Bologna Inside - Second Edition

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The search for purchasing a home starts out not unlike the search for renting a place described in Chapter 3: Housing. There is no such thing as a buyer’s market in Bologna. The so-called housing bubble has been on the rise for 20 years, so there is no time like the present to settle down.


Most agencies list properties in their area of town, however they may also have listings from other neighborhoods, often because the agent knows the seller personally. When you call real estate agencies, don’t be surprised if the agent is reluctant to tell you exactly where the property is located until you come to the office in person and make an appointment.

Try to convince the agent to show more than one property at a time. Some realtors do nothing more than open the door to the property, whereas others will help you calculate

Never ever think that once you make a deal, things will move quickly and smoothly. We bought our house in September 2002. We didn’t actually move in until June 2003. We went back and forth with the owner that the move-in date would be December 2002, then it was promised for February 2003, then no later than Easter 2003. Nothing appears as it seems.

Nina Vellucci

your mortgage payment and even recommend a particular bank with good rates. Note that if the same property is listed by more than one realtor, it might be more difficult to get a good price. Real estate agents can take a commission anywhere from 2.5-4% on the sale or purchase of a property, but this may be negotiable, especially if you sell and buy with the same agency. Keep in mind that if you do not use an agency, you will incur costs that would otherwise be covered in agency fees, such as drawing up a preliminary agreement with a notary.


The market for mortgage lending is in rapid expansion and you can request a loan for up to 100% of the price of your home. Fixed rate or variable, the maximum duration for a mortgage is 30 years. The bank or lending agency will evaluate your candidacy based on your income, job stability, other liabilities, etc. In some mortgage structures you are penalized for early pay-off, in others you may start with a fixed rate and move to a variable. It is worth your while to comparison shop.

Be sure to budget for the expenses associated with opening a mortgage including the spese di istruttoria (paperwork expenses) and the obligatory perizia (inspection/appraisal). Lending banks will also require you to take out a fire insurance policy before issuing a mortgage. You may use the service offered by your bank or refer to any insurance company, see Chapter 2: Essential Services.


Compare prices of homes in terms of euro per square meter. The cost of living space, garage, cantina (storage space) and garden are all calculated separately. Homes are usually advertised in terms of metri commerciali (commercial meters), which includes the walls. Metri calpestabili (usable meters), are the actual space available for living. You should also clarify the difference between the valore commerciale (commercial value) and the valore catastale, a number based on a complex calculation of square meters, location and other factors. The valore catastale is almost always inferior to the commercial value, good news since it is on this figure that you will pay property taxes. If you are building a new home, there are additional expenses to add to your budget, notably accatastamenti, the costs of registering the property and allacciamenti, the costs of hooking up your initial utilities. Together, these fees can total several thousand euro.


Make sure the property you are considering does not have any open ipoteche (claims) from creditors. The notary presiding over the purchase of your home will handle this investigation, which will involve checking with the catasto, the office where the property is registered. This office provides historical records of all ownership transfers. If for example the property was ever bequeathed to heirs, then you will want to make sure that there are no long-lost relatives who could potentially have a claim on your future home.


If you use a real estate agency, your agent will help you make a formal offer on a property, called a proposta d’acquisto. You usually leave a check with the real estate agent at this time, to be returned to you in the event that your offer is not accepted. You may be able to beat out other buyers by offering a more substantial down payment, so strategize with your realtor before making the offer.

Once the offer has been accepted, you will sign a preliminary agreement called a promessa di vendita or compromesso, usually accompanied by a substantial down payment. The compromesso will indicate the parties, the price of the property and the timeframe within which the final deal must be stipulated. This document may be signed in front of a notary, but it may also be written as a scrittura privata (private agreement) between the buyer and seller, usually prepared by your real estate agent.


Italian legislation provides a tax break for the purchase of your primary residence, or prima casa (first home). To be eligible, you must be buying a non-luxury house or apartment in the same municipality where you plan to reside within 18 months after purchase. There are penalties if you sell a prima casa within five years as this is considered property speculation. If you sell your prima casa after the five-year window, you can benefit again from the tax break by buying a new primary residence within a year. For more information, speak with your real estate agent or banker.


When it comes time for rogito (closing), you will need to make an appointment with a notaio. Depending on the terms of payment, you may handle your closing in the notary’s office, at the realtor’s, or in the bank issuing your mortgage. The notary will read aloud the document in front of all parties, stopping to answer questions if necessary. In addition to the stipulated price, be sure to calculate the other costs associated with closing, including IVA and the notary fees. IVA is calculated as a percent of the valore catastale, however the applicable rate depends on use, such as first home, vacation home etc. Notary fees vary depending on the notaio, but you should expect to spend several thousand euro for this obligatory legal service.

In the beginning, despite making great strides learning the language and subtleties of Italian culture, I still felt I was missing something. I sensed a need to bridge the past and present, to blend my Italian-speaking self with my English-speaking self. I had come across listings of ex-patriate groups in Milan, Florence and Rome, but there was no such group in Bologna. I began to think maybe I could start one. Back then it was hard to imagine the future of the IWF. Associations take time to coalesce, discover their identity and to mature. And while I occasionally wondered whether the group would survive, today I can’t imagine life without it.

Julie Wade, IWF founder


Bologna and province have very strict urban planning laws governing remodelling of historic buildings. Do not assume that a proposed project will be approved by the local Ufficio Programmi Urbanistici (Urban Planning Office), especially if there are any exterior changes to the property. Every few years the government announces a condono edilizio (building pardon) when you have the opportunity to confess that you have undertaken projects without a permit. For questions about remodelling, building permits etc., contact the sportello edilizia (construction helpdesk) in your comune.

Sportello Edilizia Comune di Bologna

Via San Felice, 25
Tel. 051.2193270
Open Monday-Friday 8:30-12:30; Thursday 16-17:30


If you’ve navigated the Italian bureaucracy this far, complimenti. You now have everything you need to know to make Bologna home – pass this guide along to help others do the same. “Bologna Inside, Second Edition” is also available online at

A picture of Bologna country

2005 IWF Bologna
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Ivano Albertazzi, Shiatsu Master
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