Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Overseas Closing Process

For those of you who have found your casa in Guardia, but have to return to the US and want to handle the closing from the US, I will explain the process from our experience and hope this helps other Americans in their endeavors.

Once we chose our house, we met with and agreed to hire our attorney in Guardia, Daniele Sebastianelli.  We met with him and his lovely wife, Sabrina, who speaks English flawlessly and was able to interpret for us.  My daughter and I signed a preliminary Power of Attorney giving Daniele Power of Attorney to negotiate an initial purchasing sales agreement.  At this point, we also learned from the primary sellers (husband and wife) that there was a possible third party that owned a portion of our cantina, but we did not know for sure yet.  Daniele, along with the Notary, began researching this to determine if this was true.

In November 2014, Daniele was able to confirm that there is a third party that owns 1/4 of the cantina.  So at this point we had to make a decision whether to continue with the purchase or not.  Because this above-ground cantina is not part of the casa and is located separate and away, but still very close to the casa, we could see the potential of having two separate living spaces in the future, and it is almost like having two places for the price of one.  In the end, we decided to move forward with the sale and we would just hope that everything will work out in the end. 

Daniele and Sabrina were hoping to have most of the necessary documents prepared by Christmas.  However, in January 2015, we were still waiting for the engineer to complete the survey plan of our house and cantina.  In February we learned that the sellers were filing for divorce and each wanted half of the agreed upon 13,000 euros, which would be 6,500 each.  At this point, we still have not paid any money to anyone yet, and wouldn't until towards the end, but I later learned that one of the sellers was ready to walk away from the deal, but with Roberto's help and Daniele's and Sabrina's, everything is still on.

In the meantime, we learned that it would be necessary for us to sign another Power of Attorney to give Daniele the power to sign all closing documents on our behalf and in our absence at the final act (closing).  We were instructed by Daniele and Sabrina to take the document to our local Italian consulate and sign it there.  Sounds simple enough, doesn't it?  No such luck.  We went round and round over that one for quite awhile before it became abundantly clear that Italian consulates cannot assist non-Italians in America.  They will in Canada (where Sabrina originates from), but not in America.  However, the Italian consulate did point us in the right direction when she mentioned the word "apostille".  I had never heard that word before so it was foreign to my ears.  But that lead us on the right path to the Florida Department of State.  They are the ones responsible for issuing an apostille that is attached to your document, in our case, the Power of Attorney.  This apostille authenticates the Florida Notary's signature.  I don't know if all states are the same as Florida, but once we signed the English version of the Power of Attorney before a Notary Public of the State of Florida, we then had to send it to our Florida Department of State with a cover letter that stated it would be used in the Country of Italy, and we had to include the $10 fee, along with a self-addressed stamped envelope.  In March, once the Department of State attached the Apostille to the English version of the Power of Attorney and returned it to us approximately 2-3 weeks later, I then e-mailed it to Daniele and Sabrina for theirs and the Italian Notary's approval (April 2015).  Once they approved it, they set the closing date for May 12, 2015, and asked for me to mail the original.  At this point, I requested the funds by way of a loan from my 401k retirement fund to pay for the house and all fees.  I mailed the original Power of Attorney to Italy through the US Post Office, which was guaranteed to arrive within 10 days, but was not provided a tracking number and held my breath that it would arrive on time for the closing.  It did, but we cut it pretty close. (It arrived in 12 days). It was then necessary to have this English version of the Power of Attorney translated back into Italian for a fee of 300 euros.  And also, you have to pay the Notary in Italy prior to the actual final closing.  I had to wire his funds to him from bank account in the US to his bank account in Italy.

While all of that was taking place, we had been making plans to return to Guardia.  At first we thought it would be easier to try and be there in person for the final closing, but Sabrina explained that the way we were doing this was, in fact, saving us time and money.  If I would've known back in January that I would be returning to Guardia in May, and that the final closing would not have taken place until May, maybe we would've opted to appear in person.  Anyway, after making the appropriate wire transfers to everyone, we are now official owners of our own little slice of heaven in Guardia Sanframondi, Italy!!

But just so you know, other than a few bumps in the road, it wasn't that difficult to handle the closing from America.  So I hope those of you who are considering it, can take a few tips and learn from my mistakes and save yourself some headaches.  Good luck to you!


1.  Have your notarized Power of Attorney authenticated by having your Department of State issue an Apostille.  Be sure to inform them that the Power of Attorney will be used in Italy.  They will only authenticate English versions of documents.

2.  Make sure when sending official documents to Italy that you use a trackable delivery system.  You can save money like we did, but it's not worth the stress!

3.  The Notary expects to be paid prior to the final act closing.  I sent the wire transfer the day before the closing.

Welcome to the neighborhood!