Is it necessary to seek extra legal advice when buying a property in Italy?
That is down to each and everyone one of us, and how you have done transactions in the past and how you feel in general about the parties in which you are about to converse and negotiate with.
You can use the Estate Agent and the Notary only, as they work for both the buyer and vendor who are legally obliged and indemnified to conduct the sale fittingly, or in addition, you can enlist the help of a solicitor or an experienced local (preferably with a language in common) who has experience of going through the buying process. Although the latter are not qualified, they do have a wealth of experience for you to tap in to.
Estate Agents in Italian property conveyancing have an important and essential role. The Italian Estate Agent has a responsibility to the buyer and the vendor and as the mediator, works equally and unequivocally for both. The mediator is required to produce all the documents relating to the property in order that the Notary is able to prepare the final deeds (rogito).
When selecting an estate agent, be sure to check that they are registered at the Chamber of Commerce, is a member of FIAIP (Federazione Italiana Agenti Immobiliari Professionali) and has a VAT number. This will ensure that your selected Agent has not only passed the exams to get the job title but is well versed in property law and is well established to give you balanced up to date legal advice. All Estate Agents will also have professional liability insurance or professional indemnity insurance, protecting their businesses.
There are also a number of solicitors in Italy offering to provide you with personalized advice and assistance in making your property purchase from the early stages. Rarely however do they actually see the property physically themselves but give their advice on the basis of all the documents in hand and deal directly with the Estate Agent in retrieving those documents.
The other option is to use the experience of someone who has already been through the process of buying, is familiar with the legalities and should also have a good knowledge of the Italian language. Their experience can be invaluable, giving you titbits of insider knowledge; albeit they are not professionally qualified to do the job of either the Estate Agent or the Solicitor.
Since purchasing my property fourteen years ago, I have come across people who have used solicitors to intercede on their behalf and their house was discovered to be irregular. I myself, used a Geometer posing as an Estate Agent (I did not have my hindsight :-))and an English Property finder and I too ended up with an irregular property. It was later resolved by a 'real' Estate Agent. Equally I have also met a number of people who have bought through Estate Agents and are extremely happy with the outcome.
There are always risk factors in purchasing properties in whichever country you choose to invest in. A solicitor may or may not reduce that risk. Finding a reputable Estate Agent in my opinion is the first hurdle. An agent in whom others have confidence and have used in the past and most likely one that has been in business for several years. An agent who demonstrates his/her knowledge of the property and the legalities; providing you with all the information requested and more.