Buying in Italy 1 - featured in The Italian Magazine
February 18th 2006
MAKING THE RIGHT CHOICES FROM THE OUTSET - Buying a property in Italy is a big decision and Mark Slaviero from Homes in Italy, highlights the initial decisions that are crucial to the success of finding the right one.
Choosing Italy as your destination to purchase a property may have not been the most difficult decision you have made. Excellent weather, beautiful surroundings, good food & wine, healthy living, culture, history and friendly people are reasons why Italy is second to none as a destination for overseas homebuyers.
Italian property sales have risen greatly in recent years due to an increased exposure on the television and the emergence of low cost airlines, which have made Italy more accessible.
The two main reasons for buying a property in Italy are for a holiday home and for those who are permanently looking to relocate. Whatever the reason of the purchase, buying in Italy has become increasingly easier and the process can be a pleasurable experience if you make the right decisions from the outset. The more preparation and thought that goes into the process at the start, then better the results will be in the long term. The three main considerations to make when looking to buy are budget, location and the property itself:
ESTABLISH THE BUDGET
Buying property abroad is a big financial commitment and it is very important to be realistic about your financial limitations. The costs of buying the property need to be seriously considered. It is important to establish a realistic budget from the outset and make sure that you stick to it. Establishing your budget early on will save both your time and your estate agents.
In Italy, you have to allow for on-costs; typical agent fees are 3%, purchase taxes are 10% (3% if you are using as your main home), and on top of this you have to allow for Notary costs and Geomettra fees (if required). If you use a UK solicitor, this should also be costed in.
If you propose to take out a mortgage, find out what the limits are and repayment terms and costs.
Also remember that the costs donít stop at the purchase of the property, as you will have annual community charges (ICI), utility charges and on-going maintenance charges.
If you are planning to renovate a property, then always allow for a contingency sum (at least 10%), if things donít go according to plan.
Remember to be realistic. Donít push yourself to the limit, as the property that you are going to buy in Italy, should be a pleasure and an achievement, rather than a financial burden.
CHOOSE THE LOCATION
Italy is a large and beautiful country. It is also varied and when it comes to location, you will find yourself spoilt for choice. Italy is blessed with a good climate but the weather varies considerably, so if you are looking for milder winders then it is better to check the regional temperatures.
Historical and regional differences are an intrinsic part of life in Italy and it is important to establish which region is the right location for your new life in Italy. Among the regions there are several well-known locations that have been popular for many years; the Ligurian Riviera, the northern Lakes, the Cities of Rome, Florence and Venice, Taomina in Sicily and Tuscany and Umbria.
Central Italy is very popular with its abundance of medieval towns and beautiful countryside and Tuscany still remaining the first choice for many. Those looking for more affordability in central Italy, can opt for the up-and-coming regions of Le Marche and Abruzzo, which share some similarities with their neighbours Tuscany and Umbria.
In you are interested in looking further south, Puglia is opening up with direct flights from the UK and Sicily is now also becoming a consideration for many. You will find that the coastline in the south of Italy can be breathtaking. Sardinia is also a wonderful destination and a good investment with an excellent coastline.
Transport is an important consideration. Flights to northern Italy have always been good (Venice, Milan, Bologna), central Italy is improving (Pisa, Rome, Florence, Ancona) but the south is still generally struggling in terms of choice of carrier and availability from the UK. Proximity to the airport must be considered, if you are looking at renting your home in Italy, then most clients will be looking at no more than 90 minutes from the airport. You also have to consider that if this is a holiday home, then you will travel to the property at least six to eight times a year.
Before you start contacting potential agents, read up on the country. Buy a couple of books or use the internet (try Italian tourist board www.enit.it), familiarise yourself with the different regions and select a couple for your initial search.
DEFINE THE PROPERTY
The majority of Italian homes are of a high standard and Italy does have a lot of options available in terms of types of property; apartments (both new and old), townhouses, houses, villas, Casali (country houses).
Most buyers prefer more rustic properties but donít discount new build properties too easily as they are generally well designed and many blend in very sympathetically with their environment. These are generally found along the coastlines and in the more modern parts of a town. Make sure that you do allow for the costs of a kitchen when looking at new-build as this doesnít usually automatically come with the property.
Unlike many other European countries, Italyís historic town centres are usually thriving residential districts where you can buy restored houses and apartments. Many smaller medieval towns are built on hilltops, so make sure that you are fit and able to reach the property by foot.
The idyllic farmhouses that are found in Tuscany and Umbria and displayed in endless books about Italy are many peopleís idea of a dream property. Demand, however has outstripped supply in many areas and you should expect to pay a premium for renovated properties. It is important to realise that many of these properties are isolated and the reality of having to drive to see another property or person, can be daunting for some perspective buyers. Many, of course who are living in the city in the UK are more than happy to be lost in their very own corner of Italy.
Italy still has an abundance of farmhouses requiring renovation and although supplies are now drying up in Tuscany and Umbria, Le Marche, Abruzzo and Emilia Romagna are amongst others still attracting English buyers looking for affordable options and the possibility to work with an almost blank canvas (working with local planning laws, of course). Buying a property requiring renovation can often be cost effective but allow for planning permission and building work before you will be able to use the property. This could easily be more than nine months on top of the purchase process, depending on the state of the property. Having a good architect from the outset is necessary and the time to liaise and view the property during its development. If you want a hassle free holiday home, then embarking on a renovation may not be the best option.
If you are looking at a buy-to-let situation, one of the most popular types of property is an apartment in a Borgo (a secure renovated hamlet / estate), which will be easy to maintain, usually comes with a pool and you are sure that the gardens and other areas are looked after whilst you are away.
It may be obvious to some but it is important to establish from the start, who is going to be using the property when deciding on the type. If you are using a property for the holidays, then a farmhouse may be a suitable option but you have to make sure that you have some support with maintenance when the property is vacant. If you are planning to move to Italy, then perhaps a property in a small town or village may be a better option for integration. Access to transport and availability of amenities (shops, restaurants, bars, schools, hospitals) are also important factors to consider and even though you may amend your search slightly as you visit property in Italy, you will have saved time and money by visualising what you are trying to achieve from the outset.
Next: BUYING IN ITALY 2: FINDING THE PROPERTY
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