Just being too cautious?

04/30/2010 - 12:32

Hello! I am new to the online community but would just like to introduce myself and say what a fantastic opportunity the site offers to exchange ideas and air problems. Am quite new to forums so hope have posted correctly. I am very close to buying a property but am finding it increasingly difficult and frustrating to obtain any clear cost guidelines! I constantly receive reassurance from the estate agent and other involved parties regarding the potential renovation costs and have received a ‘very ball park’ figure from a geometra which I was happy with but, the more I read!, the more  I am beginning to wonder how realistic these figures are. It is nigh on impossible to itemise costs or service charges. The parties involved appear extremely adept at saying a lot but are seldom able to quantify costs. It has become quite frustrating, almost to the point of me considering calling off the whole project. Am I being unreasonable, having the wool pulled over my eyes or is this the normal approach and I will just have to get used to it?  I would hate to end up with an Italian white elephant. My intention was to lock up my property in the UK and move to Italy full time to oversee/contribute to  the renovation of the house. This seemed to make sense given the higher purchase cost of buying as a non-resident and I assumed this would be quite easy given the fact that we’re all in the EU together.  I gather this may not be quite so straightforward reading some of the forum contributions with regard to health insurance/tax issues. I would really appreciate any feedback from some experienced been-there-done-thats. Ta! From Mr Green-behind-the-ears?


What area are you buying!! Although we had  very few problems, it would have been nice at the time, to have spoken to someone who had been through the process of buying and restoring. I can understand where you are coming from , maybe if you give an idea where you are buying someone might throw in a bit of information

To be fair it is very difficult to provide an accurate cost of renovation as a lot depends on the finish you specify. Most estate agents will quote a price range per sqm for renovations in your particular area. This should give you some idea. A geometra should prepare a document called a "computo metrico" which lists every job that need to be done during the restoration and a "notional" price per sqm/cubic metre etc for each job. This will give you a better idea. When deciding which builder to engage, the computo metrico should be sent to the various builders with no prices and they give you a quote based on that. One word of warning, I have seen many different things missed off these documents. For example one that we had did not include scaffolding - a big cost. I would suggest getting your computo metrico translated. That way you can understand it and check nothing obvious is missing. When you talk about service charges do you mean bills or prefessional fees? Again, fees for permissions depend on what you want to do to the property. No-one can give you an accurate quote for that until your plans have been drawn up. The Geometra can tell you what his fees would be, however. It is usually a %age of the renovation costs (in my area, somewhere between 8% & 10%). Make sure you choose a geometra that has been recommended to you and go and see his previous work and speak to previous customers. Don't just necessarily use the one the agent uses because it is easier. IMHO it is better to pay a translator to accompany you on your geometra hunt and when speaking to people if you don't speak Italian. It is money well spent. As for moving to Italy and getting residency, this is straightforward enough. There are of course tax implications as there would be in any emigration where you keep a property in your home country. Italy is no different in that respect. The health cover is straight forward for most people. Generally speaking, if you have been working in the UK then you will get 2 1/2 years cover by presenting the relevant E12n form (last digit depends on your contributions - speak to the NI people in the UK for more details ). You will however need to finance your own health cover for the remaining 2 1/2 years until you become a permanent resident at which point you are entitled to health cover like an Italian. If you are a pensioner then it is even easier and you just present the relevant E12n form and you are covered. Hope that helps.

I think it's entirely sensible to be sceptical (perhaps even suspicious) when it comes to quotes for Italian renovation jobs. As Penny says, a geometra will indeed be happy (for a fee, of course) to produce a set of nice CAD drawings of your renovated house and an itemised, costed list of the work that needs to be done. Unfortunately, it's possible the main value of this will be a grimly comic one when you come across it in your files after all the work has actually been done and paid for. Shortly after moving in to our house, I had a geometra produce drawings, computo metrico and apply for planning permission for the restructuring I wanted done. Since the bottom line indicated the project was affordable (around €50,000), I went on to the next step and agreed that the geometra should get builders in to give their quote. The builder's estimated cost was merely twice what the geometra indicated. Since it's an iron law that all building work costs a lot more than the estimate, I put the project on hold. Also, I didn't fully grasp until fairly late on that the result of the work would have been a structure far from habitable since it would still need windows, doors, electrics and floor, ceiling and wall finishing. I don't believe that all geometras are greedy and useless, nor that all builders in Italy will give a lower priority to working on a foreigner's project and do their best to fleece them, but I think it would be very blinkered to believe that all geometras and Italian builders are highly competent professionals. If you have the feeling that people are being cagey and deliberately vague about prices, it's entirely possible that this is what's going on and you are right to be hesitant. In any case, no geometra or builder - not even a good one - is going to sign a contract committing to completing a project to a set standard for a fixed price by a certain date. If you need that sort of certainty, perhaps you'd be better off looking for a house that you can just buy and move into as it stands. The idea of buying an Italian ruin and turning it into a dream home is very romantic, but the practicalities can be very stressful, can go on for much longer than originally planned and the result often makes little sense in terms of the final value of the property compared to the money and energy input. If you are determined to go the renovation route, I think it's an entirely reasonable idea that you will do some work and keep an eye on what the builders are doing, but it seems to me that anyone wanting to do this should have a very good grasp of Italian as well as a completely unflappable and very determined personality. As far as the legalities of such things as health care are concerned, Penny is right that it should be reasonably straightforward. Unfortunately, however, local bureuacrats in Italy have a lot of power to make life difficult or easier for supplicants. Therefore, just as is the case with the building project, I think it's difficult for anyone to say just how many problems you'll encounter when you go through the process. Al

