5 steps to buying a house in Sicily

Buying real estate in Italy differs considerably from buying real estate in other countries. Because of the differences, inexperienced buyers should always seek professional advice before signing any agreement in order to avoid unpleasant surprises. We and our customers have had very good experiences with specialist in Italian law, Alexis Brudermann.

The normal steps to acquiring real estate in Italy are as follows.

1. First, find your dream property!

This is done either by us or by you. Many of our customers have found their own dream property and then come to us to ask about the negotiation, the legalities of ownership, and the legal status of the property. We help negotiate the final price and establish the terms and conditions of the purchase.

2. Price negotiation

Often there is a huge gap between what the seller thinks the property is worth and what the buyer ultimately pays. This is especially true when it comes to property for sale in Sicily, for example if the property was acquired by the seller ten years ago and it has significantly declined in value. So don’t be put off by the stated prices – in the end a very different price will emerge. Numbers from the Tax Office, which publishes real estate sale prices for every locality each quarter, are of major benefit here. We are happy to take on this service for you, and with this alone you can easily save the cost of our entire service.

3. Preliminary contract (compromesso or preliminare)

A part of standard practice for buying property in Sicily, the preliminary contract is one in which the parties mutually pledge to conclude a purchase agreement for the property at the negotiated terms. This kind of contract is often notarized, so special care must be taken. All conditions surrounding the sale are included in this contract (including among other things an exact description of what is being purchased, the parties, the purchase price, payment terms, and a binding date for the conclusion of the contract). The preliminary contract is the most important part of the purchase of real estate in Sicily. If you do not understand Italian, we can recommend a translator who can quickly and conveniently translate contracts.

4. Deposit (caparra)

At the conclusion of the preliminary contract, an agreed upon deposit is paid, normally amounting to 20 to 30% of the purchase price. There are different ways this can be handled legally. Often, the seller may keep the deposit if the buyer no longer wants to buy the property or is otherwise unable. Likewise, if the seller cannot or will not sell, he or she may be obligated to pay double the deposit to the buyer. Note that completion of a sale, the seller is legally obliged to obtain a certificate of habitability (Certificato di abitabilità). The local city council certifies compliance with Italian law in terms of health and safety regulations. This certificate is mandatory, so the notary may handle the transaction without one only in exceptional cases. The payment of this agreement is usually completed after both parties have signed this contract with the seller before the notary. In other words, it often happens that the buyer - after he or she has agreed with the seller on all details of the preliminary contract - does not need to sign the contract before the notary, but can do the job at home and send the signed preliminary contract to the notary by post. The caparra can be easily transferred online.

5. Purchase agreement (atto notarile or rogito)

The actual purchase agreement carries out what is agreed in the preliminary contract. It is normally completed before the notary who previously drafted the agreement and analyzed the legal situation of the property. The notary then makes the necessary entries in the property register. Upon completion of the purchase agreement, the remainder of the purchase price must be paid directly to the seller. Often because someone buying Sicily real estate from abroad will not have an Italian bank account, the notary will use a special account to which, before the purchase agreement is signed, [[[[[[[the seller can transfer the balance and then by "Assegno Circolare" - that is a guaranteed cashier’s check.]]]]]]]

Acquisition costs

Buying property in Sicily comes with the following costs:

Preliminary contract:

Registration costs: 1.0% of the deposit (will be credited the purchase agreement) +168.00 Euro registration fees + stamps (20-40 euros). The choice of the notary is up to the buyer. Our trusted notary speaks English and does not charge for the preliminary contract.

Brokerage costs: due in full at the time of the preliminary contract unless otherwise agreed (e.g. half at the preliminary contract, half at the purchase agreement). Varies depending on the agreement, but in general 3-4% of the purchase price + IVA (22%).

Purchase agreement:

Notary fees: 1.5% of the purchase price + other costs (bollo, tassa archivio, diritti catastali ed ipotecaria) about 300-700 Euro.

Translation costs for sworn interpreter: about 400-600 euros (not necessary if you have previously discussed as the contract with your lawyer).

Real property transfer tax (mortgage, registrar, and cadastral tax) for real property: calculated on the cadastral value at 2% for primary residence and 9% on the second home. The cadastral value is usually much lower than the purchase price, but will soon be adjusted. If you want to pay the 2% transfer tax, you have to become a resident in Italy in the acquired property with eighteen months. The residence scheme may have implications for property taxes in your home country. You must certainly find out to be sure. Fees vary greatly, depending on whether you have property to reside in or not. Basically inhabited property is significantly cheaper to maintain.

Real property transfer tax for agricultural land: 15% of purchase price

Brokerage costs: only if (completely or partially) due at the time of the purchase agreement. Varies depending on the agreement, usually 2-4% of the purchase price + IVA (22%).

Advice and assistance for buying property in Sicily:

Because of the peculiarities of the Italian real estate law and all its hidden "pitfalls", it is highly recommended that you obtain expert advice. This is usually offered by brokers or neutral consultants such as lawyers or by a property owner association (for example, SGI, a protective association for real estate in Italy).


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