The purchasing process
1. Written bid
Those who wish to buy a property in Italy should fill in, as a first stage, an offer form, the so called "Proposta d'acquisto"; with that, the intended buyer formally communicates his/her bid price to the vendor, clarifying other contractual terms such as the means of payment, the expiration date of the proposal, a schedule of subsequent stages till the conveyance, possible suspensive or resolutive conditions (i.e. the bid is valid only if the intended buyer is granted a mortgage loan by the bank)). To show evidence of a full commitment from the buyer's side, it is a common practice to require a sum of money enclosed to the form, as a deposit or down payment ("Caparra confirmatoria", art. 1385 of Italian Civil Law). The down payment is commonly a non-negotiable bank cheque made out to the vendor, kept by the agent until the bid is accepted and the form signed by the seller. From this moment on, the contract is binding and the party pulling out has to compensate the other with the whole amount of the down payment (the buyer loses the deposit, the seller has to pay double the deposit received).
2. Preliminary Contract ("Contratto Preliminare" or "Compromesso")
The preliminary contract binds both parties to proceed to the conveyance ("Rogito"), the final deed of sale, by a predetermined date, at given contractual conditions. Elements which are to be included in the contract are: personal details of buyer and seller, a full description of the property for sale, details of previous purchase deeds, mortgages and other adverse entries on the property (rights of ways), details of planning and building permits, the agreed selling price for the property, terms of payment and possible suspending or resolving conditions. The sum paid by the buyer (20/30% of the agreed total price) at the signing of the preliminary contract s normally considered, in legal terms, a down payment ("Caparra confirmatoria") as in the previous stage. The party pulling out is bound to compensate the other with this sum (plus the down payment made at the time of the written bid). As above, if the buyer draws back from his/her obligations, he/she loses the whole amount paid; in case it is the seller to pull out, he/she has to pay pack double the amount received. Alternatively to a compensation, the counterpart has the faculty to ask the judge to force the withdrawing side to comply with the obligations stated in the contract. The preliminary contract must be written and it should be stamped ("Registrato") and registered in the Land Registry ("Trascritto").
3. The conveyance ("Atto di compravendita" or "Rogito")
This is a formal act, necessarily prepared in a written form by a notary ("Notaio") or other authorized public official, at the presence of both parties or appointed attorneys.
For the deed to be valid, some additional documents are required and need to be handed to the notary by the seller before the deed takes place: copy of the building permit or conditional amnesty, cadastral plan (if required by the buyer), certificate of habitability ("Certificato di agibilità"), certificate of destination if the property includes some land.
Houses are normally sold in their entirety ("a corpo"), which means that the agreed price refers to the property as a whole and it is not a price per square meter or cubic meter. The legal ownership is normally transferred at the conveyance, if not otherwise stated in the contract. The vendor is liable for any hidden defects ("Vizi occulti") and for third parties' claims on the property ("Evizione").
The main obligation for the buyer consists in paying the agreed amount to the seller at the time of the conveyance or at the moment of the actual ownership's transfer, if this is subsequent.