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How to Buy Property in Puglia

Until a couple of years ago purchasing property in Puglia relied on luck and speaking the language. Now all this is changing, as estate agents start acquiring some English, and gaining knowledge of what foreign buyers expect of them. But you will still find it hard to walk into an estate agent’s office and get much information about the properties they offer, their details and location.

There ia a large number of new agencies sprung up to meet the demand from foreign buyers, and it is important to choose an established, experienced and reoputable agent.

Fortunately help is on hand, with a number of English-based companies offering internet shop windows for property. Choose one with local representatives in Puglia who can help with finding suitable houses to view and if necessary interpret during viewings. They can offer guidance on the purchase, from making offers through to completion, and may also offer after-sales service, including advice on restoration and providing contacts for professionals and tradesmen.

Although the buying process appears similar to that in England there are significant differences in approach and it helps to have someone with local knowledge and experience. The practice in Puglia is not even necessarily the same as, for example, Tuscany.

Italians do not normally have surveys performed prior to purchase, but an English agent will be able to advise whether this is appropriate, or whether a quote for renovation works should be obtained before commitment.

On the legal side a public notary ensures a valid sale, and collects the government tax on house purchase. He or she works neither for vendor not purchaser, but the costs are usually paid by the buyer. Italians do not usually seek independent legal advice. A reputable Italian estate agent should liaise closely with the notary to ensure that any problems of the sale are identified and dealt with.

One hurdle the prospective buyer has to face is acting quickly enough to secure the vendor’s commitment to sell. Puglians act swiftly in making purchases and sales. There is no “under offer” period as in the UK, and a vendor could well sell to another buyer or withdraw the property if there is any lengthy delay between making an offer and signing a contract. It’s best to be decisive, and only employ a solicitor if problems arise.

It can take as little as a couple of weeks from signing a contract to completion. The buyer will require an Italian tax code, which can be obtained in the UK from the Italian Consulate, and it is helpful, if not essential, to open an Italian bank account, especially if the buyer is expecting to spend extended periods in Puglia.

Laws are changing rapidly under the Prodi government regarding the declaration of sale values and registration of payment for property, in general for the buyer this is good news as you can for a habitable property declare the full sale price as well as the lower fiscal value on which purchase taxes are payable.

After the purchase it is usually a straightforward and quick process to get electricity or water contracts switched to the new occupier, and the agent may assist with registration for local council taxes – ICI – which is generally very low compared with Britain, and the refuse tax. Electricity is usually the only mains utility connected to a rural property, and it is easy to pay bills over the internet or by direct debit. Most properties outside towns rely on underground tanks for their water supply, filled either by rainwater or by water tanker delivery in summer. Sewage disposal is normally by a septic tank or soakaway.

The new owner will need to get a permit to stay in Italy for longer than 3 months at a time. The rules for this and residence have recently changed (April 2007) and it is now no longer necessary to apply initially at a main questura or police station, application can be made at a major post office or, preferably, at the local town hall. You may, however, have to produce evidence of means and health insurance.