Because the procedure for the purchase of property may be different from that in your home country, it may seem complicated at first glance. To help you with this, we have put together a short guide to the steps involved in purchasing property in Sicily. Lucia and her team at Embrace Sicily are available to guide you through this and to answer any questions you may have. Should you need professional advisers, we will be happy to help you with this.
The purchasing process
When you find the house you have been searching for you will make an offer. Be aware that in in some cases the purchaser is required to provide a formal written offer (proposta) for the property, which becomes binding if the offer is accepted.
Compromesso (Preliminary Contract):
Upon an offer being accepted, the purchaser’s representative (e.g. solicitor or estate agent with geometra or architect) will carry out preliminary searches on the property in question, check conformity of the property with the documentation, permissions & regulations, and check for any pre-emption rights. He/she will then produce the preliminary contract (compromesso), and when signed by all parties becomes binding. The compromesso can also be lodged with the notary.
At the signing of the compromesso, the purchaser will be expected to pay a non-refundable deposit (deposito) of 10-30% of the final purchase price. Default by the purchaser means a loss of deposit. However default on behalf of the vendor obliges them to repay the purchaser double their deposit.
In Italy, agent’s fees are split between the purchaser and vendor (3% + IVA for vendor and 3% + IVA for purchaser), and usually this is payable at the preliminary sale contract (proposta di acquisto). IVA is an acronym meaning Imposta sul Valore Aggiunto or Value Added Tax. The agency remains at your service until the signing of the final contract (Rogito Notarile) and handing over of keys. It fixes a minimum commission of € 1,500.00 (one thousand five hundred Euros) plus VAT.
Rogito notarile (Final Contract):
After the compromesso has been signed; the notary will undertake any final necessary searches and prepare the final contract which will be signed by both parties. Valid identification (passport) and a codice fiscale for all parties are necessary to conclude the sale.
The purchaser pays the remaining sum to the vendor upon signing the final contract (rogito notarile). A bank draft (assegno circolare) is usually used for this purpose. Notary fees are paid by the purchaser. These are paid upon closing, as well as stamp duty and any outstanding agent’s fees.
The notary will then transfer legal title of the property at the Ufficio delle Entrate and register the change with the land registry.
Once you have found the property of your dreams it is advisable to take advice from the following local professionals:
A Geometra operates somewhere between the equivalent of an architect and a surveyor. He or she will advise you on any possible faults or work needed on your chosen property.
A reputable lawyer (avvocato) is one of the first professionals you should enlist. He/she will not complete the conveyancing but will operate on your behalf directly and will fully explain the buying process. He/she will be able to forewarn of an undesirables such as non-conformity with permissions & regulations or any outstanding ipoteche (mortgage) on your property.
The notary operates as an impartial legal referee for both the purchaser and the vendor. However, as purchaser it is your right to choose the notary you wish to complete your purchase. Note that unless you can prove that you fully understand Italian, you may be obliged to hire a translator to accompany you through legal procedures at the Notary’s office.
You will need a codice fiscal (Italian tax code) in order to complete your sale. We can advise you on how to obtain this.
There can be fiscal advantages to becoming resident in Sicily when purchasing your property (for example reduced stamp duty if the property being purchased is to be your prime residence or Prima Casa), however it is advisable to seek comprehensive counselling from your accountant before going ahead with this.
Allow approximately 10% of the purchase price to cover the cost of purchasing your property (e.g. Notary fees, stamp duty, agent’s fees, solicitors fees if applicable etc).