How to Buy in Italy

As we prepared to fly to Italy to start our exploration of potential properties, I was overwhelmed by a nagging sense of “this is probably impossible, so why are we wasting our time”. In fact, I was so convinced that the end results would most likely be a big zero, I booked a virtually non-refundable dinner for two at an outrageously over-priced, cliff side, sea view restaurant in Pulia Mare. (I think their cancellation policy was something like, you had to prove that you have been kidnapped). I booked this reservation with the certain conviction that when this property search turned into mission impossible, we could at least take solace in a wallet rupturing evening out. Well that backfired! Not only did we have that big ticket dinner, but we also fell in love with one of the properties that we had ventured to see, and, as we worked through the details, found out that it was actually not that difficult to make it happen.

Good luck or good planning? I’m not sure. Maybe a healthy dose of each?

We did expend an awful lot of effort beforehand researching regions, as well as potential local real estate agents. Some agents were very responsive (a very good sign), as others were more laid back (beware). Maybe it was just our experience, but we found that those that came across as aloof during our initial correspondences turned out to be total busts. However, we were fortunate enough to find an agent in particular, who responded well, answered all my, sometimes ridiculous, questions, had a clear and easy to follow website, and spoke English pretty well to boot.

That, along with finding an English speaking lawyer, pretty much set us on our course towards the purchase. There were other steps, such as getting a “Codice Fiscale” (the Italian equivalent of a SS#), but we found there to be nothing out of the ordinary, which one would not expect to encounter.

Our place, a 400 year old stone building, set atop an ancient city, with narrow winding cobblestone streets, has soaring 18 foot ceilings, balconies over-looking the piazza, and plenty of work that needs to be done. The last owner purchased the property during Mussolini’s reign, and that may also have been the last time anyone attempted doing any work on the place. I remember being confused by the enormous effort that seemed to be exerted towards getting our water re-established with the local water utility. My contractor, realizing that a picture is worth a thousand words, sent me a photo of an ancient rusted metal water pipe running from the street to my property, that contained an enormous gaping hole in it, so large you could put your fist through it, with a caption that read in Italian “this is why no water”. OK. That cleared that up.

Despite the scale of our renovation project, I have actually found the project to move forward rather smoothly. Our contractor (who does not speak a word of English) is a true craftsman of the highest order. His workmanship is impeccable, and his primary concern has been our satisfaction with everything that he has done. I have been pleasantly surprised by the ease with which the renovation has moved forward.

We also lucked out by finding an incredible individual to act as a translator. Especially important as we were not actually in Italy during a large portion of the renovation. It was great to have someone who, if necessary, could look in on the progress, or convey our desires to the contractor. 

That’s How it is all coming together.