Closing a property in Italy

Buying a Place in Italy

We decided to do a series of BLOGs on our experience in buying a house in Italy. We are not saying that the way we did it, will be for everyone. It did work for us and we are very happy with the decision. Many books talk about the horrible red tape in dealing with Italy but we had a very smooth ride through the whole process. Things do go slower in Italy which is really good for your health and blood pressure. The main advice is to remember things are done differently there than here. So relax and enjoy the experience …

We started looking in Tuscany (as all Americans do) but the prices are just too high. We wanted it all, a Seaview, a mountain view, a nice place with modern conveniences, a real Italian city void of tourists and the right price. Impossible right? Well we got it all and at our budget. We saw a place that was in a newly constructed building (a rarity in Italy) and it had fantastic mountain and a Seaview. It was a few kilometers from the beach. When we saw the price we thought it must be a time share but it was to purchase. It is a building with 4 units per floor and two main floors. There was a penthouse occupied by one of the owners children and two more units in the basement opening out onto the yard.

We actually put a non refundable down-payment on it without seeing it in person. We walked the city it is in on Google Earth and the beach towns near by but never went to see it first hand. Finally iin May of 2013 we were on the Amalfi coast on our honeymoon and met the realtor and made the 1.5 hour trip south to the small town of Velina. We saw it for the first time. It is VERY small but the views are to die for. No kitchen or closets which are normal in Europe. We loved it.

Over the next 6 months we had a kitchen installed, a bed and a table with chairs. We then went to stay in our place for the first time over Thanksgiving. We bought a love seat and wo chairs which can be used inside or taken out on to our deck to enjoy the views. Having wine and cheese out on the deck was what it was all about. We couldn’t wait to explore the area.

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Our beautiful new home

We had to get closing money from dollars to Euros and from our American bank account to an Italian one. At closing you need the equivalent here of a certified check (actually two – one to the people you are buying from and one to the person doing the closing and covering taxes etc.). This was quite a chore! First, as I have said in this BLOG, exchange rates were high when we bought. Banks tack on 4-10% extra on a transaction. If you are getting $1,000 to $2,000 for vacation it is bad but too bad. If you are moving $100,000 plus it really hurts. I investigated how to get around this. I found a company in the UK that lets you wire dollars to them (no bank fees at this end) and buys Euros for you. They deal in billions of Euros so they give you the World Bank Rates (no extra fees added on) for large sums of money. We did not yet have an Italian bank account because our country requires foreign banks to only open accounts for Americans if they are present. The UK firm held the money and we departed on our honeymoon to Italy.

We were scheduled to open an Italian bank account in Positano the second week of our trip. Then I would text the account number to the UK and our money (in Euros now) would be transferred. After meeting with the bank manager in Positano, he informed us that we can not open an account at his branch because we did not live in Positano. He suggested going to the branch near our new home in Agropoli (1.5 hours away). We were scheduled to go and see the new place on that Wednesday but closing was Saturday in Rome. Not much time for error. We went to Agropoli and had no problems opening an account. I wired the UK the account number and they transferred the money instantly. The catch is Italian banks don’t always deposit wired monies instantly. Thursday came and no money yet. Friday showed our money. So we did it with no room for error.

Now we had to go back to the branch in Positano (where we were staying) to the manager that had rejected us and get the required certified checks. To our amazement he did it quickly and with no problems. The next day Saturday we drove to Rome (about 3.5 hours). We checked into a hotel for one night (we had a morning flight back to the states on Sunday). At closing we met the owner and his family and the man doing the closing. Our realtor was our translator. All documents were in both Italian and English. The family we bought from was Gina Lollobrigida’s family (her cousin). The closing went well. We were asked questions and owner stipulated our parking spot and the fact that we could use the common property. Everything was written in the official document describing the property. Monies were paid and we were given a set of keys. After closing we all went to a bar for a coffee. È normale!

The saddest thing for us was getting on a plane back to the States with a set of keys to an Italian house we had never used.

