Author Topic: Evaluating Italian property  (Read 5560 times)

Malaysia41

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Evaluating Italian property
« on: June 28, 2015, 07:16:44 AM »
We're considering buying a small property in northern Italy.  For now it would be an investment, but in time we may live there.

I intend for this thread to go in two phases:

1. Research notes & documentation - prior to our flight in mid-July, I will document here information about taxes, transaction fees, inheritance law, large $ transfers and titling, etc, with links to sources.  This is mostly for my own organization of info.  But don't let that stop you from face-punching me questions I've failed to ask myself.  If you've bought property in Europe in general or Italy in particular, chime in, please. I'll also include pointers to potential properties to view.

2. Real time reporting of what we find - properties, issues, markets, etc. Would love feedback on these as we view them.

Yes, I'm a bit swept up with the notion of buying a villa on the Italian riviera.  However, I'm not absolutely determined to buy a property.  My objective is to do sufficient homework so that, should we find a property that suits us, we'll be ready to move. 

Any and all input is appreciated. 

Roughly what we have in mind:
Probably an apartment unit.
At least one bedroom. (no studios)
No major renovations required.
Small kitchen.
Within ten miles of coast, preferably walking distance to coast.
Walking distance to groceries
No mold.

I haven't decided on my minimum criteria as an investment, but I'm thinking if I found a property where the return (after expenses) was >5% I'd be ok with it.  The plan is to not carry a mortgage.

Anyway, this is the start.  I'll be adding in the details outlined in step #1 above over then next couple of weeks.   

Any advice / suggestions / experiences to share?

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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #1 on: June 28, 2015, 08:17:58 AM »
What is your plan to rent it?  AirBnB or longer term (month-to-month or annual lease--I don't know what's standard there)?

I'd start getting very familiar with their laws for both owning property as a foreigner as well as their for land lording.

Read them directly, read the previous cases, read experiences from others and talk to others, etc.

If do that even before you start looking at properties (beyond rough numbers to see if it's even viable, but once you confirm that, I wouldn't be looking at individual properties at all until you get that resolved and decide it's acceptable, personally).
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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #2 on: June 28, 2015, 09:28:24 AM »
A home in Italy? That's awesome but beware.  Italian law can be tricky and not just because of the language.  The bureaucracies and system itself are opaque, unreliable, and prone to maņana (or island time) sentiments.  The last isn't too bad if you have or intend to have it yourself.  But it can be a smack in the face if you have Northern European/American expectations of order and efficiency.  Fighting it just makes the players hostile and obstructive resulting in explosions of red tape, fines and related hassles. 

Hook yourself up with some friendly locals and expats who are in the know and who know people.  Be patient, polite, friendly, exercise your Italian, and roll with the punches.  It may still be painful but you'll know your got a shot at victory when the bureaucrats start fudging in your favor.

In a curious way Italy still resembles Ancient Rome in that getting ahead is very personality dependent.  It's still very much about who you know and being a people person.  Read or re read Dale Carnagie's How to Win Friends and Influence People

Malaysia41

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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #3 on: June 28, 2015, 09:48:41 AM »
A home in Italy? That's awesome but beware.  Italian law can be tricky and not just because of the language.  The bureaucracies and system itself are opaque, unreliable, and prone to maņana (or island time) sentiments.  The last isn't too bad if you have or intend to have it yourself.  But it can be a smack in the face if you have Northern European/American expectations of order and efficiency.  Fighting it just makes the players hostile and obstructive resulting in explosions of red tape, fines and related hassles. 

Hook yourself up with some friendly locals and expats who are in the know and who know people.  Be patient, polite, friendly, exercise your Italian, and roll with the punches.  It may still be painful but you'll know your got a shot at victory when the bureaucrats start fudging in your favor.

In a curious way Italy still resembles Ancient Rome in that getting ahead is very personality dependent.  It's still very much about who you know and being a people person.  Read or re read Dale Carnagie's How to Win Friends and Influence People

Ooh a challenge.  Now I'm inspired to win bureaucrats over.

I've read stories and blogs, articles and how-tos. More due diligence is demanded of the buyer vs in the states- no dumbly signing documents.

I'm already expecting manana time, hell - I'm used to that phenomenon living here in Malaysia.

