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Buying Property in France


The French Purchasing Process in 5 Steps

Step 1. Making an offer on a Property in France

Step 2. Signing the first contract

When buying a property in France most purchasers would like to have some idea of what is involved in the legal process in order to purchase a property in France. Although many purchasers in the UK buying UK property don’t understand exactly how the legal process works and go ahead, leaving the whole thing to their solicitors, purchasers buying French property want to understand the steps involved and how the legal process works.

So here are the 5 steps that are involved before you become the proud owner of a property in France.

Step 1. Making an offer on a Property in France

Before making an offer, check with your agents as to what they suggest you offer. Is it guesswork or have they discussed the price with the owner or seen an earlier offer rejected? Has the price been reduced? Is the owner in a hurry to sell for his own reasons or has the property just come onto the market? Having seen several properties in the area, you may be in a good position to know if the property is well priced based on its location, size and condition. Bear in mind that if it needs some work, that the price will have been calculated to take this into account so that it might not be a good idea to try to deduct amounts for the work you would like to do from the owner’s asking price nor is it reasonable to expect a reduction because you want to enlarge or change it.

French vendors don’t think and negotiate in the same way as in the UK, they sometimes have never bought or sold a property in their lives and may have inherited their home so that the negotiation can be a little more straightforward with not so much to-ing and fro-ing but you need to be careful not to offend with your first offer. Obviously every negotiation is different and much will depend on the area and type of property and vendor that you are dealing with. In some cases you may be asked to put your offer in writing so that the agent can show this to the vendor to prove it is a genuine and serious offer.

The agent will often visit the vendor in person to submit the offer – business in France is very much more face to face. You should make your offer clear as to what you are expecting to be included which could include any furniture, agency fees, notaire’s fees and taxes - if you are not including them in your offer then make sure you know what these costs will be on top of the agreed price. It is also a good idea to state if you are a cash buyer or require a mortgage. If you require a mortgage state whether you have one agreed in principal and what percentage of the price.

You may want to consider if you prefer a short or long completion period, or are prepared to accept whatever suits the vendor. You may also want to include certain conditions, which will be entered into the contract. These should be stated at the same time as making the offer, putting your offer in the best possible light to the vendor. This also enables the vendor to accept or reject the proposed conditions quickly. Additionally, if you wish a survey to be carried out, you will normally be asked to have this completed during your seven day cooling off period.

Step 2. Signing the first contract to buy

Once an agreement on price is reached you will need to sign a ‘compromis’ which is the first contract. If you are buying a new offplan property you will sign a reservation contract (contrat de reservation). You will be requested to give your agent all your personal details, ie name, address, age, profession, nationality, whether you are single, married etc – the form that is filled in with this information is the ‘etat civil’.
This information is then entered onto the contract together with details of the property, price, vendor’s details, and date by which you must complete the purchase. If you are applying for a French mortgage it will also have a conditional clause stating this with a time limit and may also include any other conditions that you and the vendor have agreed, eg subject to getting permission to build a swimming pool.

If you are not applying for a mortgage then you will be asked to write a paragraph in French (you will be given something to copy) confirming that no mortgage is required and that you have the funds available.

When both parties have signed this (normally 10% of purchase price but on purchases of off-plan property it could be between 2 – 5%), you will then have a 7-day ‘cooling off’ period and a deposit will need to be paid. Only the purchaser has these 7 days in which you may have a complete change of heart and pull out of the purchase for absolutely no reason. The vendor cannot change his mind. At the end of the 7 days the contract is unchangeable and you would only be able to withdraw if your mortgage was refused or another condition in the contract is not met.

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