We went the renovation route and whilst I reckon we were lucky with geometra and builder, it caused many a sleepless night.  I have to admit that over the years the budget changed many times.  Luckily for us re-mortgaging was easy to come by in those halcyon days.  These days I think you need: An iron consitution Ability to withstand serious stress Have a backup plan for budget emergencies Expect it to cost twice as much and take twice as long as predicted Many people have commented that renovation is much more expensive than buying new or fully renovated.  I'd agree, but the upside is buying a bit of history that you have added to yourself.  So if you are planning on buying a ruin - don't do it because you think it will be the most cost effective approach.  And if your physical or mental health is at all fragile - definitely don't You will of course ignore all this advice when you find your perfect gem on the perfect hillside with no utilities and no access road.  Non importa, been there, done it, and still survived!

Hello and welcome to the forum, Hector.  I haven't bought a house here so can't advise you on that.  But I see there is already good advice from other members. With regard to health cover, it is straightforward if you are working here.  If not and you have retired early, you will get up to 2 and a half years' cover from your E 12n as Penny says.  Then you may be covered again when you get your UK state pension. But check all this out with the Dept for Work and Pensions in the UK as the rules do vary according to your circumstances.  I got permanent helath cover here under the Ital system after my E12 thing ran out and I think that was because I'm a permanent resident with no property in the UK.  Local bureaucrats do have a lot of power, as Allan says, but my advice is, be nice to them, show them that you respect their position and they'll really try to help you! Pat

You have already had some great comments here - but I'd like to add that "the estate agent" is naturally going to downplay renovation costs - he wants you to buy the 'ruin'! That is a given. But also be aware that geometras want to wedge you (as a foreigner) into a 'gold plated' job. And also be aware that Italian 'restoration' projects do not involve plasterboard and Wickes standard windows. If you keep your head on your shoulders, (and hopefully have had experience of commissioning architects in the UK - no, I thought not!) - it maybe will work out okay - but getting through to a third party your aspirations, in a language you perhaps don't understand completely, in a legislative environment of which you understand little: well, it is challenging. Not to say you shouldn't go for it - but it can't be done if you are on a fixed budget (IMO).

I agree with what has been previously said and particularly with Fillide's last comment. Restoring an old building is not a straightforward task and there are generally contingencies beyond anyone's control. This is what contingency sum item in any building contract is all about and you have to have the money to pay for this. If you are on a very tight budget, this could be trouble. Litigation in a foreign country can be difficult and costly. It should be avoided. This does not mean that the project cannot go ahead. But you are going to have to watch it (and your purse) very closely. Best wishes! 

As a for instance on Fillide's comment - geometras and builders are not going to be interested in "original features".  As far as they are concerned they are an impediment to getting on with the job.  All doors and internal woodwork will be ripped out and burnt.  All old beams will be replaced.  All original flooring will be thrown out (those BEEAUTIFUL terracotta tiles!!!!) as too difficult to clean up and re-lay. So being onsite will be vital if you are concerned about all of that.  And being able to understand and counter their reasons for not doing what you want. I don't think this is only an Italian issue - builders everywhere want an easy life.  Of course you can get specialists who understand sensitive restoration - but they'll cost.  All the best Jeremiah (and possibly Cassandra)

