Any prospective buyer looking to buy a charming Italian home, or roaming the boot for a fruitful real estate investment, needs to know the facts about Italian real estate agencies, and understand how real estate commission works.
Every country, in fact, has its own laws and rules on property sales and real estate agencies, so foreign purchasers are bound to be unfamiliar with the “world” of Italian agenzie immobiliari, i.e. real estate agencies, and agenti, agents.
One key aspect that a foreigner may, for instance, not be aware of is that in Italy not all real estate transactions are handled by agents. Truth be told, many property sales are directly handled by the buyer and vendor, while others allow for a figure called mediatore, i.e. intermediary, who practically acts as an advisor/counselor. This said, the great majority of non-Italian nationals will generally work with real estate agencies, both because of the language barrier and because they have less local contacts and relationships.
Basically, what a foreign prospective purchaser needs is to ascertain the basics of how the Italian agencies operate, and solve the “buyer’s great dilemmas”: trustworthiness and commission.
Real estate commission: can I trust this real estate agent?
This obviously vital question is the very first one most far-sighted foreign investors ask themselves. Fortunately for all, it’s also one with an easy and straightforward answer: current Italian legislation maintains that all real estate agencies, and each and every agent, must be licensed as set by law to operate as such. The only way prospective agents can get a license is by attending a course where they are taught taxation rules, civil law, appraisal, technical and building techniques, banking and other, and then take a state exam. Those that successfully pass the exam must then apply for registration within a dedicated Public Register housed in the area’s Chamber of Commerce: the REA (Repertorio Economico Amministrativo) for individual agents, and the Registro delle Imprese, for agencies.
Once registered, the duly licensed agents and agencies will hold a legal certificate and a registration code that prove their status. So, all a doubtful foreigner will need to do is check the existence of these, and rest assured that the standing rules are applied unsparingly: non-licensed individuals or agencies who are caught operating without being authorized and registered are subject to severe fines and risk being jailed from 6 months to 3 years.
Another important aspect of the Italian real estate market that non-resident foreign nationals are not often familiar with is the agent’s liability and culpability status. Italian law maintains that real estate agents and agencies are never liable, culpable, or in any way accountable for the property they sell. When the deal is closed, and commission payment settled, the agent’s assignment and responsibility are over.
What real estate commission fees are we looking at?
There are two aspects about the commissions applied on the purchase or sale of a property in Italy, locally called provvigioni, that often surprise foreigners. The first is clearly expressed by the Italian Civil Code, specifically Article 1755 “The Agent has the right to demand a commission fee from each party, if the deal is concluded as a result of his intervention. The extent of the commission and the proportion in which this must be borne by each of the parties, in the absence of an agreement, professional rates or uses, are determined by the judge according to equity”. In a nutshell? Both the buyer and the vendor are required to pay real estate commission fees, which makes for a relevant difference between the Italian property market and what happens in other countries.
The other feature that appears puzzling to many foreign buyers is that in Italy, agency fees can be demanded prior to signing the final deed, and, very often, when the prospective buyer presents his/her first offer or when the preliminary contract is proposed for the first time.
But, alas, there is no clear-cut reply to the main question that is on every purchaser’s mind, i.e. “what commission will I have to pay?”. Italian law does not establish a set percentage, or amount, that has to be applied on property sales, and, in fact, all real estate agency fees subject to vary – depending on diverse factors – and can be negotiated.
The most relevant aspects, all will agree, are the commission fees’ negotiability and variability. Generally, the person who owns the property and is selling it is the most influential, and the factors that affect the base commission calculation are market price, standing of the property and, obviously, location.
Because the agency fees are negotiable by law, what happens is that the two parties discuss the terms and try to come to an agreement on the fee. If they disagree, and refuse one another’s proposals, usually the deal is carried out applying commission fees as ruled by the local Chamber of Commerce, i.e. the Chamber of Commerce that rules over the area where the real estate asset in question is located.
Needless to say, having a resourceful, capable and zealous real estate agent by one’s side is an essential factor that makes all the difference, especially for a foreign purchaser. But agents often only operate locally, not across the country, and finding the right person, or agency, can be difficult. Plus, though many agents do speak English nowadays fluency is not so widespread, and there are customary “ways” that non-Italians may well not be familiar with… both risky factors, when one is looking to successfully negotiate commission fees and get a good deal.
Our services to make sure you are paying the right amount of real estate commissions
What does a foreign buyer really need to make the most of an Italian real estate investment, find the right property, and close a transaction profitably? Reliable, qualified, professional English-speaking assistance on-site, in Italy.
Yes, because local insight, and savvy experience, are the keys to a fruitful and rewarding real estate investment. Committed to our clients’ overall satisfaction, our team of lawyers, accountants, real estate agents and technical experts provides foreign entrepreneurs and buyers with all-round services for property sourcing, selection and purchase. Specialized in real estate law, negotiations, fiscal law and highly knowledgeable about the Italian real estate market and its perks, our team offers widespread proficiency in all that concerns property purchase in Italy.
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