Buying in France

If you have decided France is for you then you need to start researching the type of property you are after and how much it will cost.

You’ll see from our site that there is quite a range even within our affordable property market. Some properties will require little or no work whilst others will require complete renovation.  

 You should take into account all of these costs and not just the seller’s price. All the prices indicated on our site include any agent’s fees. However, as the buyer, you will be responsible for the notaries’ fees (similar role to a solicitor but is a state appointed official).  

For a property above 50 000 Euros the notaries’ fees will be in the region of 8% of the purchase value. This fee will be slightly higher if you are using a French loan to buy the property. The notaries’ fees include all the necessary search fees to ensure the sale is carried out according to French law. If you’re looking at older properties you should factor in the cost of renovation.

Unless you are lucky enough to have sufficient funds to cover all the costs outright then it is important to talk to a mortgage advisor very early on. This way you can work out whether or not you can raise the necessary finances. Having a provisional offer in place from a mortgage company will also give you more leverage when you do start negotiations.  Because you are buying in a foreign country most of the usual lenders either won’t be able to help or if they can will charge a premium rate. It is therefore important speak to a specialist in the field before investing too much time and money. If this is your situation do drop us a line.

Once you have done some market research and you know what you can afford you can start your property search. If you are coming from England especially to visit properties then it is a good idea to short list a few beforehand. Come and visit a few even if just one takes your fancy then it is still a good idea to see what else is available in the area if only to ensure your favourite property is priced correctly.

The seller should provide you with a diagnostic report which will detail whether asbestos, lead, termites and other wood boring insects are present. It will highlight any major problems with the electrical system and give the energy rating of the property. If the seller hasn’t yet obtained this report then he must do so before you sign any binding contracts. However it isn’t a detailed survey and you may want to arrange for a more detailed investigation to be carried out by a local surveyor, architect or builder.

Once you have done your research and are sure the property is for you then the next stage is to make an offer. This is normally initially done verbally, via email or by signing an “offre de achat”. It is worth bearing in mind that unlike the UK it is quite normal to make an offer below the asking price. This is particularly so if the property has been on the market for some time or requires a lot of work to make it fit for habitation.

The Legal Steps

Once you and the seller have agreed on a sale price then a preliminary contract called generally a compromis de vente will be drawn up and signed. This contract will be produced either by the agent responsible for the sale or a notaire chosen generally by the seller. However, it is possible to appoint a second notaire and the cost will be no more but split between the two. Although this isn’t usually done as a notaire unlike UK solicitors, works for the government and his job is to ensure the sale is carried out according to French law and works in effect for both buyer and seller.

Once you sign a compromis, you have a ten-day buyer's cooling off period during which you can change your mind for any reason; it is normal to pay a deposit of around 10 percent at this stage.

Before signing a compromis, make sure the contract specifies the exact boundaries of the property, any additional structures (dépendences), and any furniture, fixtures, appliances, etc to be included in the sale as well as any other conditions known as conditions suspensives on the sale, such as obtaining a loan or insurance.

Be aware once you have passed the cooling off period, whether you have paid a deposit or not, you are legally obliged to buy the property if the conditions detailed in the compromis are met. Failure to do so could result in the seller seeking compensation from you.

Once the deposit is paid, the notaire will start researching to ascertain if there are any legal or financial restrictions on the sale; this can take as long as 12 weeks. In the case of rural homes, this search should also determine if there are any other claims to the property, such as the neighbouring farmer's right, droite de passage, to drive his tractor across your land to his fields. While this is going on you will need to spend time securing your mortgage.

The notaire or agent will contact you to arrange the signing of the main contract known as the acte de vente. It is customary for all parties to sign at the same time, usually in the notaire's office. However it is possible to appoint someone to act on your behalf if you are not able to be present on the day of signing. The buyer will need to ensure funds are transfer into the notaire's account before signing can take place. You will all listen to the reading of the acte and sign the documents.

Keys will then be handed over to your new home in France.

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