Hello and please help us restore our desire to buy a property in Italy

kimrls Image
11/08/2010 - 16:00

Firstly hello everyone, I am a new member of this forum and hope that I am doing this right !I need advice from you regarding my recent and hopefully future viewing trips to Abruzzo. Me and my wife are planning on changing ours and our children's life's with a big move to Italy at some point in 2011, we have decided on Abruzzo after many trips to different areas simply because we think it is a stunning place and not yet spoilt like some other areas, we did the usual thing of searching on the internet and visited the La Dolce Vita show this year in London to get an idea of what we could buy with our budget. After months of research and armed with a gross amount of properties to view we decided to book property tours with 5 different companies over a 3 week period, which by the way ended just last week. I expected to find many things of interest while we were there but did not expect to end up in a battle of 2 agents, nearly questioned by the finance police and the threatened with legal action.After viewing with 3 agents we fell in love with a property and thought we had found the one, this was until we found the same property with our 4th agent for 40,000 euros cheaper !!!! I could not believe it and was asked by the 4th agent who I had seen it with as they had a contract in place with the owners of the house, when we told the agent who the 3rd one was they were, well not best pleased is an under statement. At the same time we were viewing properties with the 4th agent the 3rd agent called us to see if we were interested still because the owners have said they would accept E25000 less than what we were told, the 4th agent was at this time fuming and called a few people about it, we were thinking we had done something wrong and my wife became a little concerned, we were then asked if we would testify against the 3rd agent as they were not agents and what they are doing was illegal. I could not believe that our property tour was turning into a war between these 2 people, my wife really did not want to testify against anyone as she was worried about the implications, the meeting then turned into an hour long lecture on Property Finders and how many British expats are setting up agencies when they are not licensed to do so. To cut a very long story short we were then contacted by the 3rd to say they were not agents but they work with agents and the fact that we had seen the house with them first we were legally obliged to pay them commission !!!!!! This is before we even offered anything or showed any major interest to any agent. On the second to last day we were contacted by the 4th agent that again asked if we would testify against the other agents and that the Finance police were at their office in the afternoon waiting to take statements. We have since read up a lot on this subject and found many sites with properties on that look like agents but are not and after understanding what I think to be right we should stay clear of them. Can someone please help clear this up as I feel our dream is fading and I so desperately want to return and start viewing again even though my wife is worried about the whole thing now. The experience we have had is almost like a dream because of the situation we ended up in but I now wonder if we had have gone further what could have happened. I am looking into things further with a solicitor who has agreed to advise me organised by the 4th agent but I would love to hear your thoughts and if anything like this has ever happened to anyone else. I do not know if I can name the people so I will not but if someone can let me know if it is ok I will gladly name the companies.I will look forward to your help.



I can't comment on your experience, I'm afraid, but I can say that my own purchase was fairly straightforward, so don't despair. There is another forum that is only about Abruzzo and people there may have some advice to offer. Not sure if I'm allowed to mention it, but I guess you could easily find it through a search engine. Welcome to the Forum and good luck with the house hunting.

Unless you are absolutely fixated on the house in question I'd say don't give it any more thought.  It's not your problem and you shouldn't get dragged in to any argument I agree that you should check out the Abruzzo forums.  I don't know the ins and outs of different types of agenst, though I would probably advise using a well-established local Italian agency if possible.  Apart from anything else they will have all the local contacts you will need to eg open bank accounts etc. There's no doubt that buying abroad is a scary process.  I don't know if you're planning on buying house for restoration, but if so, that roller coaster ride has its fair share of terrifying moments!

Hello Kimrls,am also new to this forum and have just bought in Abruzzo near Atessa  in June this year.We spent a five day visit last year looking around with four agents and found similar problems/houses with  agents at various prices!We then gathered more information on our return home for a visit this year.The agent we eventually used had previously worked with an agent we visited last year.He had set up his own agency which he registered because he was not happy before.Look for registered agents and ask for proof.Dont enter into there problems,do what is best for you.You can talk more openly on the private messages which is shown on the right of the site,to me or anyone on this site.(just found how to use it myself)With the right people you will find that all will run smoothly.All the best Atessa.

