Buying in Italy 2 - featured in The Italian Magazine
February 18th 2006
FINDING THE PROPERTY - Buying a property in Italy is a big decision and Mark Slaviero from Homes in Italy continues with his series of articles on how to make the right decisions from the outset.
After having consolidated your initial thoughts and established your budget, decided upon the location and the type of property that you wish to buy, the fun starts here! Finding the property may not be as easy as you first imagined but yet again, the more preparation and planning that goes into this process, the better results will be.
Research the estate agents
Start your research in the UK either on the Internet or there are a number of agents advertising, some are UK based and others in Italy. Try the Sunday papers or the specialist magazines such as ‘The Italian’ for a list of agents.
First have a look at their website to see the type of properties that they offer and browse to see if there is anything of interest. Be warned that many Italian agents still advertise properties that are no longer on the market. In some cases, this is to give the impression that they have a larger portfolio of properties. In other cases, it is genuinely not their fault as many vendors do tend to use multiple agencies to sell a property in Italy and when sold, they may not even inform the agent of this fact.
You can usually complete an on-line request form on many sites or if you are not web literate, then give them a call and have a chat. If they advertise in the UK, then there will be someone who speaks English in their office. A good conversation with them will help them to understand what you are trying to achieve and will also give you a general feeling about their knowledge and competence.
Another route to finding a suitable agent is by visiting an overseas property exhibition in the UK (check out Earls Court, Excel, NEC and other large venues). This will usually give you the opportunity to speak to multiple agents under one roof and also access legal and financial advice. Make sure that you do contact the exhibition organiser beforehand and find out which regions are present as many exhibitions claim to cover Italy, although Italian exhibitors are short in supply.
If you find that through your research none of the agents that you have found covers a specific town or area that you are interested in, then you will have no option but to go direct. You can search the national federation of Estate Agents website (www.fiaip.it) under the section ‘Agenzie’ or try www.casa.it or the on-line version of the Italian Yellow pages www.paginegialle.it (and type ‘Agenzia Immobiliare’). This is going to be difficult as most Italian agents are not familiar with working with UK clients and most will not speak English. Travelling to the destination and walking in the office in person will probably be easier.
One significant difference with Italian agents is the property particulars. Don’t expect room measurements or pages of details as many will many will advertise properties without the price or photos and with brief summaries. Most UK based agents are more familiar with working with overseas clients and usually use photos and prices.
Plan your visit carefully
Make sure that you plan your visit in advance. If you leave everything to the week that you leave, not only are you going to be stressed but also you may not get the best service or guarantee the availability of the agent. All viewings in Italy are accompanied (whether the property is vacant or otherwise) and your contact will need to reserve time in their diaries also, so contact them before you book flights. It is still quite rare for Italians to arrange viewing trips as in Spain, so don’t expect to be collected from the airport or put on a coach with other buyers (most people buying in Italy would hate the thought of that anyway!).
The best way to view properties is to hire a car and collect from the airport. Arranging this from the UK in advance can usually save you money. This will give you the flexibility and freedom to familiarise yourself with the surrounding areas to ensure that this is the right location for you.
It is important to note that nearly all Italian agents are closed on a Sunday and some on a Saturday afternoon. Don’t forget to check for public holidays before booking your flights (usually Mondays), as this will be a wasted day. Most agencies also close for lunch, which can be anytime between 1.30 and 3.30 p.m. This may be frustrating but this is Italy and life has a completely different pattern from the UK – once you have your own place in Italy, then you will realise this.
Spring and autumn are good times to visit Italy, as the weather will be generally pleasant. The summer months are undoubtedly hot and busy and driving around in a car in the soaring heat may not be the ideal time to look for a property. Believe it or not, August can be a dead month for many agencies. Despite the fact that Italy is full of potential buyers, many agencies choose to close either side of Ferragosto (15th August, national holiday). During winter, morning viewings are usually better as there will be limited daylight in the afternoons if the agencies re-open as late as 3.30 p.m.
Make the most out of viewings
It is always better to make your viewing trip a specific journey, rather than combining it with a holiday. If you are with friends or you have children with you be realistic about the number of properties that you wish to view.
Many people travel to Italy and try to do too much on their visit by going to multiple destinations and cramming in too many viewings. This will leave you tired and confused and will be counter productive. If you are looking for countryside or village property, then 5 viewings a day is really what you should aim for.
Make sure that you have a map with you otherwise you are going to get lost and check distances before you set off. Always be punctual as the agents and vendors will be waiting for you. Also, if you are dealing with more than one agency, allow adequate time between appointments.
Be honest with the person who is showing you around as they will not be able to read your mind and you do not want to waste your time or theirs. Constructive feedback could assist them to suggest other alternatives.
A mobile phone, camera and a notebook are essential. If you are visiting lots of different properties, make a list of queries. If you like a property, try and visit both during the day and the evening and visit shops and local restaurants to familiarise yourself with your surroundings.
Many people are lucky enough to find what they are looking for on their first visit; others require two or three viewing trips. Each visit will not be wasted, as it will help you to clarify just what you are looking for and in which particular location. Don’t give up or be rushed into making an on the spot decision. Finding the perfect home may be an impossibility for some but finding the right property should be achievable. Once you have found it, then securing it can be another matter.
Next month: Securing the property
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