an E106 if you are not on UK benefit.... This is an extract from an NHS site (note it's dwp you need to get the form from   If you move to an EEA country to live but not work and don't receive a UK benefit, you may be eligible for up to two-and-a-half years of state healthcare, paid for by the UK. You will need to apply for an E106 with the the Overseas Healthcare Team (Newcastle) and prove that you have worked in the UK and paid National Insurance contributions up to three years before your departure. For further advice, contact the Overseas Healthcare Team (Newcastle) Overseas Healthcare Team (Newcastle) Room TC001 Tyneview Park Whitley Road Newcastle upon Tyne NE98 1BA Tel: 0191 218 1999 (Monday to Friday 8am-5pm) The E106 will entitle you to treatment on the same basis as a resident of the country you moving to. This may mean that you have to make a patient contribution to the cost of your care. When the cover on the E106 expires, you cannot get any further medical cover from the UK until you are in receipt of a UK state pension. It is up to the country’s authorities to decided whether you are eligible to join their healthcare scheme.  You will also be entitled to a UK-issued EHIC, allowing you to visit other EEA countries besides the one your are a resident with. Not too sure If this is allowed :) but I guess you could claim to be self employed when the E106 runs out and pay UK self employed NI, which would be cheaper than private health care. The current cost of paying is £2.40 per week, a lot cheaper I would guess - see here http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/moneytaxandbenefits/taxes/workingandpayingtax/dg_10016920  This only applies if you are NOT getting UK benefit. If you are over pension age and in receipt (note state pension), then it's an E121 you need from the same people...

How could you calim to be self employed in the UK when you are living permanently in another member state? You could only possibly be self employed for less than 184 days a year in the UK and then would fall under Itlaian tax for your UK income- ---- easier to pay up in Italy.

In reply to by Ram

... did not realise there was a tax expert on site   :) Ok the OP said "lock up his house in the UK" , I did not spot the "permanently living" bit, but if you have a look around at the HMRC site (no I wouldn't recommend it either), if you retain a house in the UK you still can be liable for UK tax (ditto pay NI), apart from which I doubt they would care if you pay... Anyway the point is nothing to do with TAX Ram, it's a POSSIBLE suggestion for cheap medical cover..... :)

The postings have been invaluable, grazie a tutti! It does all appear to be a little more involved than originally anticipated but who said life was straightforward. (Melbreak- thanks for the prompting. I did post a thank you to everyone yesterday at the bottom section of all the postings 'post new comment' but is seems to have disappeared down one of those big black holes? Bit of a forum virgin)

Hi, Me and my husband are also in the process of a renovation however our costs have been kept down because him and his family have been doing the work, this has been slow but we're getting there. However, it makes some things considerably cheaper if you are 'resident' in Italy - at the said address, for example, our quote to have the house connected to electricity was 2500€ but came down to 500€ when we switched our residency there, also, if the you are not resident at the property you will pay a higher electric rate??? I find these things very strange. Anyway, I had trouble becoming resident here, even though the consulate told me they had an obligation to the commune were very picky, in the end I just waited until I had my marriage certificate (to an Italian), therefore got my Italian health card, the European Health Card from the UK just didn't seem to cover much, not pregnancy anyway, and also, you seem to have to contribute towards practically everything here anyway unless you are resident and unemployed… I don't know if any of his is of help, but we were also able to pay a 4% tax, instead of 20% on all finished products we buy for our house because it is our first house, I don't know if you would be eligible for this or if you have to be resident, the Notaio produces a certificate for you, I doubt owning a property in the UK counts here. Good luck. 

I wasnt being picky - but in my experience when the E106 expires, its because you no longer live - ie are fiscally resident  -in the Uk and therefore fall under the Italian system - so at some point the two coincide - if you continue to pay NI in the UK to keep your E106 alive, you will also be eligible for UK tax as you are deemed to be fiscally resident in the UK, which - if you have Italian residence and work over here, is just going bring alot of problems-  All the money you save on your medical insurance will be spent on the commercialisa! 

In reply to by Ram

.. to point things out, then people can look to see where their particular circumstances fit in. If the OP is not actually working and has little or no tax liabilities (well of course we all do have some), then it might suit them, just a possibility. From what I've read on here, would it not be the case you would qualify for health care there in Italy in any case after 5 years? It's funny that in both countries we seem to being forced down the road of having a "commercialisa" (I'm guessing equivalent to an accountant) just to fill in forms and charge a fortune! :)

A final suggestion....I advise you also to go along to a Buffetti shop (a nationwide chain of  "official" stationary stores) where they should be able to sell (or order) you a book that details the min-max cost of most individual aspects that would go into any building quote...e.g. the min-max that can legally be asked per linear metre of  cutting out the traces (hacking a channel in the wall) ready to receive electric cable / water pipes etc.  This at least allows you to check whether quotes are going over the limit! Can't remember exactly what the book is called, maybe someone else can help you with the title, if not, explain its contents and I am sure they will know what you mean!  I only found out about it AFTER all the building work had been done - and almost wished I hadn't!!

Sabina is talking about the prezzario regionale which is price list issued for every region which details every job and how much it costs - eg - intonaco with 'bio' producets - 14 euros psm, intonaco with colour 15 euros pesm etc etc.  These are the legal prices set by the region for every job done on a property - they are the basis for every calcolistas computometrico which must be done according to the book.  Then you start on the discounts - and should expect to pay 10 - 20% less than the book price.  You will never pay more.  

