House buying is a fairly organized process so long as you are going through an agent. Like in the US, the agent will handle most of the paperwork. I might recommend that you use one that is familiar with foreigners buying property in Italy as there are some details particular Americans. The link below is for an article that does a pretty comprehensive job of outlining the process.
For us the process went as such
- We looked at a number of properties with our agent. I highly recommend Abruzzo Rural Property. Monia knows her market, speaks excellent english and has an excellent network of professionals to direct you to every step of the way. Agents in Italy, at least the ones we have met, and very good and fantastically helpful, and will help you with everything from getting your Coda Fiscale, to setting up your utility accounts after your purchase.
- After finally deciding which property we wanted, a little bit of offer/counteroffer took place. Unlike in the US, this process was not done in writing, but verbally.
- Once details were settled, the Preliminary Agreement was drawn up. It was in both Italian and English. Preliminary Agreement copy
- After seeing all was correct we signed in acceptance and our purchase offer was now official. We wired a deposit of ten precent of the purchase price directly to the owner. We also received a detailed breakdown of the commissions and fees that would be paid at closing. (Brokers commission, Notaio fees, taxes).
- Because we were not going to be in Italy at the time of the official closing of the sale, we put a special power of attorney into place so that our agent could sign the documents on our behalf. The final purchase price was wired from our US bank account to the Notaio who held it in escrow to be disbursed at the appropriate time. Most of the buying guides say you need to get an Italian bank account. If you are going to be bringing bank drafts to the closing, then you will of course need this. For us, because we did it from the US, we transferred directly from the US to our agents escrow.
- After the sale, Monia went the extra steps and got the utilities set up in our name and arranged for someone local to have the key who would meet us when we arrived.
That pretty much sums it up. Other things that you might commonly encounter for a purchase is a Geometra (Engineer), as there are many old buildings and lots of earthquake zones so a structural examination might be in order. Some people want to have a lawyer oversee the process to be absolutely sure all the documents (complicated inheritance laws. 😛 ) And this would be especially recommended if you are buying from a private party. You would be amazed how many people have places for sale and just slap a Vendita sign on the house.