There is no kitchen or furniture in our new place. It would be like camping out with a bathroom to stay like this (Jo is not a camper – She has always told be camping is staying in a Hilton with only one bathroom). So we look for a kitchen. Kitchens come in modular form with cabinets, sink, refrigerator, stove and cook top. You can also get a dish washer at the expense of cabinets. We decide on not getting a dishwasher. We did not like the kitchens in the other units of our place. Our condo manager (the owner’s daughter) helps us remotely. We look at kitchen places in Rome but delivery is way too expensive. Maria manages to find a wood cabinet (dark stain) kitchen with everything we want.

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We have a new kitchen

She negotiates a kitchen with a table and 6 chairs for the price of the kitchen. We then decide to get a bed (mattress and frame – Italians do not use a box spring) from the same place. They come and install the kitchen and setup our bed. We are not ready to come back to Velina without camping out.

We find online that our Home Land Security requires a form documenting any foreign deposits over $50,000. If your account had $50,000 or more, even for a day, you must declare it. This is NOT an IRS form. So I download the form and fill it out. The fines are huge if you are caught without doing this. We are now ready for our Thanksgiving in Velina Italy.

As we get familiar with our town, we keep staring at the views all around us. We look like tourists that have never seen a beach or mountains. The views are so spectacular here. The weather is tropical and always great. Some mornings we wake to see snow on the mountains around us. We are interested in buying some furniture to sit on in our unit. We want some that can be taken out on the deck as well as be inside. There are many furniture stores around us (called Mobili in Italian which literally means furnishings). We find a store with very interesting furniture next to our supermercato. It is closed but we window shop and make a note to return after 4 pm when everything reopens. This store has everything. In Italy they don’t like to turn the heat on in the winter. The manager of the store greets us (Buon Giorno) with a heavy coat on. It is actually much colder inside these thick walls than outside where it is mild. We look at bedroom sets as well but decide to buy these at a later time. We do find a wicker set that has two chairs, a table and a love seat. It’s a perfect size for our small apartment.

I ask the man if they take credit cards (carte di credito). But he says only cash (solo contanti). We have an Italian ATM card for our Italian Bank Account and we know there is an ATM in town. He loads the furniture onto his truck without any payment and follows us into town. We stop to get the cash and he continues to follow us up the hill to our place. He unloads all the furniture and carries it up to our unit refuting any help. He waits for us to arrange it and sit on it and smile. He then accepts the payment. Why are we so shocked when people act so kind?

After taking all the wrappings off the pillows and seat cushions, we arrange the furniture about 5 times. It fits perfect and looks great.

The Condo and the Mountain beyond

It provides us with ample seating inside to relax and when we take it outside we can have some wine and cheese while we take in the views. This is Italy! Life moves at a slower more enjoyable rate. We can feel the tensions drain off after a few days. We are Italians while we are here. We shop only for today and maybe tomorrow morning. We buy only what is grown or made fresh. Italians take a lot of pride in their food and will only buy what is made in Italy. This very small place seems adequate and almost spacious as we settle into Italian life. Life is good.

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The New Furniture

The furniture is portable so we can move it out onto our deck to enjoy the views.

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Categories: Amalfi Coast, Banking, Beaches, Campania, Casal Velino, Cash, Cilento, Closing a property in Italy, Europe, Food, General Travel, Italian, Italian Banks, Italy, Mountains, Owning a home in Italy, Shopping, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Traveling without a tour, Velina, World Bank Rates | Tags: , | 6 Comments

Buying and retiring in Southern Italy

As my readers know, we bought a condo in southern Campania (southern Italy) in 2013. It is about 1.5 hours south of the Amalfi Coast and 2 hours south of Naples. Maybe closer if I drive really really fast. We had no intention to buy a home but while looking for a vacation villa, we came across our new home. The taxes are much lower than in the states, food (outside the big cities) is cheaper and the beaches and mountains are beautiful. The people are friendly and endearing.

