Should I expect to be able to negotiate a discount off a property’s asking price?
Often yes, but it depends a lot on the specific property and the location. A professional real estate agent should be able to provide you with general achieved price values for neighborhoods and property types so you don’t have to negotiate blindly. In general, the average discount nationally is somewhere in the order of 10-15% from the ORIGINAL asking price, which may be different from the CURRENT asking price, i.e. if a property has already been discounted 10% from the original asking price, you might not get further than a 5% discount. A national average means in some cases there won’t be a discount or a slight premium will be paid (not so common in Italy yet possible in hot markets like Rome and Milan). In other cases the discount might be 30% or more.
Data on the sales history for a specific property is in theory public, yet in typical bureaucratic fashion the reality is different: accessing the data requires a paid subscription. Searching is difficult and expensive. Viewing specific records is expensive. Values prior to 2006 (year of the introduction of “prezzo-valore”, taxation on a property’s tax appraised value instead of the sale price) are notoriously unreliable and in any case digital records currently only go back a few years.
Negotiation may be more difficult in the frequent case where a property has multiple owners. This occurs particularly due to how the inheritance law works. When a person passes away, they must leave a specific part of their estate to their legitimate heirs, e.g. children, spouse, parents. They may not just leave everything to their latest ex playboy model or toy boy or whatever the case may be. This is actually often the reason a property will be on the market: multiple owners, none of which has either the interest nor the means to buy out the others. Multiple owners does mean multiple heads that have to decide. I generally try to get one of the sellers to secure a limited power of attorney to act on behalf of all the sellers for the properties I list, solving this problem at the source. This alas isn’t easy nor is it common practice.