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The real cost of buying a house in Italy as a foreigner

How much does buying a home in Italy really cost? Here's our expert guide to the fees, taxes and charges involved.

The real cost of buying a house in Italy as a foreigner
Are you dreaming of buying your own home in Italy? Photo: D G Design

We’ve all heard about the large number of cheap renovation properties for sale in Italy. And it’s true – you can take your pick of homes for 50,000 euros or less, and many small towns are still selling off houses at a base cost of one euro (though the other costs involved are quite a lot higher).

But even without the major renovation work such properties usually need, the sale price of a house obviously isn’t the total cost of buying a home.

And if you’re a foreigner buying property here you may be understandably wary of hidden costs and charges cropping up.

So to light the way, we’ve got a guide to the real costs of buying a house in Italy as a foreigner from home-buying and renovation expert Gary Edwards from D&G Design, based in Le Marche.

A dream home in Le Marche, Italy. Photo: D&G Design


The first point to note is that VAT, or sales tax, is called IVA in Italy and is currently 22 percent. So add this amount onto the prices below.

The bollo

This is a mandatory tax in the form of stamps that is slapped on to most contracts or invoices over the amount of €77.47. And when I say slapped, you literally do have to buy stamps from the tabbachi or post office and attach them to the invoice.

Phone contracts, some utility contracts, any kind of lease over the amount of €77.47, they are all subject to the bollo. However, it is a per-invoice/contract charge, so you don’t have to pay it for every €77.47 you are invoiced for, it’s a one-time payment on the invoice/contract itself.

The amounts of the stamps are either €2, or €16.

  • The €2 tax stamp is applied to invoices and tax receipts with an amount exceeding €77.47.

  • The €16 revenue stamp is applied to the deeds of public administrations, to corporate or notary documents.

However, if the services you are paying for are exempt from IVA (which very few things are in Italy), then only the €2 stamp is added.

As you can probably imagine, there is a long list of rules as to when the bollo should be applied.

As a guideline, expect to pay €16 on any invoice for a contract that is over €77.47 and includes IVA, and €2 on any invoice that does not.

Agent’s commission

If you’re buying a house through a real estate agent, they take a percentage (normally around three percent of the purchase price) from both the seller and the owner.

There are many articles on the internet which view this negatively, as why would an agent negotiate the best price for you if their commission depends on it?

The agents that we work with are always willing to negotiate the best price as reputation amongst many professionals in Italy is more important than quick money. Realtors invest a lot of time and money to become qualified: you cannot become a realtor in Italy without years of study and qualifications.

A renovated house in Monferrato, Piemonte. Photo: Toni Hilton

As with many industries in Italy, word of mouth is still the most effective and important form of marketing and in our experience, there are few professionals who would risk their reputation for a few hundred euros.

If a house has been on the market for a while, offer a price that is your maximum budget, and stick to it.

Stamp duty

Stamp duty is two percent of the cadastral value of the home if you are resident in Italy full time.

The cadastral value is generally an amount lower than you have paid for the house, as it’s based on a valuation of the property from several years ago. So normally this works in the buyer’s favour.

OR it’s nine percent of the cadastral value if this is your second home in Italy, or if you are non-resident. If you are buying as a business rather than as an individual then nine percent is applied.

The minimum payment for stamp duty is €1,000.

So if your house is very low priced, and either two or nine percent of the property’s value falls below this threshold, you will be charged a flat fee of €1,000.

Property expert Gary at work. Photo: D&G Design

Note: You have 18 months to become resident in Italy from the date of your house purchase. If it is your intent to become a resident, you will only be charged two percent stamp duty at this stage. Should you not become resident within 18 months, then the government will require the outstanding seven percent .

READ ALSO: The ultimate guide to getting residency in Italy

Exceptions to stamp duty

If your home is deemed a ‘luxury property’, stamp duty is higher, up to twenty percent, with higher land registry and cadastral taxes.

If it’s what’s classed as an agricultural property, stamp duty will be ten percent.

If you’re buying agricultural land, then stamp duty is fixed at ten percent.

If the house is a new development and it is your first Italian home, there is no stamp duty but instead IVA will be added to the purchase price at four percent. for residents, or ten percent for non residents and second home owners. Land registry and cadastral taxes are higher also.

If you build your own home, this is subject to IVA at four percent. of the value.

Land registry tax

€50 – fixed rate.

Cadastral tax

€50 – fixed rate.

