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Can Americans Buy Property in Italy? 

More and more US expats are heading to Europe to live and work, so it’s only natural that they’re going to eventually want to purchase real estate there, but can Americans buy property in Italy and how easy is the buying process?

Think about the lifestyle you could have in Italy. Gorgeous sunshine in the south, great hiking, climbing, and skiing in the north, amazing food and wine, culture, and work-life balance, what’s not to love? 

Okay before we get carried away with ourselves, let’s have a look at the logistics and work out if Americans can buy property in Italy and what steps you’re going to need to take to make your Italian expat dream a reality.

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US Citizens: Can I Purchase a House in Italy?

The simple answer is yes you absolutely can buy property in Italy as an American! There is no limit on US citizens buying or selling properties in Italy thanks to something called mutual agreements.

These apply between Italy and foreign citizens meaning that you don’t need any special documents or pay higher taxation on property when compared to citizens from within the EU.

Requirements to Buy Property in Italy

These mutual agreements are basically split into three categories based on your circumstances:

  • A foreigner without a regular residence permit,
  • A foreigner or their family member, with a regular residence permit, who’s living in Italy and has been stateless for at least three years,
  • EU and EEA citizens (Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway), asylum seekers, or political refugees resident living in Italy for more than three years

Each one has different requirements, so I’ll break it down for you

Italian houses in Burano, Italy
Burano, Italy

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A Foreigner Without a Regular Residence Permit

This situation is the standard definition of a mutual agreement. If your country allows Italian citizens to buy property there, then you are allowed to buy property in Italy. It’s as simple as that. 

As the US allows Italian citizens to buy property in America, this means that if you’re a US expat living in Italy, you’re free to buy a house. It’s all about reciprocity! 

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A foreigner or their family member, with a regular residence permit, who’s living in Italy and has been stateless for at least three years

If your country doesn’t have a reciprocity agreement as outlined above, it’s slightly trickier to buy property in Italy, but not impossible. 

As long as you or your family member has a residence permit for one of the following reasons, you’re all good to try and buy a property in Italy:

  • You have a residence permit for self-employed or employed work, 
  • Starting a business, 
  • For family, humanitarian and study reasons or, 
  • With an extended EC residence permit which is otherwise called a residence card.

It pretty much covers everything, but double-check you meet one of these residence permit reasons before you start your house hunt in Italy.

Villa property in Tuscany, Italy
Tuscany, Italy

EU and EEA citizens (Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway), asylum seekers, or political refugees resident living in Italy for more than three years

If you’re an EU or EEA citizen, an asylum seeker, or a political refugee and you’ve lived in Italy for more than three years, you can buy property in Italy. There’s no need to show any specific documents, you can just go right ahead! 

Do Americans Pay Higher Taxes to Purchase a House in Italy?

There’s a common myth that if you’re an American citizen buying a house in Italy, then you’re going to end up paying more tax than EU citizens. It’s just that, a myth.

All property-based taxation is the same regardless of where you come from, so you can sleep easy knowing you’ve got the same deal as everyone else!

Just remember when it comes to taxation as a US citizen, you still need to fill in a tax return at home every year, regardless of where you live or work – the IRS is always watching!

Since it gets pretty complicated tax-wise, I recommend MyExpatTaxes to keep it all straight between filing taxes abroad and in the USA.

Which Documents Do I Need to Have to Buy a Home in Italy?

To buy a house in Italy, you’re going to need some specific documentation. Italy, like every other country, has plenty of red tape and bureaucracy, but for property buying, it’s surprisingly simple.

All you need is your passport and an Italian tax code, otherwise known as a Codice Fiscale. Considering that you’re buying through a real estate agency, they should be providing this as a part of the purchasing process.

Make sure you clarify this with them when you start your home search – you don’t want to find your dream house and lose it to a paperwork mishap!

If you’re buying your Italian house directly from the vendor, you’ll need to contact your town’s local council offices to get the Codice Fiscale yourself.

