The Preliminary Purchase Contract

We have been working on two paths towards signing a preliminary purchase agreement. The first, working toward getting legal approval to build, has been moving steady since we started about a month ago. The second, getting a draft agreement, has been moving a bit more slowly, as the lawyer has been busy, but we received a draft of the contract today.

Status of the Design Approval

About two weeks ago, we received the good news that our project can be considered as a variance to the previously approved plan rather than as a complete new project. Our geometra, who is handling the technical parts of the design and working with the local government, the Comune di Colmurano, was asked to submit some additional design details. The expectation is that the project will then be formally approved. We heard this week that he should complete the preparation of these supporting documents by the middle of next week.

August in Italy

A key element of Italian culture will impact the timing of all our activities in the short term. It’s the widespread, near universal, vacation for nearly all of August. At least out in the countryside, businesses and government more or less close down. (I’m sure it’s not quite like this in Milan and other business centers.)

In fact, Kevin received an email from the window supplier on August 5 wishing everyone a wonderful vacation and announcing the business will be closed until September 5. As an American, he just shakes his head at the thought of a US building supplier just closing for a whole month.

Fortunately, the Comune will have a skeleton staff on a partial schedule, so we may be able to get some progress on the approval.

The Written Agreement

Compromesso draft: One column in Italian, one in English
Compromesso draft: One column in Italian, one in English

The original plan we agreed to verbally is that we would sign a preliminary purchase agreement and pay a 12,000€ deposit once we had the informal opinion that our project would be approved. We had agreed to this, but felt a little squirrelly about the risk of it only being an informal approval.

While we got that opinion a couple of weeks ago, we didn’t get a draft contract until today. Since we expect to submit the final documentation to the Comune within a week, I asked the lawyer and Kevin if we could forgo the preliminary agreement and just do a final purchase once we had the formal approval. This way, we’d eliminate that risk of owning a property we couldn’t build on.

The lawyer saw no problem. Kevin was concerned that the seller might balk at the delay.

He proposed a solution: we’d delay the signing until the final approval, we’d immediately pay the deposit, the final sale would happen within 21 days, and if the deal did fall apart, we’d pay the seller’s expenses for the geometra and architect, up to 3500€.

Kevin talked to the seller and he had no problem with this solution. He said he understood our desire to not buy if we can’t build, but didn’t want to be stuck with these preparation expenses.

So we got our “insurance policy” against the unlikely event we get a flat “no” from the Comune.

Next is to see how much August slows us down.


We made the final tweaks to the contract. On this pass, I noted that the property was described as being about 3200m2 or 3/4 of an acre. My memory was that we had been told it was closer to 3900m2 or just under an acre. Kevin said the property was as we “saw it on the ground” and any difference related to what was in the official records, not that the property was different in any way.

We should receive an email with the final contract tomorrow. Then we need to sign three copies and return the physical copies by regular mail.

Another Update

The property size is nearly 3700m2. The 3200 figure is for the land not including the building and its “courtyard”. When that extra 470m2 are added, we come out at 3700, about 0.9 acre.

Contract signed and returned. At first, it looked like it would cost about $70 to send them, based on the post office’s flat rate envelope or similar service from FedEx or UPS. Only cost about $7, since it was just documents and under a pound.

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