We plan to retire there about half time when my wife retires and spend the other half time at our condo in Florida north of Tampa. Both places are cheaper to live and have a good tax structure. Both have great beaches (Clearwater Beach was voted America’s best beach). Italy has better views of both mountains and the sea and has better ancient cities to visit. Life is what you make it. Retirement, in my opinion, should be fun, stimulating and interesting.

This BLOG explores how we bought that condo in Italy, nearby cities as well as Italy’s big major cities. My wife writes a BLOG specifically on Southern Campania. Explore Italy on your vacations and decide if this is a place for you to retire.

Kathleen Peddicord wrote an article on retiring to an affordable Italy for Money.

George

 

Categories: Amalfi Coast, Beaches, Campania, Closing a property in Italy, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Naples, Owning a home in Italy, Xpats | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Journey to Own a Home in Italy

 

Many of our readers ask us about owning a home or condo in Italy. What is involved? How did we do it? We bought a condo with a sea view in Velina Italy in Campania. It was a scary and wonderful experience at the same time.  This BLOB is about what you must do after you bought the new place. You need furniture, kitchen ware and storage (Italy doesn’t have closets).

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OK now you bought a home in another country. You bought a kitchen so you could cook (these are typically not included in a sale). You bought a bed to sleep on maybe a couch and table and chairs. Oh the fun is just beginning! What about all those small things around the house you need but don’t have in your new place. Here is a small list of items we had to get at a local IKEA in Italy:

  1. Bed linens, pillows and a blanket
  2. Mattress pad
  3. Mirror
  4. Toilet brush
  5. Hooks for towels
  6. Math mat
  7. Kitchen towels
  8. Hot pads
  9. Silverware
  10. Pots and pans
  11. Cooking utensils
  12. Wine & water glasses
  13. Bowls
  14. Cork screw and beer bottle opener
  15. Sharp knives
  16. Cheese grater
  17. Cutting boards
  18. Callender
  19. Can opener
  20. Pasta spoon
  21. Napkins
  22. Place mats
  23. Storage containers
  24. Tools (metric system)
  25. Scissors

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Oh the necessities of life are fun. The other problem we will have is we are planning on stopping at IKEA on our way from the airport to our new home. No problem you think? The cars in Italy are tiny. 2 American suitcases and a bunch of stuff from IKEA may strain the car’s capacities. Even so it will be fun and an adventure! We actually had to make a trip back up to the IKEA (about 2 hours) to get our stuff.

The kitchen is small by American standards and the refrigerator is tiny but we must remember we are in Italy! You don’t shop for weeks, you don’t buy processed foods or even frozen foods. You buy fresh each day for what you will need. Suddenly the refrigerator seems large. If you are planning to buy in Europe or live for an extended time, live like the locals. Forget the way you do things back home. It  is, after all, an adventure into learning.

On subsequent trips we bought furniture and a bedroom set with a large armoire. Now we had a place to sleep, eat and lounge. We also had plenty of storage. As we write this BLOG we are having a AC unit installed to help on those few still hot and muggy nights. This summer was the hottest anyone remembers. Be adventuresome!

George & Jo Anne

Categories: Campania, Closing a property in Italy, Europe, IKEA, Italy, Velina, Xpats | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Buying a Home in Italy

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We have posted this before but so many people ask about buying in Europe that We are reposting it.

It has recently occurred to us that we may be a bit crazy.  After all, We don’t personally know anyone who has purchased a home or condo in Italy, sight unseen and several hours from any major airport in parts unheard of in Southern Campania.  Yup, we did that . . .and we weren’t on a lot of wine.

