Define your area
France is a large country with thousands of properties to choose from and this can lead to a never ending house hunt!
Therefore think about the accessibility and climate for your project and how it will work for you. Location is key. If you are also thinking of opening a business at some stage of your project it’s vital to take into consideration access to market and logistics!
How to buy a property
There are a number of ways to buy in France… privately, via notaries or via estate agents. The latter often offering English speaking services, which can be an enormous help throughout the purchasing process.
Prices of properties with the agent are displayed with ‘frais d’agence incluses’ (FAI) or without (prix net vendeur), the agent’s fees (honoraires d’agence) and will be marked accordingly on the advert. The notaire’s fees are rarely included so always ask what the price quoted includes and the agent can give you an estimate of any additional fees.
If using an agent or notaire and visit a property with them you will usually be asked to sign a ‘Bon de visite’ which confirms to the vendor that you have viewed their property, when and by whom. In the event of you proceeding with the purchase, this will engage fees.
Don’t be afraid to ask to see the cadastral plan, and/or visit the local Mairie for information on the area. This can avoid problems and disappointment later in the buying process.
Once you have found your property it is time to agree a price. Don’t be afraid to make an offer if you feel necessary and discuss with your agent or notaire beforehand for more information and guidance. It is not unusual to be asked to sign an ‘Offre d’achat’ which is proposing your price and which both parties sign as agreement.
The buying process
Attention, this usually takes about 3 months.
Once the price is agreed, a ‘Compromis de Vente’ (the first contract) binding the buyer and the seller is prepared (either by the agent or notaire) and signed. ‘Clauses suspensives’ (conditional clauses) can be added to the contract (subject to the vendor accepting them) which permit you to withdraw from the purchase under certain circumstances (i.e. mortgage or planning permission refusals for example). There is also a DTT (Dossier de Diagnostic Technique) attached to the ‘Compromis de Vente’ which is made up of a number of reports required by law to be carried out before a sale. Such reports can include (depending on the property and area) some of the following: lead (in paint), asbestos, energy, electrics, gas, termites, dry rot and safety of swimming pools.
After the signature of the ‘Compromis’, you the buyer will have a ten day cooling-off period which allows you to withdraw from the purchase without incurring a penalty. The seller does not have this right.
Once this period is over, the contract becomes binding for both parties. A deposit can be made towards the property during this ten day cooling-off period and is stipulated in the ‘Compromis de Vente’.
Also, during the ‘Compromis de Vente’ a proposed final signing date will be added– the ‘Acte de Vente’ (Completion date). It is good to remember that this date is not set in stone but a guideline.
There is now a waiting period (approx... two months) whilst the notaire carries out the local authority searches. It includes land registry, boundaries, rights of way and land registry rights.
Once the notaire is satisfied with his /her searches, you will be contacted to confirm a final signing date and to transfer the balance of your payment to the notaire’s account.
The final signing is carried out at the notaires with both parties present (or by procuration if you cannot be present on the actual day). You will be given the keys and the property is yours – you will now be the proud owner of your first French property.
You may also get some months later a rebate from the notaire when all the papers have finally gone through, but do not count on it!
If you need to finance your property purchase click here for further information