Introduction:   We have recently retired and intend to move to the Ionian coast of Calabria when we complete the purchase of our flat.    As we intend to live there for at least 80% of the year we intend to apply for our residency, not least for the benefit of cheaper utilities. There numerous questions such as :-  How do we apply for residency?    Do we pay income tax on our pension which is already taxed in the UK?    We intend to buy a LHD car in the UK with UK registered plates.   Has anyone else been through this process before ?     Has anyone successfully claimed back the tourist/higher rate of tax paid on their purchase?    Can the accounts for the utilities be switched from tourist to residential easily?  Or is there convoluted process involved. Would be grateful if anyone can point us in the right direction to get the information we need. Thanks Donna de Amusa

Hi Very interesting queries which unfortunately I can't help you out with, still gathering information myself at the moment. Am very new to the forum but it struck me that it may be worthwhile for you to create your own new posting section for your questions since (am assuming here) I could imagine that your posting may not be read by those who have already dived into my postings? To do this you have to select 'create content' under the Community section and then select 'new post'. I'm sure this way you will receive maximum hit, so to speak, from all those extremely helpful Italy Magazine onliners. Wishing you all the best for your retirement in sunny Calabria, sounds lovely

I will try to answer donna de amusa's questions anyway. How do we apply for residency - go to the comune that you wish to reside in and ask them what they need you to do. They should be very helpful, mine were. Do we pay income tax on our pension - tricky one this. If you spend 91 days in UK you fail the 91 day rule which means that you remain tax-resident in UK. If you are unable to stay under the radar in Italy, they may want to tax you, but you would get credit for any tax paid in UK. It's a major grey area - handle with care anyone who claims to give definitive advice on this one. UK reg lhd car - yup, got one. PM me for details. 4% iva instead of 10% on purchase - yup, done it. PM me for details. Change to residents rate for utilities - just write to them and fill in the form they send you. Easy. Any more questions? wink Terry

  Does anyone know what the going hourly rate is for ‘builders’ indecision We have been quoted €25 per hour by a local builder to do some general maintenance and cosmetic repairs to our roof terrace.  We think €25 per hour is excessive! We would never accept a quote based on an hourly rate for obvious reasons, but still intrigued to know what the going rate is. Thankssmiley

Thanks for reply Cape Boi smiley Our apartment is in the province of Imperia, Liguria. The work would be done by ’unskilled labour’’ and not by the actual ‘qualified builder’ who would be project manager.  Yes we were shocked at a quote of €25 an hour for unskilled labour...totally unrealistic…I wonder where they get these figures from blush

It is all very well saying that €12 - €16 sounds alright: that is what the workman will 'take home'. But spare a thought for his employer (the contractor) who has to pay another €10 approx for the workman's "NI" contributions etc. Even if you manage to find a 'registered' self employed labourer he is going to have to add something like €8 (per hour) to his price to pay his dues on his own behalf. And if he doesn't (and if he can't demonstrate that he has paid all this 'tax') he can't do any work 'legally'.

Not sure where you are coming from here. An employer does not pay tax on an employees' earnings. Of course, may deduct tax on the employees behalf,  but ultimate responsibility to pay rests with the employee. €12-€16 per hour gross holds good.

Actually Fillide is correct. If the labourer is employed then the employer will have to pay quite hefty NI contributions (not tax) for them. The employee has to pay too but at a lower rate and is responsible for paying their own tax - just the same as in the UK. If the labourer is self-employed then they have to pay approx 45% in contributions (tax & NI) out of the gross amount paid to them (less expenses of course). But I agree with Cap Boi that around €15 gross an hour, or a little more, for an unskilled labourer is about right.

  I don’t understand your logic Fillide. Everyone has to pay ‘contributions’ whether self employed or in employment! An hourly rate should reflect the market conditions, skills, knowledge etc and not be based on tax rates or statutory contributions.  We live in the 3rd highest taxed country in the world, not just in Europe!  I am self employed. If I had to base my hourly rate on the tax rate and statutory contributions, I would be unemployed!

I think there is maybe some confusion beetwen gross and net rates here. Here the gross rate is around €14 per hour for an unskilled worker. (That is what you pay). After the various deductions this will translate to something like €9 in take home pay. Fillide is implying a much higher gross rate.

Hmm - yes, I was misleading when I talked about 'take home pay' - for sure the iindividual is liable for IRPEF on his earnings, so he isn't 'taking home' as much as I suggested. But - (and I am sure this varies between regions in Italy, probably quite a lot) - the fact that the cost to an employer (as in a building firm: not the end user) of hiring out a labourer is about twice what the labourer earns (before tax). I completely agree (and actually so does the PdL if they could only admit it...) that it is crazy that you can't employ a guy who wants a job at a price he is willing to accept and you are willing to pay (like €10 per hour): but if you buy a house in a semi-Grecian economy what do you expect! It is much more about politics than about economics...but that is where we are at. Gezundheit!