Q: What is a Geometra?
A: A Geometra does not have an exact equivalent in English: They are a sort of hybrid between an architect, a surveyor and a works manager – in effect they take on all three roles. This creates a significant saving on professional fees: instead of paying three professionals, you pay only one. Anyone buying a property in need of renovation will probably want to get a quote from a Geometra for the work before committing to a purchase. At Appenninoproperties.it we are always able to recommend a highly competent and competitive Geometra and can usually show you an example or two of his past work to give you added confidence in your selection.
Q: Can I renovate a house without being there?
A: Provided that your specification was very clear at the start of the project, monthly visits to your house should be adequate during the early stages. However, it is advisable to increase the frequency of visits towards the end of the project, when the detailed finishing work is carried out – otherwise you may find that your builder stops work when decisions need to be made, or (worse) makes decisions that you don’t like, thus extending the project duration.
Q: What grants are available for renovating a property in Italy?
A: In theory, a number of local government grants are usually available to pay a part of your renovation costs – you can get a list from your local Camera di Commercio (Chamber of Commerce) or speak to your Geometra. However, before you decide to go down this route there are a number of things to consider:
- You will only be eligible for a general renovation grant if you create a facility open to the public – a hotel, agriturismo or B&B, for example. There are no public funds available for the renovation of a property for private use. Italy has so many ancient buildings – more than any other country in the world – that the state simply can’t afford to preserve antiquities outside the public domain.
- You will not receive any money in advance; indeed, a decision will be made on your grant application only when the renovation work is at an advanced stage, or even completed. This means that a grant can’t be a key component of your financial planning: you should be prepared to fund 100% of the renovation yourself, and regard any grant you receive as a bonus.
- Grant funds are paid out against receipted payments only. All suppliers and tradesmen are obliged to include IVA (Imposta Valore Aggiunto, the Italian Value-Added Tax or VAT) on any receipts that they issue.
- If you accept public funds for a commercial project, you will be expected to file annual accounts – and to pay Italian taxes.
- In many cases, you will need to have been resident for 3 years before any application for a grant will be considered. In practical terms, this rule appears to be designed to prevent foreigners obtaining grants in Italy.
- When all these points are considered, it is hardly surprising that very few people renovating a property in Italy bother with trying to obtain a local government subsidy.
Note: To run an agriturismo (a farm that offers guest accommodation) you must be a registered farmer, and a large proportion of the food you offer your guests must be home-produced.
Q: Can non-EU citizens buy real estate in Italy?
A: Yes. There are no restrictions on non-EU nationals buying real estate in Italy. Of course, property ownership does not confer the right the live in the country. Non-EU nationals wishing to stay in Italy for more than 90 days should apply for a permesso di soggiorno (permit to stay) shortly after arrival – and to get this they may have to provide evidence of financial solvency. And property ownership definitely does not confer the right to work in Italy. Non-EU nationals wishing to work for an Italian employer in Italy will need a work permit – to get one they will need to be sponsored by the employer, who will be required to prove that the applicant has special skills not readily available within Italy.
Q: What rules apply to non-EU citizens who start or buy a business in Italy?
A: If you don’t have the right of abode in the EU and you want to start or buy a business in Italy, you need a visa. To get the visa, it may be necessary to obtain documentation from the local Camera di Commercio (Chamber of Commerce) in Italy – for which you might have to prove that you are qualified to run the business. Such qualification may simply be having the funds to buy the business, or it may be more than that. To initiate the process, it is wise to begin at your local Italian Embassy. In practice, people who bring capital into Italy, and who are not a drain on the resources of the Italian state, are generally welcome. In many cases, not being a “drain on the resources of the state” may simply be a matter of taking out private health insurance and having adequate financial resources. However, it is possible to run a business in Italy while being formally resident in another country. There are a couple of things to bear in mind if you want to do this, though:
if you are not formally resident you can’t apply for an Italian driving licence, buy an Italian-registered car, or send your children to Italian state schools, and both the cost of your electricity supply and your bank account charges will be a little greater than otherwise.
If you enter the EU on a visa waiver (US citizens qualify for this) then you are limited to a stay of 90 days. Non-EU citizens should have their passports stamped when they enter the Schengen area (which includes most countries in the EU, but not the UK): the Italian authorities may use this stamp to establish the end of the 90 day period. So if you travel outside the Schengen area at least 4 times a year (e.g. to Switzerland, which is not in the EU, or to the UK) you might manage without a visa.