buying a house in Italy as an American can be a fruitful and rewarding experience. Provided, you can count on a team of trustworthy professionals to see you through the most complex phases, and take care of the different requirements in a timely and effective fashion.


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One comment on “The complete guide to buying a house in Italy as an American”

  1. Thank you for this guide that deepens some of the most complex aspect of buying a house in Italy.

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