Frequently Asked Questions

Select one of the frequently asked questions below to learn more about buying, selling, and renting real estate. Also, begin to think about important things to consider when diving into your real estate search.

Questions about buying

Can Swiss citizens buy without restrictions?

The purchase of a property in Italy by a Swiss citizen is subject to certain limitations, due to the limitations in turn imposed by Swiss law for Italian citizens not resident in Switzerland who intend to buy property in Switzerland.
This situation is determined by the application of the so-called “condition of reciprocity”, which finds its foundation in Italian law in Article 16 of the “Provisions on the Law in general “contained in the Civil Code:” The foreigner is allowed to enjoy the civil rights attributed to the citizen subject to reciprocity and subject to the provisions contained in special laws. This provision applies also to foreign legal persons “.

That said, the purchase of a property in Switzerland by a non-resident Italian citizen Switzerland is subject to the provisions of the Swiss Federal Law on Funds Acquisition of people abroad (LAFE or “Lex Koller”). More precisely, the LAFE – in order to limit the purchase of real estate in Switzerland for private use by “people abroad” (ie, foreigners resident outside Switserland or foreign residents in Switzerland but not in a Member State of the European Community) – Except for specific exceptions, the foreigner has to ask o the cantonal competent authority the prior permission to purchase a property and submit it to other limitations, for example in the maximum size of the property to be purchased (the surface net living space must not exceed 200 sqm and the surface of the annexed ground 1.000 sqm). Any purchase made in violation of LAFE regulations is void.

As said, LAFE is applied in Italy under reciprocal conditions. In particular, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, pursuant to Art. 16 and the Free Movement of People Agreement, published a list of cases (complying with some LAFE forecasts), relating to the purchase of real estate, in which the condition of reciprocity with Switzerland. It follows that the non-resident Swiss citizen can only purchase in Italy “(A) secondary dwelling, holiday and dwelling units in the apartment with a living area net not exceeding 200 square meters; b) funds for secondary and holiday housing (single real estate units: villas, buildings) whose surface area does not exceed 1,000 square meters; c) properties for exclusively commercial use. ”
Unlike Switzerland, the purchase will not be subject to any prior authorization but
it will be for the notary, at the time of the conclusion of the sales act, to make sure that the condition of reciprocity has been verified. If a Swiss citizen intends to buy a larger property than a the one allowed, will have no choice but to move the residence to Italy.

What is a codice fiscale?

A codice fiscale is a personal tax number that you need for anything and everything. You can obtain a CF though the Italian consulate in the country where you live or simply visit the Agenzia delle Entrate when you are here in Italy.

Can I do a non-binding offer?

Yes you can. A non-binding offer  or “una offerta senza impegno”, can be done for example to test the water, so see what a seller thinks of your offer. Or simply in case essential  information is missing and a final decision cannot yet be made.

How can I arrange a home inspection?

Home inspections like they are for example performed in the U.S.A. are not usual here in Italy. We can however easily arrange for a geometra to do a thorough inspection of the property and all the related paperwork. The geometra will then declare what he has ascertained.

Why is the same property sometimes listed with different prices on different sites?

This does indeed happen frequently and for various reasons.

  • As sellers often hand out various mandates to different realtors it happens they change price along the way and do not get everyone up to date.
  • It can also happen that an agency is in the middle of adjusting the price but has not yet changed it on all sites and portals it uses.
  • In the case of more than 1 agency it has happened that and agency listed for a price below the one agreed in the mandate. Hoping to snatch up the potential buyer and be the first to give have the contact, that way eliminating claims of other agencies for the commission.

Our advice, get prints and screen shots of the lowest advertised price, but be aware, it might be too good to be true and if it is a set up you are not dealing with quality agents.



What is the difference between a so-called "compromesso" and a "preliminare" or preliminary contract?

The compromesso is a preliminary contract. It has a specific name because it deals with the sale of real estate.

What amount should be paid with an offer to show it is serious?

This depends on the price tag of the property. For an inexpensive apartment €2,500 may prove your good intentions, for an average country house a payment in the range of € 10,000 – €15,000 would be considered  a minimum.

Does a preliminary contract need to be signed at notary?

This is not required, we do however recommend to have the contract drawn up by a notary and signed at a notary.

What percentage of down payment is required with a preliminary contract?

This is normally agreed between the parties, 20% to 30% of the total amount is considered normal.

Is it true that a "compromesso" needs to be registered?

If between the preliminary contract and final deed is a time lapse of more than 30 days the preliminary contract will have to be registered at the “agenzia delle entrate” or tax office. The notary will handle this part. The costs are related to the property price.

Do I need a lawyer to buy a property?

Good question! When buying a house you need to be a 100% sure about what you are buying, so what the state of the property is and whether the required documents are present and in order. For this is it wise to contact a geometra, a bureaucratic tiger who will check all possible files and whether for example the floor plans are according to reality, work has been done according to building permits and so on. The notary will check previous deeds, check whether the documents are present and valid. A lawyer may be useful in case neither the geometra o notary are known to you or recommended by trustworthy people. A lawyer could then check whether the work is done right, more than doing the job himself.

How are real estate agent commissions arranged?

Here in Italy the agent who makes the deal gets paid by both the seller and the buyer. The standard percentage, according to the Chamber of Commerce is 3% and over that commission a “”% VAT needs to be paid as well.

Often the mandate for the seller and the document a potential buyers signs for having seen a property states that the commission needs to be paid “when the offer is accepted”, which is not the moment of the deed but sometimes much sooner. Be aware of this as with large investments you may want to make different arrangements.

For information on our own policies simply contact us directly!



If a price is negotiable, what percentage are we talking about?

Excellent question… Here we do not have a general answer. Sometimes an owner is willing to go down €5,000 on a small property, we’ve also seen cuts of half a million on a two million property or even more. This really depends on the specific property. Your agent should be able to give an indication of what kind of offer can be made. If the seller is a foreigner the margins are often very modest.

Is it possible to save on exchanging money for both the purchase and work to be done?

Yes it is. There are several companies with activities dedicated to just that. Making sure you pay less than the fees the banks will charge when sending money from foreign accounts to an account here in Italy. As we have good experiences with Smart Currency Exchange, fast replies, clear and transparant explanations, good service, that is the company we recommend.

traders guide

Do you have more money related questions? Simply click here to download a comprehensive guide which will offer you all the answers you may need and lots of useful information!

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