Door of a house in Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy

This can feel like jumping through a lot of hoops, especially if you’re buying outside of the main towns and cities, but if you’re saving a lot of money on the sale compared to going with a real estate agency, it might be worth the hassle and the legwork. It’s entirely up to you. 

If you’re short on time before your visa runs out, let an agency handle it. You don’t want to be super close to closing on your property and then have to leave the country for a few days.

Momentum and speed are key in real estate, no matter where you’re living – if Sunset Selling has taught us anything, it’s that! 

If you don’t want to fully commit to living in Italy full-time but want a place to spend your vacations, the process is the same. Be mindful that visa rules do still apply even if you own property in Italy.

Visitor visas for US citizens last for 90 days after which you’ve either got to go back to the States or go to another EU country for a few days and re-enter that way.

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Vacation House in Italy vs Permanent Move

Something that you’re going to want to really think about is whether you’re buying property in Italy as a holiday home or you’re planning on living in it full-time. While this does affect the buying process itself, it’s worth looking at the visa situation before you commit.

Obviously, if you just want a holiday home for a couple of weeks or months at a time, as a US citizen you can come and go for 90 days at a time.

However, if you’re looking to stay longer, you need to check that you’re actually eligible for a working or spousal visa that’s going to allow you to stay longer.

You don’t want to be buying a house abroad to live in, only to get denied a visa at a later date. Otherwise, you get trapped with two properties, one in the US and one in Italy, when you only intended, or maybe can only afford, one of those houses.

Figure out what you want from your Italian property and work out all the logistics and financial scenarios before you pull the trigger on buying a property. 

The other possibility is buying it as a vacation home and then renting it out on Airbnb or another home rental website to make some extra cash while you’re not out there.

This is something you’ll want to check with your real estate agent as some towns and cities don’t like Airbnb owners as it takes away properties from people who actually want to live in the area.

So much so, that a lot of European cities now have Airbnb taxes and in some cases, actual bans.

Where to Live in Italy

Obviously, this depends on who you are and why you’re wanting to move to Italy in the first place. If you have family connections, a job, or love to vacation in a particular part of this beautiful country, then you’re going to have a pretty good idea of where you want to be.

I’ve asked expats who have lived all over Italy where they would recommend living, check out their answers in this post.

City-wise, Milan and Venice are the most expensive places to live in Italy thanks to tourism and the lower availability of real estate. As the capital, Rome isn’t cheap, but compared to many other European capitals, it’s pretty reasonable.

Across the last year, house prices in smaller towns like Turin and Bologna rose slightly, while larger cities like Florence and Naples fell, probably in response to the lack of tourism during the pandemic.

This is a trend that’s been apparent across Europe, so if you’re wanting to buy in one of the major cities, it might be a good time to get in and negotiate.

This is especially worthwhile if you want to rent it out in the future, as now that the travel industry is getting back up on its feet, the tourism levels are bound to creep back up.

If you need more of a family getaway with land, more rural areas offer more bang for your buck, but of course, tend to have fewer amenities and travel links.

Think about adding the cost of a car or car rental to your overall budget and see if the time and extra cost balance out in the long run.

Mainland Italy is obviously amazing, but you shouldn’t count out the islands of Sardinia and Sicily either. Both have thriving vacation scenes and beautiful scenery and weather.

They’re largely well connected to the rest of the country and continent through low-cost airlines and, in Sicily’s case, the ferry from the mainland.

I highly recommend comparing flight prices around Europe and Italy using Skyscanner. If you want to compare the prices of going by train, bus, or plane around Europe, Omio is an absolute lifesaver.

So whatever your reason behind moving to Italy is – and honestly, who needs a reason? – there are plenty of opportunities to settle down and buy a property as a US citizen.

When the prices are this low, the sun is shining, the wine is flowing, and the process is super straightforward, why haven’t you bought a house in Italy yet?

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