Notary fees

These fees are generally fixed for each part of the sale. The notary will pay the above taxes and check that the property is legally registered.

If buying through an agent, they may be able to take care of the preliminary agreement as part of their service. Have the notary do all of the required checks at this stage, whether or not they are handling the preliminary agreement.

READ ALSO: How to beat (or just survive) bureaucracy in Italy: the essential guide

If this is a private sale, it’s worth having the notary on board from the beginning. This will cost extra as it’s more work for the notary, but you have peace of mind that everything is being done above-board and properly.

Notary charges can vary from town to town, and are on a scale related to the declared value of the property, to the difficulties of the deed and of the property (i.e. how much work they have to do). A quote can be obtained from a notary before you begin the process.

The taxes above are not subject to IVA, but the notaries fees will be.

Legal fees

Depending on whether you have a lawyer overseeing the purchase of your property, they will charge you based on a percentage of the value of what you’re paying for the property.

It’s entirely up to you whether or not you feel more comfortable having a lawyer involved, many people prefer to use an English-speaking lawyer to explain each step of the process and assist.

Legal fees are subject to IVA.

Geometra or civil engineer’s fees

If the house is an old property requiring restoration or renovation work, we strongly recommend that either a geometra or civil engineer inspects it before you commit to buying.

These professionals oversee all building work in Italy and are qualified to tell you exactly what work the property will need. They can also recommend a building company and give you an estimated quote for all works required.

A house for sale in Montefortino, Le Marche, Italy. Photo: D&G Design

At D&G Design, we have our trusted geometras inspect every property that our clients show an interest in. The geometra or engineer’s fee for overseeing building work is generally 10 to 12 percent of the total price of the restoration works.

Utility fees

Water, electricity and gas are charged per unit and usually bills are issued every two months.

There are name change fees charged by utility providers, even though there is plenty of competition. Some energy companies also take a deposit.

Buying property in Italy: An illustrated tale

One thing to note is that there are higher unit charges for non-residents or second home owners, so if you’re planning on becoming resident, make sure you have this noted on your contract with your supplier to ensure that you pay the lower rate.

For residents, the TV licence is costed into your electricity bill (two payments per year). Non-residents do not pay a TV licence, but they do pay more for usage.

Local council tax and charges

The IUC (Imposta Unica Comunale – Single Municipal Tax) comprises three different local taxes, all of which are paid to the local comune (council):

  • IMU (Imposta Municipale Unica – local comune tax): similar to council or city tax and not charged if the house is your first home in Italy (unless it’s classed as a luxury property).
  • TARI (Tassa Rifiuti – collection of rubbish & garbage): a minor tax calculated on the size of your property.
  • TASI (Tassa sui Servizi Indivisibili – local tax for municipal services): a tax for services in your local area such as street lighting, road maintenance, etc. This is paid if you own the property or rent for a long period.

The council charges apply whether you are resident or not. Ask your notary or lawyer how much the charges currently are at the property you intend to buy, as they vary from town to town.

Condominium fees

Should you buy an apartment or flat in a shared building, there will be condominium fees to pay each year.

Please note that this list is not comprehensive, but covers most scenarios that foreign buyers may find themselves in.

Are you interested in our articles about property in Italy? Do you have questions or suggestions for topics that we have not yet covered on The Local? Let us know

Member comments

  1. Would it be possible to build an actual example with numbers based on a first Italian home?
    Say a property of 200.000, to get a feel for the approximate additional costs?

  2. It should be taken into account that if you sell your home within 5 years you are subject to a form of capital gains tax on the profit, ie, the cost that you purchased at and the cost you sell at. Particularly relevant if you have done a lot of improvement works to the home and thus increasing the value accordingly.

  3. Now that I’ve learned more about the process and dealt with several scammy agents, working with a reputable agency to represent your interests as a buyer is essential. I feel extremely lucky that I ended up dealing directly with a seller who was honest and easy to work with (and who has become a good friend) when we made our property purchase in the Val di Susa. An incredible stroke of good fortune as deals can quickly sour. Torben, we paid 20k euros for the home, restoration was approximately 50k on top of that. Property is small and simple, very humble but in close proximity to skiing, hiking and mountain biking, so the motivation was to be as close to possible to outdoor recreation and be outside as much as possible.

  4. Hi there. Thanks for this. I’m just embarking on this journey. And it is quite daunting. I’m down in Puglia and think I have found a house. What I can’t work out after two false starts is how you find out who owns a property and if somebody has put a house with an agent if there are other owners. The costs especially since brexit make it all very murky as the house does need some work.

