Documents and More Documents

Buying a house in any country is a regulated, legal process that typically involves a lot of paperwork. Italy is no exception. And given that many of these properties have been abandoned for decades, organizing all the paperwork can be more similar to a detective case than an administrative process. 

Documents Involved

At the most basic, the documents involved in purchasing a home in Italy are: 

  • Passports for all the buyers

  • Codice Fiscale for all buyers. This is an Italian ID number. You can get one from your local consulate by submitting a form and some identification. NOTE: Every consulate is different. Mine only asked for the form and a copy of my passport and I received the number a few weeks later. Some also ask for a copy of your birth certificate and some want to see documentation (purchase agreement) verifying that you actually are buying a house. You can also get one while you are in Italy, but this will require an advance appointment. Your agent might be able to help you.

  • The preliminary contract (Compromesso). This is a legally binding document that outlines the purchase price, deposit amount, bank account details of the seller/agent, identification details of the buyer, and any specifics that were negotiated and agreed between the parties. 
Our Agent, who served as our limited Power of Attorney, signing our deed.
  • Official floor plans (planimetrie) of the property. Your agent or architect/geometra should be able to get these for you.

  • Succession documents (Dichiarazione di Successione). These verify that the person/people selling the property to you actually own the property. NOTE: For the old, usually ‘abandoned’ houses, these can be difficult to obtain. Often the original owners moved away decades ago and the property has since been passed to their children, or even grandchildren. In these cases, every partial owner needs to be tracked down to sign the documents agreeing to sell the property. If you are purchasing a very old and clearly abandoned property, I would suggest inquiring about the documents up front as this could either slow the process, or potentially stop it completely if all the owners can’t be found or don’t agree to sell.

  • Energy performance certificate (Attestato di Prestazione Energetica – APE). This verifies the energy classification for the property. The sellers are supposed to provide this, though in the case of very inexpensive properties, they may negotiate for the buyer to arrange. The cost ranges between €150 – 250. 
The snail is one of the symbols of Sambuca.

Power of Attorney

If all the buyers are not able to be present at the signing of the deed,  you will need to obtain a Limited Power of Attorney. I would recommend hiring a property lawyer to organize this for you (in fact, I would recommend having a lawyer review all your documents regardless, just to ensure everything is in order). 

The Limited POA (Procura) grants a person you designate the authority to sign the deed on your behalf. Their ‘powers’ would end once this is done. We arranged for our Agent to do this for us. Some people will say that this is a conflict of interest and would recommend someone neutral. They should be fluent in Italian, or you will need to pay for certified translations of the deed.

Whoever you decide, I would suggest that they be available near where the signing will take place and be someone who has your best interests at heart. 

Myself, along with the three other buyers of our house, all lived and worked in Singapore at the time and knew it would be very difficult for all four of us to be in Sicily at the same time to sign the paperwork. Getting the POA sorted was an ordeal in itself.

  1. Our agency prepared the POA document for us and I sent it to our lawyer to confirm that everything was in order.
  2. I took the POA to the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Singapore to have it officially translated. It could not be translated by me, but needed to be done by an official translator and stamped with their details.
  3. All four of us went, with passports and codice fiscale in hand, to a local notary. She verified our documents and notarized everything.
  4. (This was a Singapore step that probably doesn’t apply in other places). I took all the documents to the Academy of Law to be legalized.
  5. I then took the translated, signed, notarized, legalized documents to the Italian embassy for an apostille.
  6. (I missed this step, but my notary helped with it). I was supposed to take it back to a translator to translate all the various stamps and stickers that had been added throughout the process. 

Once all that was done, I took photos of everything and sent them by certified mail to our Agent in Sambuca.

The whole process cost about €460 (definitely cheaper than four international plane tickets!). 

At the Notary office in Singapore after signing the POA.

Here are some things I think are good to have on hand, or to keep in mind for special circumstances:

  • Receipts from payments outlined in the Compromesso. The Notary asked for a copy of the receipt of our deposit payment and initial payment to the agency (which were outlined in the Compromesso). I happened to have them with me digitally and was able to show him on the spot.

  • Place of birth of all buyers. This isn’t really a document, but I found it somewhat odd so I’m mentioning it here. The city and state where each of us were born was recorded in the deed.

  • A place to keep everything organized. I set up a Google folder for us and keep copies of all our IDs, property documents, receipts, and a spreadsheet of costs. This way we can all access it at anytime. So far, it has come in very handy. 

Signing the Deed

Getting to the deed was yet another complicated process for us as we purchased two properties so we had to get everyone together at the same time and in the same place. After a couple false starts, we finally had our appointment scheduled. 

Our agent’s boss picked us up to go to the Notary’s office in Palermo. There were a few moments when I thought we may not make it as his car was having trouble. And then we couldn’t find parking in Palermo so he paid a guy to watch his car while we went in. 

When he was ready, the notary called us all into a conference room. The seller of the big house with his sister, the seller of the tiny house, our agent and her boss, our lawyer, an architect, the notary and myself all assembled around the table. Then the notary read the contents of the deed out loud, in Italian, at top speed. He paused a few times to ask a question or request a document. But once he was done and our lawyer approved everything, the agent signed every page of the document, I made the payments and the house was ours. The whole process took about two hours. 

The entry to our 'tiny house'
Signing the deed at the Notary's office

We signed our preliminary contract on May 20th, 2022. The deed was signed on December 30th, about 7 months later, and we received the digital copy and receipts on February 10th, about 5 weeks later. So about 9 months from when we agreed to buy it to when the property became ours, officially. 

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