Prices have remained low in Italy following the global financial crisis, which hit the Country after the market peaked in 2007. They are still about 30 percent lower than they were at the market’s peak. However, there are signs of moderate optimism among the real estate experts, although such optimism hasn’t necessarily translated into increased prices yet. American buyers, and, more general, international investors have begun to return, after dwindling in number over the last few years, according to The New York Times.

An analysis of the luxury market in Milan released by a local real estate company, found that the average price at the end of the first quarter of 2015 was about $830 per square foot, a decline of 0.8 percent over the previous quarter, 1.2 percent year over year, and 10 percent over five years. Buyers are currently able to negotiate discounts of about 15 percent from asking prices. Although prices haven’t seen an increase, real estate transactions have raised by 9 percent. If Italy’s economics continue to improve — growth is forecast at 1 percent — a small increase in prices is also expected to occur in 2015.

Italy does not restrict foreign buyers from purchasing and/or owning real estate. Buying a house in Italy is no more complicated than buying a house anywhere else but it can be important to choose a good legal advisor. In Italy, all the searches and paperwork required to buy and sell a house are undertaken by the estate agent and the notary public. The notary acts on behalf of the Government and their fees are set in stone, on a sliding scale according to the price of the property. Their prime concern is registering the sale, ensuring that the conveyance is taken care of according to law and collecting the relevant taxes on behalf of the Government. They are completely neutral.

Notaries do NOT act on behalf of either the buyer or the seller. Likewise, the estate agent is being paid the same amount from both buyer and seller and their only interest is to see the sale go through. So though no one is acting against you, no one is acting on your behalf either. It is completely normal for Italians to buy and sell houses without the involvement of a lawyer. However, if you are not Italian and are not familiar with the language and/or with the Italian legal system, the first step to purchasing property in Italy is to hire a real estate attorney to protect your interests.

For these reasons, you are much better off hiring a lawyer who practices in Italy rather than hiring a US or a foreign attorney with Italian expertise. Although the real estate transfer process is a regulated process, foreign buyers may feel more comfortable knowing that there is a lawyer on their side should any aspect of the sale be a cause of concern, making sure that the paperwork is in order, that all the correct searches have been done and that the person transferring the property is the legal owner. Keep in mind also that Italian law provides for pre-contractual liability. In the event that you feel aggrieved by the seller’s unfair behavior, you can file charges to be reimbursed for expenses.