How to find real estate in Italy

Real estate agent in italy and how they work
Real estate agency in italy
Finding & talking to an agent in Italy

How can foreigners find property in italy?

There are many websites so it can be a little frustrating. You have to dig deep.

  • If the website doesn’t look serious then the agent probably isn’t. Maybe take that as a warning. More on that in a moment.
  • If a house listing doesn’t feature the front of the house as the main listing photo that might be a warning the house isn’t great. You also want to see what’s around the house, not just the house.
  • Does the agent speak English or your language?
  • Are they experienced in dealing with foreign buyers? This is important. Make sure they’re not just saying they’re specialists. If their Website isn’t in English I’d walk away. They’ll probably be very difficult to work with and not just because of language.

There are many websites, but they can be badly designed so it can be a little frustrating as it’s not always obvious to the agent that a foreign buyer needs detailed information. You have to be a hunter to sniff out the good deals and great houses.

Most agent’s photography here is a disaster, even some of the top agents. You have to work around this, it doesn’t mean the house is bad it just means the agent can’t be bothered to watch a 10-minute YouTube video on how to photograph a house. I can’t explain that one..

If they look untrustworthy, it’s up to you but I would walk away. If they advise you things against this guide be cautious and ask questions.

What about small, local agencies? Generally, you’ll find that they can’t help you. Even local people might find them frustrating to work with. Check their reviews on Google. It’s actually worth doing just for a laugh. You can click on ‘Translate’ on Google Chrome.

Moving to the next step

Be a bit of an Einstein

Einstein said: “If you give me a problem to be solved in one hour I will probably spend 55 minutes asking questions.”

Ask questions - but please do this with some control. The agent is not working just for you and is working for free at this point. Understand what a challenging job it can be to try to keep everybody happy. Choose your questions carefully and avoid just being curious.

I love to tell a long story - ask my wife.. but agents are so busy and might overlook emails that tell a life story - make sure the information is relevant. Get your information concise and save the life stories for when you meet over a cup of coffee.

Rather than saying I have four children - Kylie who’s 12, Daniel who’s 14, Joanna 15 and Lewis 16 - you can just say I have four children between 12 and 16. Perfect! This might be useful information for the agent in selecting a house. More than this won’t help them or you.

They don’t need to know where you were born, your father's name, how many cats you have or that you suffer from bad back. Save that for later!

They do need to know how much you have to spend! Giving criteria such as the number of bedrooms you need is important but they also need to know if you have €100,000 to spend or €2m.

Location? Location? Location?

Why doesn’t the agent share the exact location of the house?

Firstly, it might be for security. If a presentation shows every room in the house with expensive furniture and other items it might not be wise to tell the entire world exactly where it is.

Secondly, in Italy, the seller can sign up for an exclusive contract with an agent or a non-exclusive contract.

An exclusive contract is usually for one year - the house has to be sold through that agent. If the agent hasn’t sold the house within the contract period the owner has to decide if he wants to continue with the agent.

If the agent doesn’t have an exclusive contract he won’t want other agents to know exactly where the house is and won’t share it with anyone, not even you.

You’re doing well if you get the exact location. Assure the agent you’re not up to something and aren’t an international criminal. Be nice when you write to the agent. I really appreciate being written to with good humour and in a relaxed way. Maybe that’s just me..

Don’t just write and say ‘Can you give me the exact location of this house’. If you do, don’t be surprised if they ignore you.

The temptation to cut the agent out

You see a house, you’re tempted to go back and discover if the owner signed an exclusive contract. Cut him or her out of the deal and you’re 3-5% better off, right? Wrong! You need that person on your side, you need them fighting in your corner.

If the owner thinks you’re so willing to ignore the agent they might well see you as an opportunity and you’ve lost the one who could best negotiate for you and guide you through the process.

The agent worked hard in one way or another and that could be easy to disregard. I think this type of action is counterproductive. In the long run, there’s a very good chance it will cost you more if you don’t have someone on your side. Believe me, I have some horror stories.

Watch my Buyer's Guide series on YouTube