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For members


Seven things to know before moving to Italy’s Puglia region

The sunny southern Italian region of Puglia has become a hot travel destination, but what is it like as a place to live? The Local Italy's editor Clare Speak, who has been a resident since 2019, has the lowdown on what to consider before moving there.

Seven things to know before moving to Italy's Puglia region

In Italy’s south-eastern corner is a long stretch of glittering coastline surrounding vast expanses of olive groves and farmland, dotted with whitewashed villages and ancient fortified farmhouses. This is Puglia, a region that maintains a distinct culture in part thanks to its tucked-away location.

Puglia, sometimes known abroad as Apulia, has long been a favourite destination for beach holidays among Italians, and its popularity among international visitors has exploded in the last decade. Investors have poured money into developing businesses in a handful of popular areas, though much of the region remains firmly off the tourist trail.

OPINION: Bargain homes and fewer crowds – but Italy’s deep south is not for everyone

Second home sales are booming here, particularly in the central Valle d’Itria and nearby areas where conical stone trulli houses enchant visitors and, usually crumbling, are sold off at low (but increasingly, not so low) prices to those willing to do the renovation work.

If Italy is a boot, Puglia is the heel. Screenshot: Google Maps

But what is it like to live in the region longer term?

Mostly rural, relaxed and with mild winters and plenty of sun, Puglia is perfectly suited as a place to enjoy retirement. There’s also a new interest in the area among remote workers from northern Italy, Europe and beyond who are looking to escape the daily commute and enjoy life by the sea.

The coastal region also attracts watersports enthusiasts, nature lovers, artists, writers, yogis, winemakers, and all sorts of others looking for a lower-cost, slower-paced, more fulfilling type of life.

If you’re wondering if this could be the perfect part of Italy for you, here are a few things to know before you start your property search.

A trullo house before renovation in Cisternino, Puglia. AFP PHOTO / GIUSEPPE CACACE

Not just beaches

Puglia is best known in Italy and beyond for its summer beach spots. The region has over 800 kilometres of coastline, though the nicest stretches are mainly along the region’s southern tip, where you’ll find impressive rock formations and stretches of golden sand. Some of the more famous beaches here are regularly described in newspaper articles as being “Italy’s answer to the Maldives,” though anyone who has visited might find this comparison a bit of a stretch. 

READ ALSO: REVEALED: The Italian beaches you might want to avoid this summer

Much of Puglia’s coastline however is developed and given over to private beach clubs, resorts, and restaurants, and the remaining spiagge libere (‘free’ beaches) tend to be small and get very crowded in July and August. It’s still fairly easy to find a quiet spot at other times, especially if you choose your beach wisely and avoid the most popular areas.

Along the Adriatic coast, the rocky shores mean crystal clear water and the best way to explore the endless tiny coves (calette) is by boat or kayak, and there are plenty of spots for kitesurfing, SUP and other watersports. If that’s your idea of the perfect way to spend a Saturday, you’ll be right at home.

Photo by Massimo Virgilio on Unsplash

Sea temperatures are suitable for swimming between May and October, unless you’re particularly hardy. But luckily if you’re here year-round there’s much more to the region than its beaches, including national parks, vast expanses of unspoilt countryside, Baroque towns and cities, and ancient archaeological sites.

Cheap homes – or maybe not 

Southern Italy in general is famous worldwide for cheap property and you may be hoping to snap up a bargain, but in reality it’s not always that simple and the prices really depend on where you go.

READ ALSO: How Italy’s cheap homes frenzy is changing rural villages

The peninsula-like southern half of the Puglia region is the most popular area among visitors and second-home owners, along with towns in and around the Valle d’Itria, and the summer hotspots in the Gargano to the north – these areas have a lot of desirable properties, and higher prices to match, particularly along the coast.

Apartments in the region’s cities can also be surprisingly expensive – and property prices in the regional capital, Bari, are rising faster than anywhere else in the south.

You will find no shortage of charming old homes for sale in inland towns for under 70,000 euros, but these tend to require a lot of renovation work – plus issues with ownership rights and other ‘hidden traps’ are very common, and can quickly become expensive and troublesome.

As a foreigner in Italy, you should make sure you’ve taken independent financial advice and have the full picture of all expenses involved before putting down any deposits. If you have your heart set on renovating a trullo or farmhouse, make sure you’re realistic about the costs from the outset – and that you get all the required permits.

