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Architect, engineer, geometra..

  •  Professional fees and what to consider when restoring a property in Italy

Unless you plan to carry out just some light cosmetic work at your property like interior decorating, you will need to instruct some professionals, either architect, engineer or surveyor (geometra), or all of them.

The choice of the person you will instruct is very important – not just because they will need to make the application for permission for you but they will need to understand your vision, they will need to be knowledgeable and with the Italian long bureaucracy, practical!

Fees charged by architects, engineers and surveyors can vary very significantly. It is important to shop around and compare fees, but alarm bells should start ringing if someone offers rock bottom prices. The cheapest option may not always be what it seems and to be able to offer these low prices, they likely to be too superficial and careless. Fees represent a small part of the whole-life costs of a project, but poor design can have a long lasting and expensive impact…

Undertaking any type of construction, whether a renovation, extension or brand new building requires a team of experts to not just get the job done, but also to ensure that the site is always safe, and knowing which team of experts you need, when and costs you should expect, is the key to a stress free project.

Here we will explain to you who does what, when and why, and costs to consider when restoring a property in Italy.

The Architects: long been considered the top man/woman of the building site, they go through years of training which is largely still based around an analysis of the appearance, functionality and spaces within the building. Advisor to the clients, the architect considers the look and feel of the building and oversees the activity of not only the builders but also all the other professionals on site.

Structural Engineers deal with the strength and stability of a structure, working on sections between the “architects” spaces, like the floors, walls and ceilings.

The Surveyor – geometra – can be used for different purposes, for simple building designs, produce accurate plans of any existing property, sites and buildings (measured surveys) or to register new plans and deal with administrative tasks.

During a project, each of these professionals have very different roles and costs. Do not assume that an engineer is definitely more experienced than a geometra or that an architect is more expensive than an engineer or geometra.

But before talking about their fees, what are the steps to restore a property in Italy?

Here the 10 steps in the restoration process in Italy and to ensure to have a great project with no surprises and avoid restoration pitfalls:

1. Whether it is land or an existing building, it is important to have a detailed measured survey - this has to be done physically at the property so ensure that that the plans are not drawn simply by using the land registry plans as this could cause inconsistencies between the documents deposited in the Municipality and actual lay-out and measurements of your property.

2. Your team of experts’ first call should be obtaining all property’s documents, land registry plans and study planning history to ensure that the property complies to Planning and Land registry regulations before making any applications. It is not rare for properties to have irregularities due to works for which one did not think planning consents were necessary.

3. Have some preliminary discussions with your architect with ideas about possible changes and lay-out

4. Preparation of feasibility study to verify that the project can be submitted for planning permission following existing local and National building regulations, and check if there are any restrictions and which governmental bodies need to receive your application.

5. Obtain preliminary advice on the project from the local authority

6. The executive project is completed so do confirm you are 100% happy with it as it will be used to submit planning permission in Italy. If you wish to make changes in the future, this can be done but amendments will cause delays to the project and likely extra costs. The executive project consists of architectural and structural drawings, along with plans by the building services engineer for the power, health and safety, security and heating part of the project. All building works will be detailed in the project in order to obtain specific quotes for the work.

7. Submitting planning permission. This can be categorised (as broad guidelines only) as: CILA – for works that generally do not require any structural work SCIA – ‘light’ structural work and change of registration of rooms or buildings (cambio di destinazione d'uso) PERMESSO DI COSTRUIRE (PDC) : full planning permission for new buildings or extensions.

8. Preparation of the “Computo Metrico”, a detailed specification of the works, with quantity and unit prices in order to obtain precise building works quotes. Ideally do tender the project to 2-3 building companies to compare prices and quality of their work.

9. Choice of the building company and preparation and signing of Building contract: this will be between the client and the building company, stating all terms of payments, stages of the works and accountability, including penalty fines for delays.

10. Appointment of the Project Manager/Site Supervisor for the works – this role, called Direttore ai Lavori, is required by law and it cannot be covered by anyone, as the role is aimed at ensuring safety, be on the site on a regular basis while building works take place and in case of incidents, or accident, he/she is the person responsible for the site and legally liable. The role can be covered by an architect, an engineer or a geometra only.

So what is the cost for Architects, Engineers and geometra in Italy and what percentages one can expect?

Fees can be calculated in three ways: a percentage of construction cost, a lump-sum basis, or time charge/hourly rate.

It is difficult though to provide a quote by the hour and generally professionals opt for a Percentage Fee as in this way the client has a reasonable indication of total fees, allowing some flexibility if the project changes – in either direction, so if it is amended by adding work or reduced, without having to renegotiate.

It is understandable that sometimes clients are concerned that a percentage approach does not give an incentive to keep construction costs low and here is where the choice of the person you will instruct is paramount. A professional service means that your team of experts will be working for your interests, will act with integrity and will look after your clients’ money properly, so check for references, do ask to speak with previous or current customers if necessary.

Lump sum fee should be carefully defined based on specific items of work. The fee will need to be renegotiated if the work or timing changes so this approach might be best for a straightforward project with a very clearly delineated brief.

You may agree fees by percentage with some of the team and by lump sum with others, depending on the project itself.

Services and costs, here divided by various stages that the project will require:

Measured Survey   -   from €500 depending on the site/property’s size

Architectural project   -   expect 3%-4%

Structural project   -   variable depending on the structural works required

Building services drawings   -   variable depending on the works required

Managing of architectural works   -   expect 4%-8%

Managing of structural works   -   expect 4%-8%

But ultimately, architects and engineers’ fees depend on the size, type and quality of the project that a client requires. Companies usually produce their own fees’ structures based on the services they can offer and the number of people who will be appointed to deal with your project. For residential projects, architects typically charge between 10% and 15%, with lower percentages on higher value projects. Engineers’ fee generally are in the region of 10% of the project.

If a client requires additional services after being instructed, these can be time charged or the party can agree a separate fixed fee. Certainly, no works should be carried out before agreeing first how the work will be remunerated.

Some optional services could be:

Joinery design/bespoke furniture: eg. kitchen, wardrobes, bookcases etc.

External landscape design: surface finishes, garden design, boundaries, lighting

Interior design: furniture, soft furnishings, decorations, specialist lighting

These would typically incur between 0.5% and 2% of additional percentage fee, depending on the type/scope of the project. All above fees, in any way these will be calculated do not include administrative fees (the so-called out-of-pocket expenses) for the submission of the authorisations, VAT or local taxes. Some professionals also charge for their travelling expenses, so it is important that this is taken into account and/or agreed before starting any work.

Broadly speaking residential projects are one of the most time-intensive types of work for an architect, as it is a very personal project therefore a high-quality building and in-depth service is required.

A good architect and team can add a significant amount of value to a project, potentially much more than the fee that they charge – great ideas in design, stress-free delivery and a potential increase in value of the property, is something to take into account. A construction project can be a long and sometimes challenging (although rewarding) experience, so it pays to select an architect that you feel comfortable with on a personal level!

If you wish to receive further information about Restoration Assistance with Property Organiser please contact us



Very interesting reading. As usual.

Thank you for sharing the information, I cannot recommend you highly enough and you have helped us so much with our works!

Hope you guys are well and Covid isn't causing you too many problems. Keep safe!


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