One thing to look out for is to make sure the seller is in fact, one seller.  I've read accounts of buyers strung along by a gaggle of siblings where most wanted sell, but one did not.  All had equal share but could not force the hold out to give in. 

And ARS - airBnB is exactly the idea. Will need a local to let people in, maintain it.  So, that's another piece.  We'll see. It'll be fun going on the hunt at least.

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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #4 on: June 28, 2015, 12:17:33 PM »
There is a crack down on AirBnB (as with Uber) in a lot of countries, the tax implications for an AirBnB rental should be well researched if your hanging your hat on that income.

Does Italy have different rules for non-citizens who own property? Can they tax your income if you own property in their country?

Recommend joining http://www.internations.org/ and making friends with expats living in Italy to get their personal insights.

(I've looked into buying a retirement home in Eastern Europe, so I've found a lot of tax/income issues through my research.)

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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2015, 12:17:39 AM »
A home in Italy? That's awesome but beware.  Italian law can be tricky and not just because of the language.  The bureaucracies and system itself are opaque, unreliable, and prone to maņana (or island time) sentiments.  The last isn't too bad if you have or intend to have it yourself.  But it can be a smack in the face if you have Northern European/American expectations of order and efficiency.  Fighting it just makes the players hostile and obstructive resulting in explosions of red tape, fines and related hassles. 

Hook yourself up with some friendly locals and expats who are in the know and who know people.  Be patient, polite, friendly, exercise your Italian, and roll with the punches.  It may still be painful but you'll know your got a shot at victory when the bureaucrats start fudging in your favor.

In a curious way Italy still resembles Ancient Rome in that getting ahead is very personality dependent.  It's still very much about who you know and being a people person.  Read or re read Dale Carnagie's How to Win Friends and Influence People

Having lived in Italy for almost a year, I can't state it better than this.

From what I learned in my house hunting process, there is no open market for property.  Not really a craigslist, and no MLS per se.  Prices (whether to rent or buy) are very subjective and don't have a lot to do with similar properties used for comps.

I've also considered buying here, but I think the market has an asymmetric information flow and that I'd be on the wrong side of this. 

I would recommend you spend a long time (1-2 years) renting first and getting to know the market in and out, as well as potential handymen and managers.  Italians are very warm people, but as a long distance foreigner, you will be a very, very easy target to take advantage of.

Malaysia41

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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2015, 07:29:20 PM »
I'm feeling ambivalent about the prospect of buying property in Italy.  That's a good thing.  I get myself in trouble when I get obsessed with making a particular outcome happen - e.g. buying a property.

Nevertheless, I'm doing a little homework here and there.

For moving money over, I've gone with TorFX. 

1. An Aussie friend of mine moved hundreds of thousands of pounds and said that compared to the bank, he saved maybe 30,000.
2. Using online calculators from various exchange houses, TorFX gives some of the most favorable exchange rates.
3. No fees
4. Based in London
5. Excellent reviews

Other exchange houses that offered comparable rates seemed less established, or they were based in less trust-worthy countries like Lithuania. 

So I set up an account, sent in relevant documents, and was surprised to get a call from my account manager yesterday at a reasonable hour my time.  She had a few final questions, we completed the account and we were all set.  So friendly. 

So that piece is moving forward.

Malaysia41

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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2015, 07:34:24 PM »
Regarding that Australian friend: her brother owns two properties in the region of Italy that we're looking at.  She's sent him an outline of what we're thinking about and asked if he'd be willing to meet with us when we get there.  He's a CFO.  So he ostensibly knows money, and has experience buying property in the region.

She said they had to jump through all kinds of hoops when buying their properties. They've also gone through a few different property managers for the rental side of it.  I'll want to hear about all of that. Crossing fingers we'll get to meet up.

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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2015, 10:01:14 PM »
Good luck Malaysia41!  If you can roll with the Italian maņana attitude (I can't remember the exact Italian phrase for it) you're ahead of the game.  They've watched so many centuries roll by they have a real hard time taking deadlines and appointments seriously.

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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2015, 01:19:43 AM »
I am also dreaming of a Mediterranean villa. Or I'll settle for a condo walking distance to the beach. :)
I saw 9 properties my last time in Europe. One place is still on my mind.

But with the taxes, lack of land title offices, unstable euro, language barrier, questionable seller relative split ownership, issues renting & managing around the world and many more things I'm not sure.

