Finding a property is only the first step in making a purchase and for many foreign buyers the process of buying a property in Italy can seem complex. The language barrier will certainly require that most foreign buyers obtain advice from professionals who are fluent in their own language and Italian. But, said Roger Coombes, managing director of Cluttons Italy, 'Generally speaking, the Italian legal system for property transactions offers good safeguards and guarantees, and acquiring property in Italy is not intrinsically more complicated than in other European countries'. There are two types of property in Tuscany, according to Luca Santoro, chief executive of House & Loft. The first is an apartment in a renovated borgo or farm, which often includes communal gardens and swimming pools, and is suitable for buyers with a limited budget. This can be easy and cost effective to own, with management and rental contracts often in place. The second option is to buy your own farmhouse, villa or castle, although the budget is likely to be significantly higher and managing the property may not be so easy. 'If you're looking for a farmhouse with about four bedrooms, views and swimming pool, don't expect much change from Euro1 million [HK$9.83 million],' Mr Santoro said. Although there is no legal requirement for buyers to have their own lawyer, many foreign parties prefer to engage one who will look after their interests. In Italy, the notaio, or notary public, is required to witness the contract, but acts for the buyer and seller, and receives fees from both, in checking the legal aspects of the property. A geometra will also be involved in the sale by surveying the property. The transaction costs for a property purchase in Italy are in the region of 15 per cent. This will include property taxes, a 3 per cent agency commission and a fee for the notary public of 1-1.5 per cent of the price. The buyer will also have to pay registration tax (stamp duty) of 4 per cent of the registry value of the property if the buyer declares his intention to become resident in Italy within 12 months, or 10 per cent if he intends to remain abroad. For those who need finance, foreign buyers can obtain mortgages in Italy, although banks have tightened their lending criteria. Italian banks normally lend up to 80 per cent of their valuation of a given property. According to Mr Santoro, management of rental properties in Italy is not generally a problem. However, most owners prefer to use their properties themselves and to rent for short periods on a weekly or monthly basis. Longer leases of six months or a year can create difficulties for owners as Italian law gives strong protection to tenants.