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Buying Property

France - Buying Property

The process of buying a property in France is generally simple, straightforward, and well regulated. Property can be sold privately, through public notary (notaires), or through an estate agent (immobiliers), although most expats tend to buy through estate agents as the process is more familiar and it is more likely that the staff will speak English.

Choosing an estate agent in France can be daunting, especially if you are new to the country. To ensure you receive the best possible service, always ensure that your chosen agent is a member of a registered body such as FNAIM, SNPI, or UNPL. You should also always visit their office before instructing them to act on your behalf.

The process of buying a property in France usually takes between 3 and 4 months, from the initial offer through to the final signing of the contract. There are a number of stages involved and, unlike the UK, there is no such thing as a subject to contract sale, although you may be asked by the estate agent or the seller to formalise your offer in writing (offer d’achat).

Once your offer has been accepted, the process begins, starting with the Compromis de Vente (the first contract), which outlines the main terms of the agreement between the buyer and the seller. When signing this contact, the buyer is usually required to pay a 10% deposit, which will then be held by the notaire until the sale is complete. The Compromis de Vente is a legally binding contract that can only be terminated if one of the conditional clauses (Clauses suspensives) isn’t met.

The Clauses suspensives are clauses added into the Compromis de Vente that allow the buyer to withdraw from the purchase under certain circumstances, such as if the buyer’s mortgage is refused, planning permission is declined, etc. Any clauses can be added into the contract, however both the buyer and the seller must agree to them.

Once the terms have been agreed and both parties have signed the Compromis de Vente, the buyer is allowed a 10-day cooling off period to consider their purchase. During this time, the buyer can withdraw their offer without incurring any sort of penalty before it becomes legally binding. It’s important to note that this cooling off period doesn’t apply to the purchase of single building plots or to purchases that are made through a French property company (an SCI).

The final stage in the process is the signing of the final contract (Acte de Vente or Acte Authentique). The buyer must sign this himself or herself or the power of attorney if this isn’t possible. It’s important that you arrange to view the property of the day that the contract is finalised and signed – there is a clause in the contract stating that the property is ‘sold as seen on the signing date’ so it’s important that you check everything is in order. You won’t receive the keys to the property until the funds for the property and the fees are in the notaire’s bank account, so ensure mortgage and finances are in order in the lead up to the signing date.

There are a number of professional surveys that must be provided by the seller as part of the selling process; these are collectively referred to as the Dossier de Diagnostic Technique (DDT). These surveys must be carried out before the completion of the sale takes place and you should not sign the sale and purchase agreement without having seen the reports.

Estate agent fees are generally between 4% and 10% of the overall property price, these fees should be included in the advertised price of the property so look out for FAI after the price to confirm that this is the case. The notaire’s fee, however, isn’t usually included in the asking price so you should always budget for this separately.

French notaire fees (Frais de Notaire) include the total fees and taxes for the purchase of the property (such as stamp duty and VAT), and the actual notaire fee itself, which usually represents approximately 1% of the total fee. The fees and taxes payable will depend upon the age of the property. The total fees and taxes for existing properties are usually between 7% and 10% of the overall purchase price (excluding estate agent fees). When it comes to new properties, fees and registration taxes are around 2% plus VAT at 20.0% on the purchase price.

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