It all began with innocent web browsing of rental villas, which led to innocent web browsing of villas for sale which led to the “find”, which led to our decision to pursue until we hit a road-block.  No, we were not currently “on the market” to buy an Italian villa, apartment or piccola villa when this began.  We were simply looking for some villas to rent while in Italy.  We have always had a latent interest in real estate;  you could say our hobby was browsing properties anywhere that may currently intrigue us in the interest of understanding what you can get for your money.  This hobby turned international as we traveled to Italy (first time for Jo Anne) over New Years in 2011/2012 and fell completely in love with Roma, Pompeii and Orvieto and continued as we planned our honeymoon in Southern Italy to Capri, Sorrento and Positano.  One day, as we were reviewing options for rental villas, we thought ” We wonder how much it would cost to buy these villas?”  It never occurred to us that we could or would actually buy one, this was just pure curiosity.

Initially, We located some properties that Americanos would call “fixers” in the region of Abruzzo.  The Italians would refer to such properties as “storico” or “historic” and the properties would basically be noted as in need of full renovation, BUT, one could purchase a free-standing small house with a beautiful view in this condition in this beautiful but somewhat isolated area for as little as $35,000 to $50,000 euros.  Wow, our minds took quite a detour thinking of all the possibilities and how romantic that would be.  This incredible find encouraged us to continue exploring options all over Italy.  We found something in a city called Agropoli (which neither of us had ever heard of) with a beautiful crescent-shaped view of a curved bay along the Mediterranean ($165,000 euros) and no mention of renovations needed.  Now, We was really hooked.

As our searching continued, we located a stunning NEW property in an area called Casal Velino, that was beautiful.  Although we had no intent of buying a property in Italia, when we saw the price, we could not stop ourselves from inquiring with the realtor about it – surely at this price, it must be a time-share property, we thought, not even knowing if that concept existed in Italy.  The realtor from Property Organisers, promptly replied that no, there was no time-share involved, but rather that price included outright ownership of this condo which was located high on a hill about 2 kilometers from the Mediterranean (actually the Tyrrhenian Sea there) with panoramic view of both the sea and layers of nearby mountains.  WOW!

We decided to continue this remote (both in distance and in possibility) dialogue with the realtor and received additional information including floor plans, interior pictures and GPS coordinates.  We “Google Earthed” the general vicinity, and virtually traveled the nearby roads down to the ocean, but were unable to actually “find” the building through Google Earth and the view in the pictures we received did not seem to match the location of the coordinates.  It seems that Casal Velino actually includes several nearby areas, some of which are interchangeably called other names, such as Velina, Castelnuovo Cilento and others including the original centro storico.  This entire area is located between the town of Marina di Casal Velino, a designated Blue Flag beach on the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Cilento National Park (the largest national park in Italy and a UNESCO World Heritage Site).  Additionally, the street on which the building was located, Contrada San Nicola, popped up in multiple nearby locations with at least two different roads in the area using this name.  After receiving a new set of GPS coordinates, we were able to locate the exact building.  During this time, we were also able to determine which condos were still available and which of these had the best view.  Our favorite was the highest floor available that faced the sea.

By now, our wedding and honeymoon were two months away.   Our “innocent” inquiries took a sudden turn in the direction of seriousness when we decided to place a non-refundable deposit on this property that we did not intend to buy and scheduled settlement for two months later on the last day of our honeymoon.  At 4:00 pm on that day (the day before we were to return to the States) we received the keys to our condo.  The next morning we were on a plane back to the U.S. Our honeymoon might technically be over, but our apartment is the insurance policy that will provide many return adventures “happily ever after”!

We were about to live our own Under the Tuscan Sun experience in Southern Italy.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Agropoli, Beaches, Campania, Casal Velino, Casal Velino Marina, Castelnuovo Cilento, Closing a property in Italy, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Marina Casal Velino, Owning a home in Italy, Romance, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Under the Tuscan Sun, Velina | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How to buy a Place in Italy – Part 20

If you are contemplating buying a place in Italy or anywhere in Europe you must consider the lifestyle of that area. Europeans live different from we do. You should understand that and adjust your expectations. Some things to be considered are:

  1. Car sizes are typically smaller. This is because gas is so much more expensive (about $10/gallon in Italy but cars get 50-70 mpg). There are also many small cities where a larger car will NOT fit through the streets. We like having a hatchback in Italy. You can fold down the seats and carry most things you buy easily. You can find big american cars like Jeeps but they are rare and you need to be well off to afford to operate them.
  2. Cars are usually stick shift. Mountain roads are windy and many do not have guard rails (similar to California). Using your brakes on a downhill can wear them out and cause a fatal accident. Stick Shift (manual transmission) offers lower gears to help slow the car down without breaking.
  3. People in Europe tend to live outside even in winter. Their houses are very small by our standards. Kitchens are small, bathrooms are small and bedrooms are small. Houses and condo’s of 300-5– sq ft are large there. There always are large palatial mansions for millions of dollars but the typical home is small. Italians love to eat outside with family and friends. Balconies and decks are common.
  4. There are typically no closets. You need to buy an armoire (wardrobe) for your clothes.
  5. You usually do not get a kitchen even in a resale. There are furniture stores (Mobile) that sell full kitchens with cabinets and appliances.
  6. A typical day has stores open in morning until about 12:30 or 1 pm. Then everything except restaurants and touristy places close down. They reopen around 4pm and stay open until 8 or 9 pm. During the noon break, families spend time together. They eat lunch, walk together and meet up with friends. If you are looking for something during this closed time, you will not find it. Plan your day with this in mind.
  7. Wine is always cheaper when order as “House Wine” (vino di casa). It comes by the glass, 1/2 liter or full liter carafe. Some restaurants do sell bottles of wine but they are more expensive.

The most important thing about buying a Place in Italy is having fun! Determine what your most important criteria is. Ours was views. Set your budget. You can negotiate as you do here. Understand all your monthly bills (water, gas, electric, garbage and taxes). These can be paid monthly, every 2 or 3 months, semi annually or annually (depending on the area). Once you buy, make friends with your neighbors and store owners in town. Italians are friendly people and love Americans.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Closing a property in Italy, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Money, Owning a home in Italy, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to buy a Place in Italy – Part 5

Finally we arrive at our place in Italy. Staying 11 days here is a joy. It is off-season here. This area has many permanent residents but also it is a huge beach resort area. Our building is empty except for us. Our first task is hoping our clicker works on the gate. As we drive down the driveway we click it and viola the gate swings open. Now to get into the building and our unit. The keys all work flawlessly. We open our unit and it is clean and the kitchen looks great. We have a bed and a table & chairs to sit at. We have all the necessities! I have to go out on our deck and turn on the water and gas lines so the furnace can make hot water and heat at night. The electric is on already. We turn the thermostat on and in a few minutes we have some heat. We don’t need much because the temperature is very mild. After unloading the car and getting settled we are ready to buy supplies, silverware, glasses, etc.

We drive about an hour back up to the A3 autostrada in Salerno to an IKEA store. It is the same blue and yellow as here. We park in their huge parking garage and enter the store. We had gone to IKEA in Philadelphia and noted everything we would need. So we walked around and found things pretty much in the same order here. We found everything we needed. Two shopping carts full! We headed to the checkout. A woman directed us to a lane that was free. It was self checkout. WE used the wand on everything and completed our checkout. Now to pay by credit card. Oh no the credit card machine was missing! She transferred out purchase to another teller (with a long line of Italians waiting). We jumped in front and paid by credit card. What an experience. We headed back home. Along the way we went through a main area of Buffalo Mozzarella. We stopped for lunch at a nice little Trattoria. Inside were groups of Italian families having lunch. It was Saturday so everyone was taking their time. We ate the best Pasta con vongole (Pasta with clams), wine, fish and dessert. It was wonderful. The last thing I wanted to do now was drive back but we did.