Thankyou for your comments so far, today I have spoken to the solicitor I spoke about and have found out a lot of information regarding Estate agents in Italy not just Abruzzo, this problem is a widespread one and has opened my eyes to what is right and wrong, I suppose the answer is simple ask if they are estate agents and ask for their registration details, apparently most of the property finder businesses are not even registered as businesses which I find a little strange and worrying, I have been told that they should advertise their IVA numbers (like our VAT) and registration numbers even on their websites. I suppose I just need to be a little more careful, I am scouring the web trying to find out more information and hope to return to Abruzzo soon, but this time more prepared. I am really sad about the house we found as we both really liked it but I suppose there will be more. I will try and find the other forums thanks for the tip. 

It sounds as if you have been drawn into what is, unfortunately, a typical state of affairs.  I am an estate agent - legal and official, and spend my life dealing with the 'abusivi' or unlicenced agents.  if I can Ill clear up a few things for you. 1 - If an agent is not registered as such, (such as your company 3) it is illegal for them to ask for commission, so you have no obligation to pay them anything.  They also, it seems have no mandate for the property.  You dont say if company 4 had an exclusive contract with the seller - if so, then it is up to company 4 to take action.  You are under no obligation to  do anything.   2. property finders are not estate agents - it does not exist as a profession in Italy.  Foreign property finders get round this by not charging commission, but a fee that is the same ie 3% or somesuch.  They cant do this.  You will also find that alot of the British based property companies are registered at Companies House, but dont declare an income in Britain, and dont exist in Italy so all the money ends up being cash in hand in euros and not declared to anyone.  The only loser here is the client, who has no protection in law.  3. You are right - a registered agent should display his IVA number and number of registration on the front page of his website.  However, an IVA number is no proof of his being an agent.  A plumber will have an IVA number, so there is nothing to stop him putting his IVA number on his site and selling houses on the side.   Your safest bet is to check that an agent is registered, and preferably an associate of one of the professional organisations: FIAIP, FIMAA or ANAMA - though only FIAIP is for estate agents only.  You were being dragged into a war between a registered agent and an illegal one - I am in court myself with an abusivo at the moment, but if you dont want to get involved you dont have to be.  On the other hand, there will be no fall out for you. Most 'property finders' add a hefty bit onto teh asking price in order to get their fee.  A registered agent will have the mandate - he knows who the seller is and how much is really being asked.  Everyone else is jsut trying it on.  Dont let it sour your dream - but go in with your eyes open.  If you send me a personal message Ill send you a copy of my book which explains all the pitfalls of buying in Italy.... 

It is good to hear that what you are saying is pretty much what the solicitor and the 4th agent said, I now feel a little guilty I asked them not to contact me for a while as I can see why they would be upset, to be fair they were very good and said pretty much what you have said so at least there appears to be good amongst the bad. The problem I feel is that many people can be put off including my wife because we are not talking small amounts of money, we have worked and are working very hard to make this happen and I guess it could be easy to run into serious problems and risk some of that money, another problem for me is that the websites of these people are all over and are very convincing, not only this I have found many of them advertising on some of the sites linked to this website including the one I have had a problem with !! I know they are not to know who is legal and who is not but we need to be protected against things like this and if more people know what to look for hopefully they will go away. If someone is reading this from Italy mag and other Italy magazines I would suggest they look closely at who advertisers as now I am looking into this problem I am finding it on every corner.   Ram do you work in Abruzzo ?

Hello and welcome to our Community. I feel sad to hear all the problems you have had. Our own experience, buying a property in Tuscany, was a positive one; however, we know that there are quite a few problems with some agents. I don't think that this affects Italy only. You find the same type of traps wherever foreign buyers are involved. All what I can say is, that if you really want to move to Italy, this problem should not affect you. Keep on looking for what you want.