Hot and humid

If you’re planning to move to Puglia, or any other part of southern Italy, one of the first things to ask yourself is whether you can stand the sometimes oppressive heat. Particularly if you plan to work year-round you’ll need to consider the fact that anything requiring physical or mental energy becomes near impossible once the mercury rises into the high 30s (Celsius) and beyond, which is common in July and August and increasingly in late June as well. It gets very humid in most parts of the region, too, and humidity becomes extremely high in coastal areas.


Rural areas also come with many phone operator traps, which are often impossibl

As elsewhere in Italy, air-conditioning isn’t a given. Older buildings are designed with thick stone walls, high vaulted ceilings and shutters, all of which can help regulate indoor temperatures, but you’ll still need to plan around the heat – long midday breaks remain the norm in southern Italy for a reason.

If you’re used to similar climates, or can fit a siesta or swim into your summer days, you’ll be just fine. 

On the other hand, winters are generally mild and sunny, though you can expect fog and occasional frost and freezing conditions in inland areas.

Photo by Steffen Lemmerzahl on Unsplash

Friendly and welcoming

Italy as a whole is known as being full of friendly, welcoming people so it can be surprising to foreigners to hear people from the south say that people in northern areas – particularly Lombardy and Veneto – have a reputation for being cold and distant. But if you spend some time in Puglia, you’ll soon understand why: generosity and openness is taken to a whole new level here.

Particularly in rural areas, you will be helped and hosted in a way you rarely see in cities, nor in the twenty-first century much at all. In town for a day trip? You’ll probably be shown around by a local. Moving in next door? You’ll be invited for lunch and given food to take home. You can hardly go anywhere without being plied with biscuits, coffee, and homemade liqueur. Generally speaking, people here are some of the friendliest in Italy. 

Just don’t forget your new neighbours will expect you to return the favour at some point: it’s time to brush up on your baking and limoncello-making skills. 

Food is everything 

It’s certainly true that food is central to the way of life here, and it’s an enormous source of local pride.

Puglia has been a predominantly agricultural region for millenia, and today produces around 40 percent of Italy’s olive oil, around 17 percent of its wine, and around 30 percent of the nation’s durum wheat. Many people continue to grow their own produce; from tomatoes, zucchini, fava beans, rocket, and sweet red onions to lemons, cherries, almonds, figs, pears and pomegranates.

Unsurprisingly, the region’s cuisine is based on staples like wheat, olive oil, and tomatoes. Mozzarella and ricotta cheese is either homemade or bought from small caseifici (cheesemongers). All of this requires strong red wine (vino nero) as an accompaniment, usually featuring primitivo or fragolina grapes, homemade or bought from local small-scale wineries.

READ ALSO: 17 ways your eating and drinking habits change when you live in Italy

In coastal areas, seafood is sold at stalls by the harbours, often brought in on traditional blue-painted wooden boats. And often eaten raw.

Needless to say, anyone who is seriously interested in their food will be right at home here. Though if you’re looking for innovative cooking or international cuisine (other than sushi) you won’t find much of that here.

Employment prospects 

Generally speaking, this is the wrong end of the country for exciting career opportunities, as the countless southern Italians who move north for work each year could tell you. Many of the people who choose to move to Puglia tend to do so to escape the pressures of city life and fast-paced careers.

But that doesn’t mean there are no jobs available at all. There are some opportunities for English language teachers, as well as short-term employment in the tourism sector. Many people who move here for the longer term tend to be self-employed – perhaps as translators or tour guides – or start their own businesses, usually in hospitality.

READ ALSO: Digital nomad: What are the rules on working remotely from Italy?

The best option might be working online for a company based elsewhere in the world. Puglia’s coastal towns and cities tend to have reliable high-speed wifi connections and a comparatively low cost of living.

If you’d be happy to work remotely in the truest sense of the word, even rural farmhouses are often equipped with reliable internet connections. Writers and artists are increasingly gravitating towards these quiet, unspoilt areas, too.

A blast from the past 

For all the old-world charm and hospitality, some may find life in small-town rural Puglia a little old-fashioned or conservative. 

Whether it’s the lack of public transport infrastructure, the pace of life so slow that it sometimes grinds to a halt, or political opinions not heard in bigger cities for a good few decades, for better or worse this region is in no hurry to adopt modern attitudes.

If you want to experience traditional, small-town Italy, you’re in the right place.