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Buying property in Italy

Preliminary purchase contract and notarial purchase contract

In order to register a change of ownership in the land registers, the conclusion of a notarial purchase contract is necessary. The notary must state the Italian tax number of the seller and the buyer in his deed. Every buyer, which therefore also means the foreign buyer, must apply for the receipt of a personal tax number prior to sign the notary contract at the locally responsible tax office. To do this, a photocopy of one’s personal identity card or passport is sufficient, along with the provision of the future postal address in Italy.

One decisive difference between Italian and other countries law is that in Italy, a private preliminary contract (compromesso) is made often between the buyer and the seller prior to the notarial purchase contract.

This does not actually affect the public documentation of the conveyance of ownership in the land register, which is reserved to the notarial contract, but in contrast to other many countries is legally binding and effective for the change in ownership pertaining to land or the property.

1. Contents of the preliminary purchase contract

The buyer should ensure that the following key elements are included in a private preliminary contract:

  • personal details about the contractual parties (first names, surnames, maiden names, date of birth, current address)
  • a specific description of the property to be sold (postal  address, construction description)
  • The purchase price and the payment methods
  • The date and time of the subsequent notarial contract
  • Deposits
  • The date of the transfer of ownership


2. The Deposit (caparra)

In Italy, with private purchase contracts, it is normal for a deposit to be paid by the buyer. This normally will be between 10% and 30% of the full purchase price. If the buyer breaches the contract and does not sign the notarial purchase contract then s/he will lose this payment. On the other hand, the buyer can also demand twice the deposit back from the seller if the seller breaches the contract (caparra confirmatoria). The estate agent’s fee becomes due immediately subsequent to the signing of the preliminary contract.

3. The purchase contract (atto di compravendita)

On signing the notarial purchase contract, the ownership of the property transfers to the buyer. This presents a decisive difference to other countries. The purchase contract is concluded by a notary. Prior to present the contract to the parties for signing, the notary will first personally view the corresponding registers. Here, he will check both, the situation of ownership concerning the property as well as the situation concerning any possible extra costs. In general, the components of the preliminary contract are the same as with the purchase contract.

4. Registration (transcrizione)

To make the change in ownership publicly visible, registration at the appropriate registration offices is necessary. This is to prevent the seller from selling the same property several times. In Italy, this entry into the register only has a declaratory effect and not a constitutive one as in other countries, as ownership has already transferred on signing the purchase contract. The notary will arrange this entry immediately (on failing to do this s/he becomes liable to pay damages).