I think Ram consistently offers the best advice on this forum. In my opinion, always seek out only registered local legal agents. This goes for whatever region of Italy that you are thinking of buying in. Perhaps someone will be able to explain to me what a UK property middleman can actually add to the buying process? True story. I did a major international property exhibition in London a few years back. Purely in the capacity of helping out a friend (naturally for free...he's my friend) who as a registered agent was marketing his company and his properties. I think we were maybe approached by about ten different UK based Italian property finders all saying or implying "can we have your properties to market. We can market at a different (higher?) price into the UK and share commission or split gains". Needless to say, we declined every offer.

I've no experience of house buying here but wanted to say "Welcome".  I can only agree with Gaia - there are crooked people in every line of business, everywhere. Please don't let this experience spoil your dream. Pat

Please don't fall in love with a house!  There are lots of houses out there and not so many buyers.  You hold all the cards until you fall in love and then you hold hardly any.   In my experience as a seller, agents regardless of letters after their name or a code of practice are often less than scrupulous.  They have all had a tough time and sadly this seems to have made them prepared to drop standards of behaviour.  Find someone who can give you a list of clients that you can email for references and only work with them if they will do this.  We actively encourage clients to speak to other residents and that gives them huge comfort.  By the way, I am not selling to you on that comment as we re are NOT working in Abruzzo. I would suggest you find other Abruzzo residents and get a list of recommended agents and start again. Good luck to you and your family fabrizio

Thanks again for the advice and welcomes ! I have actually approached the 4th agent again and they have given me a list of people who have bought with them and who live in Abruzzo, this has really helped as I have made contact with a couple of people already and getting good advice. It really has all been a mad situation but now we are back on track, the agent we are dealing with is also putting a piece on their website about the problems of buying so hopefully others will follow suit and it will be safer for people like us. A story that did make me laugh is that one of the so called agents who does this type of illegal work actually used to work for the inland revenue in the UK !!!!!!!!!! I am so looking forward to buying in Abruzzo and changing our lives, I guess I should get used to having a bit of stress as we have a lot to do. Thanks for the advice regarding FIAPP however I understand not all agents register with them, is there a site where you can check everyone ??    

A couple of things that I learnt during our purchase that might be useful:- It doesn't matter what the price the agent has the house on the market for - whatever offer price you put in (no matter how ridiculous) they are obliged to inform the seller And advice from people who have been severely burnt (not us thankfully we we followed their advice) never seek legal advice from a solicitor recommended by an agent (unless others can vouch for them) Seek independant advice from people you know.  We paid extra to have an english speaking italian solicitor sort our purchase for us but it was sooooo worth the piece of mind.  I felt guilty as it felt that we were sending out a message that we didn't trust people - however others that we know that put their trust in others have been left many many thousands out of pocket - so for us a couple of k was worth it Good luck - we're a little ahead of you - we bought in May and had a great buying experience with a fab party after

t doesn't matter what the price the agent has the house on the market for - whatever offer price you put in (no matter how ridiculous) they are obliged to inform the seller Technically yes, but it depends on whether they have an exclusive mandate or not, which has a minimum price on the mandate.   You would be surprised how many agents dont tell the owners anything until they're ready! 

I am back to trawling the net searching for the right ones but this time checking out every company, the sad thing is there are less legal ones than the illegal ones !!!!! At least I feel safer now, I must say after looking at some of the sites that are not agents they tend to always harp on about how you can get ripped off when in actual fact it is them doing the ripping, you do not need to check for licence numbers just check out the sites that say how bad the others are and how hard buying in Italy is and you can bet they are bad ones. I do enjoy the searching though although my wife is tired of me shouting her to come to the computer and look at another one !!!!

you can check out a company at the www.registroimprese.it putting in either their job - agente or agenzia immobiliare with a province, or the name of the company and/or agent.  Unfortunately it is not foolproof - there are some real con merchants in my local list, but it does give you an idea.  Failing that, really dont be afraid to ask to see their documentation.  ANy decent agent will be happy to show you their accreditation.  Best of luck.