A few things I did decide is that this purchase would; be a luxury, delay my FIRE, and should not be considered an investment.

If you can make the rent numbers work Great! But I would be prepared to "feed the kitty" on this kind of property.

Malaysia41

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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #10 on: July 22, 2015, 02:53:33 AM »
Yes, feed the kitty perhaps.  I'm not sure I want to put that much money into something that may fail to generate money.

I snap between dreaming of and dreading this purchase.  Regardless, I vowed to post info on logistics here.  So...

INHERITANCE TAX: (good news - it seems to be a non-issue).

Italy introduced an inheritance tax in 2006, and it is still in force. 

  • The tax is applicable to all Italian residents and also to non-residents who have properties in Italy.
  • Exemption for the first EUR1 million of assets and cash transferred to each beneficiary.

Even though the real estate is subject to inheritance tax, its value would be well below the exemption amount, so we needn't worry too much about it.  I realize we're young and this is not the most critical aspect to consider.  However, I didn't like the idea of dumping hundreds of k of dollars into a property only to immediately have 4-6% sunk in taxes. 



Malaysia41

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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2015, 02:55:27 AM »
New word: cadastral
kəˈdastr(ə)l/
adjective
(of a map or survey) showing the extent, value, and ownership of land, especially for taxation.

Malaysia41

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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2015, 03:07:49 AM »
TAXES ASSOCIATED WITH PURCHASE: (TBD).

(angloinfo.com article)

VAT Tax: depends if new construction or not. 

Registration: 7% since we are not residents

Stamp Duties: usually fixed amount but can be 1%

I downloaded a property guide from the Italian consulate in New York.  In-flight reading.

Malaysia41

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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #13 on: August 09, 2015, 12:17:50 AM »
Update!

We are in Sanremo right now, and we've been out to see eight properties.  We like two of them. 

In the first meeting with the realtors, we rattled off our requirements, but even as we voiced what we wanted, we began to question what it was we were really trying to do.  Investment? Be residents? Vacation home? etc.

We've decided we want - a place we could happily live in for years, but in the meantime, rent it out.  We like Sanremo because the costs are reasonable, it's a good sized town, the beaches are fine, and it has schools DS could attend. So we are starting with that.  Here are the details:

Rental Market
We've been strongly discouraged from renting to locals.  They don't pay much in rent, and if they stop paying, there's little recourse to evict them.  So that leaves us with holiday rentals. 3.5 months of the year are peak season.  2.5 months in summer, 2 weeks around Christmas, and 2 weeks around Easter.  Rental rates at peak season are 400-500 euros a week.  That's 5600 - 7000 euros a year.  Then, on off peak times, rates are more like 200-300/ week.  You can expect to have the place occupied about a month or two.  So that's another 1600-2400.  So total gross rent is 7200 to 9400 a year. 

Back-O-Napkin-Calc on one of the properties we like:
cost is 180k euros.  2 bedrooms.  2 balconies with decent view of sea and surrounding neighborhood.  Central location, but in good neighborhood - very rentable.  No repairs necessary - it's in good shape.  I would love to live there.

Cost: 180k + 4,200 VAT, + 1,200 some other fee, + 10,800k sales fees + 300 notoraio fees = 196,500 euros ($216k)

Income: let's say 7200/ year
Annual prop taxes: 600 euro (fed + local)
Maintenance : 800 euro
Prop management (10%) 720 euro
Income tax (23%) 1170
Income After Taxes and expenses: 4000 euro

Rate of return: 2.0%  - not great - but better than our Malaysian CDs!

Income Taxes Situation

I'm on the learning curve here, but this is my understanding so far:

As non-residents, income from the property would be taxed at 23%.  This means we must be in Italy less than 183 days a year, and no more than 3 months at a stretch.

