So much has happened since I last wrote here — but the big news is: we did it! We bought ourselves a home in Italy.
In all honesty, the buying process took just a bit more than six months, from the time we saw the apartment and put an offer in, to the time we received the keys, and I think the six months it took us was a relatively simple transaction.
We’d seen 10 or 12 different properties before we left Treviso in May of last year, but one in particular really appealed to us. Unfortunately, we were due to carry on with our trip down to Puglia, so with a great deal of reluctance, we packed up, and got on the train. I had tears in my eyes as we left. I felt like I was leaving great friends, a lovely town I could live in — but to be honest, we were on holiday, we had other things to do, places to go, things to see.
Monopoli in Puglia is lovely, but I felt like I was comparing it to Treviso all the time. We spent some lovely days visiting coastal pools, lazing around, exploring. But at night, I couldn’t stop thinking about that apartment.
About a week later, at 4am, I was laying in bed, looking at the ceiling, thinking about the apartment. I knew the husband was awake too. Finally he asked me: are you still thinking about that place too? And we knew right then that it was the right place for us.
I told him that I’d bookmarked the name of a solicitor in Melbourne who specialised in the purchase of French and Italian properties for Australians, and we waited till the appropriate hour and called him. He was wonderful, and was happy to negotiate the purchase on our behalf.
The first thing we had to do was go and get Codice Fiscali, or a personal tax code for each of us, as its impossible to open a bank account without one. Getting a Codice Fiscale is fairly easy, they’re more than happy to issue a tax code, more than happy for foreigners to pay tax. A mere hour spent waiting in a dismal public office, and we had those pieces of paper.
The next thing was to get an Italian back account. Not so easy. We tried a couple of different national banks. Finally, one told us it would be fine, we spent several hours handing over all kinds of ID, filling in multiple forms, handing over our newly minted Codice Fiscali… then we were told to come back in a few days to pick up our account cards. Easy! Or so we thought.
We returned and were told, no, they weren’t ready. We returned again a few days later and were told simply ‘we are unable to open an account for you’. No explanation. So we tried a different bank, went through the whole process again, and then, in exasperation, we were advised to open the account in the town where we wanted to buy. Makes sense I suppose.
So we flew back to Treviso. The following day we walked into the largest bank in the middle of town, and asked if we could open an account, and half an hour later, we were the proud owners of an Italian bank account (for foreigners). Complete with cards, internet banking, the whole lot. Yay!
That afternoon we went back and surprised the Immobiliare (real estate agent) who had showed us around all those properties, and asked to see the one we liked once more. We told ourselves to be critical — but we both loved it even more.
One more phone call to our solicitor, and we got the ball rolling, he then took over, negotiating on our behalf. We wanted to keep the kitchen, and discovered that some of the furniture was to be included. Our offer was accepted the day before we left for Rome, to fly home.
Normally in Italy, the buyer appoints a Notary of their choosing who works on behalf of the owner AND the buyer in the transfer of sale. In our case, we had our solicitor in Melbourne who appointed a local Notary whom he knew and trusted, and who we knew wasn’t working for the owner or the agent. He speaks fluent Italian and was able to read through all the documentation and assure us everything was in order.
The scariest thing for us was that because the apartment is in a historic building, the Italian version of the Historic Houses Trust had to be notified of the sale. They have the option to buy the property before us at the price we’ve negotiated, and have 60 days to respond – however, and here’s the clanger: the buyer pays the full purchase price to the vendor but does not get to enjoy the property while the Historic Houses Trust makes up their mind. The money is not held in Trust. The buyer just has to wait the 60 days. In our case, we were reassured by our solicitor that since our apartment had changed ownership several times in the last 15 years and the HHT had already declined the purchase several times, we knew with 99.9% certainty that they would not exercise their right to buy. And they didn’t.
Finally it was ours.
We were very fortunate that we were able to ask the estate agent to help us transfer the utilities into our names, and help us get them connected. He didn’t have to do this, but was a great help to us in doing it for us.
At the end of November, we received the keys, and early in December, after a long flight, we opened the door to our Italian home.