The Italian real estate market is a bustling and vibrant sector, with a complex web of transactions and negotiations taking place daily. Like in many other countries, buying a house in Italy involves paying taxes, which vary in number and amount. These taxes are a common feature when buying and selling properties worldwide. However, Italy’s real estate industry has been tainted by the deeply rooted presence of what I like to call “mafia mentality”. This influence manifests in various aspects of the Italian life in general, and so also in the property buying and selling process. In this article, we will explore two examples that demonstrate how the mafia mentality has permeated the Italian real estate market: the role of estate agents as “mediators” and the government’s policy on taxing debt.
Estate Agents as “Mediators”
In Italy, estate agents are considered—according to the law—mediators between buyers and sellers. While they are expected to negotiate impartially on behalf of both parties, the reality is quite different. Estate agents frequently prioritise the highest possible price for properties they manage, disregarding their duty of impartiality; thus, they will behave just like any of their peers around the world: they will try and make the best sale they can.
However, because they are officially mediators, they are legally authorised to (and always do) demand fees from both buyers and sellers, creating a financial burden on both parties. Whilst it is common practice for an estate agent to take a cut of the sale in form of service fee, the practice of taking a percentage of the sale price from the buyer is reminiscent of the “pizzo,” the extortion money demanded by the mafia in exchange for protection or other services. As a result, the supposedly neutral role of estate agents is tainted by a mentality that echoes organised crime.
Taxing Debt: Mortgage Policies in Italy
Another example of the mafia mentality’s influence on the Italian real estate market is the government’s taxation policy on mortgages. In Italy, the government imposes a tax on the loan amount taken out by borrowers. This policy effectively taxes debt, rather than income, which seems counterintuitive and is potentially harmful to the country’s economic growth.
This taxation approach can be seen as another manifestation of the mafia mentality, as it forces borrowers to pay a “fee” on a debt they have yet to repay. It creates an additional financial burden on those seeking to purchase property and raises questions about the fairness and effectiveness of such policies.
The Italian real estate market, along with related businesses such as mortgages, is not immune to the influence of the mafia mentality. From estate agents acting as biased mediators to government policies that tax debt instead of income, this mentality is deeply embedded in the industry’s practices, just as it is in many other areas of Italian life. Addressing these issues is crucial to promoting transparency, fairness, and economic growth in Italy. By shedding light on these practices and their origins, we can begin to pave the way for a more equitable and thriving real estate market in the country.