As residents, it gets complicated because Italy would tax our world wide income. That's not a big deal as long as our tax bill in the US exceeds what it would be in Italy.  But if the inverse is true, then we'll owe income tax here. Here's my understanding so far on this topic. source: (Deloitte Italy Tax Guide 2015)

Capital gains and qualified distributions: ~50% of this income is not taxed.  The other 50% is taxed as ordinary income.
Ordinary income tax brackets:
0-15k: 23%
... to 28k: 27%
... to 55: 38%
... to 75: 41%
>75k: 43%  (yikes!)
Interest income: flat rate of 26%

Deductions:
* 800 euros per adult, ~1100 per kid
Credits:
* Medical costs  ( could be ~400 (19% of ~2000))

Okay, so, hypothetical, if this is our income:

Interest: 5000 euros
QDs/LTCGs: 10k euros
Passive RE Income: 30k euros

Italian tax: (assuming 5,000 euro deduction):
Interest:
  5,000*.26 = 1,300
Ord Income:
  15,000*.23=3450 
  13,000*.27 = 3510
  2,000*.38 = 760
-------------------------
9020 euro, minus 400 in credits = 8620 ($9482)  ... effective tax rate 19.2%

In the US...
LTCGs/QDs
  $11,000*.0 = $0 (if we stay in 15% tax bracket)
Ord Income: $38,500 minus deductions of about $25k (pers exemptions, child exemptions, tuition)
  $13,500*10% = $1350

Total US tax = $1350.... vs Italy $9482.

Uh, er, uh.  I've gotta be missing something here.  Perhaps I'm missing some deductions or other allowances. It seems the price for living in Italy may be approx $8000 a year - pretty high. I also need to make sure our income in the US keeps us in the 15% bracket. But we're not working, and I think I've considered all income sources.  Now, if I did a big 401k to Roth conversion, that could kick us over to a point where US tax exceeds Italy tax.  But in any case.  This is enough calculating for the morning.  Time to get on with our lovely day in this lovely town!
« Last Edit: August 09, 2015, 12:52:59 AM by Malaysia41 »

K-ice

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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #14 on: August 09, 2015, 11:28:17 PM »
I'm not an expert to evaluate the numbers.

But did you consider debt servicing or will you have no mortgage?

That will cut into your rate of return.

Also, for your income, when do you plan to visit? Has that been taken out of the rental income?

For my dream place we enjoy the shoulder season so July & August would be available for renters.


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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #15 on: July 28, 2016, 09:01:40 AM »
Just wondering how this all worked out for you? I've lived in Italy for the last 3 years. I'm working out a contract that will keep me here working for another 4 years. There are houses for sale close by that are cheap!

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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #16 on: July 28, 2016, 10:27:30 AM »
I am also dreaming of a Mediterranean villa. Or I'll settle for a condo walking distance to the beach. :)
I saw 9 properties my last time in Europe. One place is still on my mind.

But with the taxes, lack of land title offices, unstable euro, language barrier, questionable seller relative split ownership, issues renting & managing around the world and many more things I'm not sure.

A few things I did decide is that this purchase would; be a luxury, delay my FIRE, and should not be considered an investment.

If you can make the rent numbers work Great! But I would be prepared to "feed the kitty" on this kind of property.

I do not know about the OP but we never pulled the trigger on the property I wanted. We did walk past it this summer and it was purchased and being renovated. :(







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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #17 on: July 28, 2016, 12:53:39 PM »
Where in Italy are you? I have a foreign exchange student who is studying to be a notary whose family lives in  the Venice area and many of his family members do this work.  If you have specific questions I can ask him about them and try to get his advice!

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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #18 on: July 28, 2016, 01:51:18 PM »
I live approximately 40 minutes by train north of Venice in Fruili-Venezia Guilia in a town called Pordenone. I will find out this October if I am staying another 4 years (all signs are pointing to yes-just waiting on the budget to drop). If I do get to stay, I put in a 6 month notice on my rental and begin the house hunt!

Reasons for wanting to buy:
Newer houses are going cheap. (120k for a 4/2) These houses have central A/C, insulated walls, modern kitchens, all things unheard of in Italy.
There is a HUGE American presence here that isn't going away anytime soon (Army/Air Force/Contractors) which would make renting it out after we leave so much easier. (Could rent to my replacement for instance when my contract ends).
No capital gains tax after 5 years of ownership.
I haven't confirmed, but I believe you are excluded from many taxes if you are a first time buyer in Italy.
I have befriended Italian property managers that I would hire and know for sure wouldn't screw me over when I leave and turn my house into a rental.

I haven't done a ton of homework yet, mainly because I don't want to waste my time if I end up leaving next year, but a man can dream for now.

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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #19 on: July 28, 2016, 01:54:48 PM »
Also, I am protected by the SOFA Agreement which excludes me from paying any Italian tax at all. I just don't know if this includes property ownership....

