The First Stage

If you find your dream house and you want to make a purchase, the estate agent may ask you to sign a “Proposta Irrevocabile D’Acquisto”. Contrary to its translation “irrevocable proposal to buy” it is not binding and by so doing, you have not reserved your home despite an offer price and even a written acceptance by the vendor.

The proposal is only enforceable between the vendor and the estate agent. As such, within the time limit stipulated within the proposal, if the estate agent is approached by another buyer, who makes a better offer for the same property, the agent can (although should not out of professional courtesy) make another “irrevocable proposal to buy” for the same property without your knowledge. You have not therefore reserved your property until you sign the “Compromesso”.

It is usual that the period for which the purchaser is bound should be between 14 and 30 days.

The first deposit (“acconto”) you will be asked to pay is by the estate agent, for his so called “irrevocable proposal to buy”. This has the merit of showing that you are not a time waster. It engages you to the agent and prevents you from any collusion in a private deal with the vendor, but it is no guarantee that you have secured a property. Its purpose is to give the agent a fixed amount of time, normally a month, to obtain an agreement from the owner to sell you the property. If this agreement is not forthcoming your deposit is refunded. Agents have been known to collect several deposits from different candidates for the same property and then proceed to an auction, awarding the property to the highest bidder.

To avoid falling into traps like this and to limit the risks four precautions are recommended.

  • Get the “irrevocable proposal to buy” drawn up by the Notary, who you have engaged to handle the conveyance. In fact, this proposal must contain all the details of the definitive contract.
  • Limit the period in which the proposal is irrevocable to 24/48 hours maximum. This is quite enough for the agent to contact the owner of the property. Make this deposit minimal, say €100. The real deposit will be paid later at the “Compromesso” (preliminary contract) stage. No deposit should be paid to the agent, instead it should be paid directly to the vendors.
  • The agent should specify his commission and/or expenses on a separate sheet, as they have nothing to do with the deposit. The true deposit in the contract is called a “caparra”, which is governed by the Italian civil code. It is normally 10% to 30% of the final price.
  • It is advisable to pay any deposits by bankers draft or non-transferable cheque (“assegno non trasferibile”) and to keep a photocopy of the cheque.
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