There are two legal stages: entering a promise of sale followed by the signing of the deed of purchase.
The promise of sale agreement is a very important preliminary step, since once signed it is a binding promise on both parties to sell/purchase; it will contain all the terms and conditions of the transaction and cannot be ignored or annulled unless by agreement, or unless there is a good legal reason. Nor can any terms be added or changed without mutual agreement.
Once the promise of sale agreement is signed, the public notary—appointed by the purchaser—will carry out the necessary searches to ensure that the vendor has good title and that there are no undisclosed burdens on the property.
Among other things, the promise of sale agreement will state whether the property is freehold, or whether it is subject to an annual ground rent (emphyteutical grant), and in such case, whether it is temporary or perpetual and whether the ground rent is revisable. The correctness of these fundamental aspects declared by the prospective seller are all verified by the Notary when carrying out the researches.
The promise of sale agreement usually states a validity period that is a time limit—it is typically a three month one—by which the final deed should be published. If none is stated, then the law deems the period to be three months.
The purchase is completed by the signing of the deed of sale, which is a public document.
If you are a non-EU citizen, there is a minimum amount you must spend in order to obtain a permit to purchase the property. An A.I.P. (Acquisition of Immovable Property) Permit is required from the Ministry of Finance and is normally granted within two months of application.