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Buying a property in Italy

The key info you need to know when buying a property in Italy from Australia.

Can you picture yourself living it up under the Tuscan sun or on the glamorous shores of Lake Como? The good news is that if you want to buy property in Italy from Australia, you can — there are no restrictions to stop you from doing so.

But buying property overseas isn't as straightforward as buying a home in your local neighborhood, so there are plenty of factors to consider before you make any offers. Keep reading for your guide to the Italian property market, costs and taxes you need to know when buying a property in Italy from Australia.

Italian property market snapshot

Italy's property market is diverse and varied, so the price you'll pay to buy a house or apartment can differ greatly from one region to another.

According to data from property website Immobiliare, in June 2023, the highest average asking price for properties listed for sale was in the Trentino Alto Adige region in Italy's north, at €3,150 per square metre. Properties in Calabria were cheapest at only €924 per square metre, followed by Abruzzo (€1,302) and Basilicata (€1,355).

Property buyers might also want to consider taking advantage of Italy's One Euro House Program. This initiative has seen municipalities around the country selling old, unoccupied homes in remote towns for the symbolic price of just €1. There's a catch, of course: you'll need to commit to renovating the property within three years, so your total outlay will end up being much more than €1.

Can Australians/foreigners buy property in Italy?

Yes. Australians are permitted to buy property in Italy. There are no restrictions imposed by the Italian government to stop Australians from buying a house or apartment in Italy.

Italy's approach to foreign buyers varies depending on whether they come from the European Union or other countries around the world. For countries like Australia, there must be a reciprocity agreement in place — in other words, because Italian residents are allowed to buy property in Australia, Australians can buy property in Italy.

5 steps to buying a property in Italy from Australia

If you want to buy property in Italy, here's what you need to do.

Step 1: Set your budget

The first thing you need to do is work out how much you can afford to spend. You'll need to consider not just the property purchase price but also legal fees, money transfer costs, and any renovation/repair work the property may need.

If you're not covering the full purchase price upfront, you'll need to research your borrowing options. Some Italian banks offer mortgages to non-residents, but you may not be able to access as high a loan-to-value ratio as you could in Australia. It's worth engaging the services of a mortgage broker to find out what borrowing options are available to you.

Step 2: Research locations

Now you can start researching different areas around Italy where you're interested in buying. It's easy to browse Italian property listings online on sites like Immobiliare and Casa. Make sure to consider median prices in each region, and remember to research factors like transport links, nearby dining and entertainment options, crime rates, and anything else that could affect your decision.

Step 3: Find a property

Once you've decided on a location it's time to narrow your options down to a specific property. Consider whether you're looking for a detached house or an apartment and think about which features are must-haves vs nice-to-haves.

An experienced local real estate agent or broker can help you find a property that suits your needs as well as negotiate the ins and outs of the Italian market. And if possible, make sure to organise in-person inspections so you can run a close eye over a property before making an offer.

Step 4: Finalise the details

Once you're ready to make an offer, you'll need to secure full mortgage approval (if necessary), which will involve the lender getting the value of the property appraised.

You'll need to appoint a notary to oversee the transaction, while it can also be extremely useful to engage the services of a solicitor. Don't forget to have the property professionally inspected too so that you're aware of any defects or issues that will need repairing down the line.

Step 5: Transfer money and buy the property

The final step is to transfer the funds you need to complete the purchase. When you're sending a large international money transfer, it's vital that you get the best exchange rate. Banks tend to have high exchange rate markups, while you can typically find more attractive rates from specialist money transfer companies.

Even a small exchange rate markup can make a big difference to the total cost of a transfer. For example, let's say you're transferring $300,000 to Italy. Your bank offers an exchange rate of 1 AUD = 0.57 EUR, but a specialist transfer service gives you a rate of 1 AUD = 0.59 EUR:

  • Send the transfer via your bank and your recipient will get €171,000
  • Send the transfer via an international money transfer company and your recipient will get €177,000

With this in mind, make sure you shop around for a competitive rate.

Things to consider when buying a property in Italy

Thinking of buying a property in Italy from Australia? Consider the following first:

  • Cost of repair. Italy has a rich history and many homes in the country, particularly those for sale under the One Euro Houses Program are quite old. So if you're buying a dated property in Italy, be aware that you may need to foot the bill for significant repair costs down the line. Be sure to get any property you're thinking of buying inspected by a professional, and research the cost of labour and materials in the local area. It's also worth mentioning that there are multiple tax credit programs in place in Italy to help lessen the financial blow of renovating a property.
  • Length of stay. Australia has a bilateral visa waiver agreement with the European Union, so you don't need a visa to travel to Italy for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. This makes it easier to spend time in Italy getting a feel for the property market and inspecting homes for sale. However, if you're planning on staying longer than 90 days, you'll need to apply for a visa before leaving Australia.
  • Cost of living. According to data from Numbeo, consumer prices (excluding rent) are 16.6% lower than in Australia.
  • Healthcare. Access to free and low-cost healthcare in Italy for Italians and foreign residents is provided by the country's national health service. However, you can also take out private health insurance to supplement the cover provided by the public system.
  • Local knowledge and advice. Buying property in Italy is complicated, so it makes sense to have people on your side who are familiar with every part of the process. From your mortgage broker and real estate agent to your solicitor, it pays to find people with experience helping foreigners buy property in Italy. And unless you're fluent in Italian, it's important that they're bilingual too.
  • Money transfer options. When you buy property overseas, you could pay for the property by sending an international money transfer from your bank account. But banks offer poor exchange rates and charge high transfer fees, so the transaction will end up costing much more than it should. Specialist money transfer companies can provide much better exchange rates, so compare transfer companies to find the best value.

Taxes and fees for buying and owning property in Italy

There are several costs other than the upfront purchase price to consider when buying a property in Italy. These include:

  • Mortgage application fee
  • Property inspection fee
  • Notary fees
  • Stamp duty
  • Registration tax
  • Real estate agency fees
  • Legal fees

As a very rough guide, it's a good idea to allow an extra 10% on top of the purchase price to cover these additional costs.

You'll also need to consider the tax obligations of owning an Italian property. You may need to pay property tax (IMU) in Italy if the property is your second home or classified as a luxury home.

Australia and Italy have a double tax treaty in place to prevent you being taxed twice on any rental income you earn, but you'll need advice from an experienced accountant to make sure you understand any tax requirements in Italy as well as Australia.

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