We have compiled a brief guide to explain the process of purchasing property in France. All sales are handled by our experts at French Partners Real Estate and a qualified notary to assist you in every step.
When buying French property from abroad, the first important step to take is to organise your finances. If you would like to take out a loan for your property purchase, our trusted mortgage brokers and private financial advisors can provide you with budgets and required actions. We also work with Currency Exchange partners to get you the best rate when transferring funds. You will also need to think about setting up a French bank account for all utilities and running costs. Get in touch with us to organise setting up an account.
Finding the right property
Once your finances are in place, the next step is to define your most important criteria.
Your French Partners Real Estate agent will carry out a thorough property search using our range of networks and tools to prepare for your visits. When you find the right property, your agent will negotiate on your behalf. All offers are presented in written form either below or at the asking price.
When both parties have agreed on a price, all information for the sale will be sent to your chosen notary or notaire. If you do not have one already; we can put you in contact with one of our trusted multilingual notaries. The notary will draw up a pre-contract, or compromis de vente, for both parties to sign. This is a legal document stipulating any conditions of the sale and a preliminary date for the final signing.
At this time, you will be presented with a full survey report of the property known as diagnostics which provides you with information regarding the electricity, surface area, gas installations, presence and levels of lead, asbestos, termites, and natural and technological risks. If you are purchasing an apartment or a house that is part of a residence, you will also receive all documents regarding the financial and legal status of the condominium, and the minutes from the last 3 years of meetings which document any works carried out. French law is designed to protect buyers so you will be presented with all relevant legal documentation and a full overview of the property you are purchasing.
If you are unable to sign in person, it is also possible to have the contract signed by power of attorney and have all documents sent to you by post or electronically. Your agent will be present for all signatures to ensure that your rights are protected.
After signing the pre-contract, you will have up to 10 days to put down a 5 - 10% deposit and an advance on notary fees. This money will be held in a government-regulated escrow account until completion of the sale. It is important to note that if any sales conditions are not met, your deposit is refundable.
10 day “cooling off” period
After signing the pre-contract and receiving all legal documentation, you are entitled to a 10 day “cooling off” period. During this time, you, as the buyer, can withdraw from the sale for any reason. At the end of this period, the contract becomes binding for both parties.
If the buyer withdraws from the sale after this 10-day period, unless for one of the pre-stipulated conditions, the seller is entitled to claim 10% of the sale price as compensation.
Before completion, all remaining funds need to be transferred to the notary’s escrow account. When all documents are ready, funds are in place and the sale conditions have been met, the final contract is ready to be signed. Prior to the final signing, your notary will carry out all necessary enquiries and administration.
The average delay from pre-contract to final signing is 3 - 4 months in France, but this can vary depending on circumstances.
Once all documents have been signed by both parties, the keys can then be exchanged and ownership is transferred. Your notary will take care of all legal registration of your new property.
Transaction fees are calculated at 7.5 - 8.5% of the sale price and include VAT and registration taxes (please note that if you are buying a new build, the notary fees are reduced). You will also pay a pro-rata of the yearly property tax (taxe foncière) and any condominium fees.
Once the property owner has been transferred, all utilities will need to be changed to your name. If you are thinking of renting your property or need someone to take care of it in your absence, find out more about our property management services here.
The above information cannot be constituted as legal advice. We can put you in touch with qualified lawyers and notaries for any legal advice you require.