My wife Jo Anne and I bought a home in Italy in 2013 and went through the experience of opening a bank account, transferring money into the account, dealing with the difference in the exchange rates and finally the closing meeting. When you’re buying something expensive like a property, exchange rates can quickly add up. An extra 10% or $10,000 on each hundred thousand dollars can significantly add to the cost of the property. Finding a way of exchanging dollars to euros inexpensively was a must.
We chose a British firm that has offices in the United States, World First USA Inc. You can wire dollars to them and they then transfer them to euros and wire the euros to your Italian bank account. You can get a contract that states if the money arrives in a certain number of days this is how many euros you’ll get. We did this and received close to the world bank rate which is the cheapest you’re ever going to get.
Now we had euros to purchase our new home in our British temporary account. We now needed to open an Italian bank account and then transfer those euros into it. We found a problem for US citizens that our homeland security requires foreign banks to not open an account for an US citizen unless they are present so passports and IDs can be checked to make sure it’s you. This was a real problem for us because we would have had to fly over to Italy to open an account and then fly back to the US to wire the money because in those days our bank would not allow international wires that were initiated remotely. This would have cost an extra $2,000 – $3,000 in airfare and hotels which was ridiculous!
We then flew to Italy, opened the Italian bank account and then had the money wired into it just worked perfect for us. Opening this Italian account was no easy task. Our real estate broker had a meeting with an Italian bank, Banco di Napoli, set up to open an account while we were in Positano. When we got there we found the bank manager, Paolo. He told us that he had never opened a bank account for anyone that lived outside of the Positano area and we were two hours south of Positano.
Luckily on Wednesday, we were going to go see our new home with our real estate broker, but that would only be three days before closing. We went another branch of that bank about 20 minutes from our new home. Finally, we had an Italian bank account. I then texted the transfer company and ask them to wire the euros into the new account and they told us in Italy this can take anywhere from 2 to 3 days even though the wire goes in immediately.
On Thursday we check the account and see no money. Friday was the last day we would be able to get the money needed for settlement. We checked the account again on Friday and luckily, there it was. Now we went back to the bank that wouldn’t let us open an account in Positano to get two cashiers checks, one for the closing company and one for the owners that we were buying the property from.
On Saturday we drove up to Rome and checked into our hotel room for the evening. Our closing was later that afternoon. Closing went relatively easily. Everything is done written on a long piece of paper and translated from Italian to English. We were told that the Italian document is the official one if there’s a difference. Once the closing was over we celebrated it with a picture taken, see below, and everybody was happy. The owners of the condominium made their money and we got a new Italian condominium.
One thing to remember is that things in Italy can take time and not everything happens on your schedule, so relax, try to get things accomplished but when they don’t happen, don’t get upset – just find another way.