The French Property Buying Process Explained

On Choosing your French Property

Probably after many hours of deliberation and over many fine French courses you will want to know exactly what the French buying process is so that there are no nasty surprises round the corner and so you can plan for the future. Here we try to explain the different steps to be taken, what role everyone plays and what is expected from each person. This article covers negotiation, the survey, the signing of the “Compromis de vente” (preliminary contract), the period between this and the signing of the “Acte de vente” (final deed), and also the role of the notary and his fees. It is important to take tax and legal advice before this preliminary contract is signed on how best to arrange your finances and ownership of the property to minimise tax expenditure and in the future inheritance tax issues.

Negotiation:

We are here to guide and assist you through the entire buying process and this includes helping you get the best deal possible on the price of your property. The agent in France may well hint at the lowest price acceptable to the vendor, as they do in England. It is wise to follow what they say as they will know roughly what price will clinch the deal and what would simply annoy the French vendor. In order to be sure about what you are doing, help with negotiation and have any queries answered you ought to speak with us before making an offer but there is nothing wrong with letting the agent know how interested you are. It is a fast paced market out there and you don’t want to lose a fantastic property because you spent too long dithering or trying to obtain a better deal by playing it cool and not making your interests clear.

The Survey:

Unlike in England the French do not tend to have surveys done to their houses and a French chartered surveyor does not exist. The options available to you are: a British chartered surveyor based in France or a local established builder. It is wise to have someone check the property over and check for any expensive repairs which you can sometimes use to negotiate the price and forecast upcoming expenditure. Leapfrog Properties or the agent in France can help organise this survey for you.

The Compromis de vente:

This is the preliminary contract between the buyer and vendor which sets out the exact conditions under which the “Acte de vente” will be completed and how the transfer of the property will take place. It is a binding contract that is signed before any conveyancing takes place by the notary. There is, however, a seven day cooling off period during which the purchaser may pull out without forfeiting any of his deposit (usually 10% of the purchase price). This period begins from the time the buyer receives a signed copy of the compromise and if he decides to pull out of the transaction then he must inform the notaire by written confirmation BEFORE the seven days are over. The purchaser is not required to give a reason for this and should expect to receive his deposit back within 21 days of the notaire recieving the letter. It must be noted though that if the purchaser pulls out of the deal after this period then he is liable to losing the deposit unless any of the “conditions suspensive” (conditional clauses) are not met. This contract can be signed either at the estate agency itself or at the notaire’s office and can be one which has been drawn up by the estate agency or by the notaire although it is always safer to sign one prepared by a notary as it is more likely to protect you and include more details on the transaction. At this point the notary will spend some time with you on the details of the transaction and outline any “conditions suspensives” such as the contract being subject to mortgage approval for example.
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What happens after the compromis is signed?

The Notaire now carries out his searches and conveyancing checking records and documentation concerning the property. Certain certificates are required by him from the buyer showing that surveys have been carried out to verify any existence of Lead, Asbestos or termites. Remember he is impartial and works for the state, not for the buyer or the vendor so he will be thorough to the point at which he is happy that the sale conforms to French law. This could take up to three months and you should use the target completion date to base your planning around but do not use it as a definitive completion date as it is hard to predict exactly how long it will take the Notaire to complete his work. Therefore you should keep in constant communication with the Notaire to find out how it is going and get an exact completion date nearer the time.

What exactly are the duties of the Notaire?