Purchasing a Property in France
Every country is different and so when you decide to make a property purchase in France, you should ensure that you are fully informed of the French property process and what will be expected of you before proceeding. Specialist solicitors in the UK who are qualified in English and French law can advise you on your rights and help to ensure that you are protected as a purchaser in France.
Making an Offer
In the same way as in the UK if you are dealing directly with the Vendor, you will make an offer directly to him or if not, through the agent who has introduced you to the property. However if you are required to sign a written offer, you should always be careful to ensure that this does not take the form of a contract to purchase.
Prior to making the offer, consider the conditions you will wish to impose before going ahead – for instance obtaining a surveyor’s report on the condition of the property or an estimate for the cost of any essential works.
Appointment of the notaire
A notaire is a French lawyer who deals with property transactions. The same notaire may represent both Vendor and Purchaser or each party may have their own notaire. The Purchaser pays the notaire’s fees so if there are two notaires involved, there is no extra cost to the purchaser as the notaire’s fees are fixed by law and the fee is shared.
It is advisable to obtain a survey report on the condition of the property that you are intending to buy before proceeding with the purchase. A list of surveyors can be found at www.rics.org/fr
The compromis de vente (contract to purchase)
The most important document to be signed is the initial purchase contract (compromis de vente) or in some cases the “promesse de vente” or “contrat de reservation” for a new build as this will govern the sale transaction.
The contractual conditions applicable to the purchase are very important and need to be drafted and checked carefully on your behalf as these will govern the whole of the purchase transaction.
A notaire appointed in France will have responsibility for the sale.
‘CONDITIONS SUSPENSIVES’ (CONDITIONS PRECEDENTS)
A binding contract (le compromis de vente) will usually be signed fairly early on in the process in France and will contain certain conditions precedent or ‘Conditions Suspensives’ which are inserted to protect the purchaser and which must be satisfied before completion of the purchase can take place. might be for instance if a purchaser needs to obtain a loan although special conditions will attach to this.
Before proceeding with your purchase, you will need to ensure you have obtained full information on all aspects of the property:
For new build, you will want to make sure that you will benefit from all the standard construction guarantees and financial guarantees if applicable and that the Developer has all the necessary permits.
BUYING A FLAT
If you are buying a flat, additional information you will wish to see will be documents such as the last three years accounts and the minutes of the last General Meeting of the co-ownership.
Have you checked the boundaries and do you know where these are? Is anyone else in occupation?
Is it possible that any rights of way or other third party rights affect the property? Has the owner carried out any works and have you seen the permits / guarantees for this?
COOLING OFF PERIOD
Since June 2001, the Purchaser of a residential property is given a cooling off period (Loi SRU) during which he can withdraw from the contract without penalties.
The final deed (completion)
When the notaire is ready to complete, he will advise you of the total amount you need to transfer to his account for the purchase. This will be the estimated costs and taxes together with the purchase price (less any deposit that may already have been paid at signature of the contract).
The signing of the “Acte de Vente”, the final deed of sale, will take place before a Notaire. If you are unable to attend completion in person, you can appoint an attorney to execute the Acte de Vente on your behalf using a Power of Attorney or Procuration.
For further information, please contact Dawn Alderson, Partner, Solicitor & Avocat au Barreau de Bordeaux at Russell-Cooke LLP:
Direct Dial: +44 (0)20 8394 6373 / E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
www.russell-cooke.co.uk / www.frenchpropertylaw.co.uk
This material does not give a full statement of the law. It is intended for guidance only and is not a substitute for professional advice. No responsibility for loss occasioned as a result of any person acting or refraining from acting can be accepted by Russell-Cooke LLP. © Russell-Cooke LLP. October 2015