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Missing Credit card Reader at IKEA

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Loaded car at Supermercato

After unloading everything at the house we still need some food and lights, lamps, glasses for water and wine, etc. There is a Supermercato in our town. It was food on the first floor, glasses, lights, lamps, dishes, mirrors, trash cans, etc on the top floor and washing machines and TVs in the basement. We bought some for and all the remaining items we needed to set up our home. In Italy business shut down between 1 and 4 pm. We were the last ones out of the store. They closed and locked the door behind us.

Italian refrigerators are very small compared to those in America but you don’t need a large refrigerator. Everyone buys fresh and only for today and maybe tomorrow. So we were in Italy … when in Italy … do as the Italians do. At 4 pm when the stores opened we shopped at a pastry store, cheese store, homemade chocolate store, pasta store, buffalo mozzarella store and bread store. Finally we found a fresh fruit & vegetable stand. The father and son brought everything in from the farm fresh. Things still had dirt on them and all the fruit had leaves. This produce was wonderful. The tomatoes were so much better than even the best Jersey tomatoes in the summer. The pears were juicy and so flavorful. Buying fresh each day is so wonderful and we have lost it here in America. Fruit and vegetables are picked early so they transport better but they never taste great. We pay a hefty price!

Eating breakfast on our deck looking at the sea and mountains puts you in a great place. It is better than meditation. Unfortunately the week is going way to fast.

On Monday we will discuss touring the area we live in and the great beaches there.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Closing a property in Italy, Cooking, Eating Italian, Europe, General Travel, IKEA, Italy, Supermercato, Velina, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to buy a Place in Italy – Part 2

Yesterday I gave an overview on buying our place in Italy. Today we back up in time to before the closing. We had to get closing money from dollars to Euros and from our American bank account to an Italian one. At closing you need the equivalent here of a certified check (actually two – one to the people you are buying from and one to the person doing the closing and covering taxes etc.). This was quite a chore! First, as I have said in this BLOG, exchange rates are high. Banks tack on 4-10% extra on a transaction. If you are getting $1,000 to $2,000 for vacation it is bad but too bad. If you are moving $100,000 plus it really hurts. I investigated how to get around this. I found a company in the UK that lets you wire dollars to them (no bank fees at this end) and buys Euros for you. They deal in billions of Euros so they give you the World Bank Rates (no extra fees added on) for large sums of money. We did not yet have an Italian bank account because our country requires foreign banks to only open accounts for Americans if they are present. The UK firm held the money and we departed on our honeymoon to Italy.

WE were scheduled to open an Italian bank account in Positano the second week of our trip. Then I would text the account number to the UK and our money (in Euros now) would be transferred. After meeting with the bank manager in Positano, he informed us that we can not open an account at his branch because we did not live in Positano. He suggested going to the branch near our new home in Agropoli (1.5 hours away). WE were scheduled to go and see the new place on that Wednesday but closing was Saturday in Rome. Not much time for error. WE went to Agropoli and had no problems opening an account. I wired the UK the account number and they transferred the money instantly. The catch is Italian banks don’t always deposit wired monies instantly. Thursday cam and no money yet. Friday showed our money. So we did it with no room for error.

Now we had to go back to the branch in Positano (where we were staying) to the manager that had rejected us and get certified checks. To our amazement he did it quickly and with no problems. The next day Saturday we drove to Rome (about 3.5 hours). We checked into a hotel for one night (we had a morning flight back to the states on Sunday). At closing we met the owner and his family and the man doing the closing. Our realtor was our translator. All documents were in both Italian and English. The family we bought from was Gina Lollobrigida’s family (her cousin). The closing went well. We were asked questions and owner stipulated our parking spot and the fact that we could use the common property. Everything was written in the official document describing the property. Monies were paid and we were given a set of keys. After closing we all went to a bar for a coffee.

The saddest thing for us was getting on a plane back to the States with a set of keys to an Italian house we had never used. But the story continues …. Next I will describe the process of getting a kitchen, bed and table with chairs remotely. We will also discuss filings we had to do with our Homeland security.

George  Jo Anne

 

Categories: Closing a property in Italy, Europe, Italian Banks, Italy | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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