Buying property is a big decision at the best of times but if you’re looking to buy a property abroad then this can be quite a daunting task. To help you understand the process of buying property in France we have compiled a brief guide to the key points you need to bear in mind.
In France, all estate agents must hold what is called a ‘Carte Professionelle’ in order to sell property. You’ll also find that estate agents in France will give out much less information than estate agents in other countries, particularly the UK, for example, they’re unlikely to give out a property’s address and they’ll also accompany you to viewings.
Once you have found your ideal luxury French property and your offer has been accepted both the seller and the buyer sign an initial contract called ‘Compromis de vente’. This is a legally binding document stating the details of the property and sale such as names and addresses of those involved, the agreed price and any conditional clauses that either party wish in include. It goes without saying that you need to be clear on and understand everything that is included the compromise de vente and any other contracts. If necessary it would be advisable to employ the services of a translator.
The Cooling Off Period
Once the compromise de vente is signed there is a 7 day cooling off period in which time the buyer has the option of pulling out without any penalties or fear of losing their deposit.
A deposit is required which is usually about 10%. Once the cooling off period has passed the buyer will forfeit the deposit should they later decide to pull out of the sale.
The Conveyancing Process
The conveyancing process takes about 3 months to complete and is carried out by a notaire.
In France a notaire is used when property or land is sold. You can think of a notaire as a sort of lawyer as they are employed by the French Government to ensure the sale is handled correctly and that all fees are paid.
On completion the deed of sale or ‘acte de vente’, which is the final document for taking over ownership of the property is signed by both the buyer and seller. The notaire then give the new owners an ‘attestation de vente’ and the final ownership papers are posted about 6 months later.
The final payment is made on completion to the notaire. The agency and notaire fees are also paid at this time. The agency and notaire fees can usually amount to 10-15% of the sale price with agency fees normally paid for by the purchaser. It is advisable to check from the outset who’s liable for the fees and how much they are.
When buying property in France it is best to get a mortgage agreed in principle before you start viewing. Having a mortgage in place will more than likely be one of the conditions of the ‘compromis de vente’. This means that if you fail to arrange a mortgage in time the contract is void and no penalties are payable. Once a mortgage is accepted the notaire will be informed and the contract will become binding.
In France it is not commonplace for property surveys to be carried out. You can however arrange for a surveyor, builder or architect to undertake one for you. Remember this is something that will need to be carried out before the initial contract becomes legally binding in order to avoid paying any penalties. Alternatively you could insert a clause into the contract which states that the sale is dependent on a successful survey.
Vendors in France also need to provide a series of reports or ‘diagnostiques’ on such things as lead, asbestos, flood zones, termites, natural risk, gas and energy efficiency of the property.
The French property tax is split in two, the taxe d’habitation and taxe foncière. You can check with the agent for more information about these taxes when viewing the property.
Hopefully this article has helped to cover some of the basics surrounding the process of buying your own little slice of French property but should you have any further questions we would advise you consult the estate agent.