To be clear, we do pay taxes here, but we get reimbursed.

Malaysia41

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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #20 on: July 28, 2016, 05:07:08 PM »
We decided against buying property in Italy, even though we are moving to Verona in a few weeks.  Main reason for not buying is because, as I understand it, we wouldn't get the tax advantages that come with a primary residence. This is because we own other property outside of Italy.

I kind of stopped the evaluation there. When we meet with our tax guy, I'll ask for his take on it.

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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #21 on: July 28, 2016, 05:41:59 PM »
We decided against buying property in Italy, even though we are moving to Verona in a few weeks.  Main reason for not buying is because, as I understand it, we wouldn't get the tax advantages that come with a primary residence. This is because we own other property outside of Italy.

I kind of stopped the evaluation there. When we meet with our tax guy, I'll ask for his take on it.

Don't let the (tax) tail wag the (lifestyle) dog.

If the difference in tax benefits won't threaten your ER, the tax implications should be WAY down the list on whether or not to purchase a property, IMO.
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Malaysia41

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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #22 on: July 28, 2016, 09:51:12 PM »
We decided against buying property in Italy, even though we are moving to Verona in a few weeks.  Main reason for not buying is because, as I understand it, we wouldn't get the tax advantages that come with a primary residence. This is because we own other property outside of Italy.

I kind of stopped the evaluation there. When we meet with our tax guy, I'll ask for his take on it.

Don't let the (tax) tail wag the (lifestyle) dog.

If the difference in tax benefits won't threaten your ER, the tax implications should be WAY down the list on whether or not to purchase a property, IMO.

We're still moving there. And rents are pretty reasonable. I stopped the evaluation but that doesn't mean I won't open it back up again. Besides, I want to get to know the town and take my time finding something I will love, that is, if we decide to buy a place.  In any case, I'm waiting to talk with Mauro, our tax guy, to get his advice.

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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #23 on: July 28, 2016, 10:09:46 PM »
We decided against buying property in Italy, even though we are moving to Verona in a few weeks.  Main reason for not buying is because, as I understand it, we wouldn't get the tax advantages that come with a primary residence. This is because we own other property outside of Italy.

I kind of stopped the evaluation there. When we meet with our tax guy, I'll ask for his take on it.

Don't let the (tax) tail wag the (lifestyle) dog.

If the difference in tax benefits won't threaten your ER, the tax implications should be WAY down the list on whether or not to purchase a property, IMO.

We're still moving there. And rents are pretty reasonable. I stopped the evaluation but that doesn't mean I won't open it back up again. Besides, I want to get to know the town and take my time finding something I will love, that is, if we decide to buy a place.  In any case, I'm waiting to talk with Mauro, our tax guy, to get his advice.

Yeah, I'd definitely live in any place for at least a year before buying.  But I was just pointing out that I don't think you should hinge a buying decision on the tax implications, unless it'll break your FI.  :)
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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #24 on: July 29, 2016, 08:21:14 AM »
We decided against buying property in Italy, even though we are moving to Verona in a few weeks.  Main reason for not buying is because, as I understand it, we wouldn't get the tax advantages that come with a primary residence. This is because we own other property outside of Italy.

I kind of stopped the evaluation there. When we meet with our tax guy, I'll ask for his take on it.

Don't let the (tax) tail wag the (lifestyle) dog.

If the difference in tax benefits won't threaten your ER, the tax implications should be WAY down the list on whether or not to purchase a property, IMO.

We're still moving there. And rents are pretty reasonable. I stopped the evaluation but that doesn't mean I won't open it back up again. Besides, I want to get to know the town and take my time finding something I will love, that is, if we decide to buy a place.  In any case, I'm waiting to talk with Mauro, our tax guy, to get his advice.

Ahh, Verona is beautiful. Only about 2.5 hours from where I live. Unfortunately I don't know any property managers out that way.  Definitely get to know the town and the people. Knowing somebody who knows somebody is the best way to not get screwed over as Italians are very concerned with their reputation.

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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #25 on: July 29, 2016, 11:25:16 AM »
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene...
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and are now settled with two kids.
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Malaysia41

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Re: Evaluating Italian property
« Reply #26 on: July 30, 2016, 08:11:00 PM »
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene...

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

( from memory FYI- ds and I have memorized 12 lines of the prologue) :)