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Legal & Purchasing


A short description of the buying process

The following is purely an indication of the process and is NOT legal advice.

Purchasing and selling a property in France is more straightforward than in England. When an offer has been made and accepted, the Notaire (Solicitor), who is a State appointee, draws up a Compromis de Vente or Soussignée Privée, outline details of which are below. If at this time you have any concerns now is the time to raise them. The Notaire can advise on Family law, Business law, Fiscal law, Company law, Administrative law and Credit law. Remember inheritance law in France is different – you cannot leave all your worldly wealth to a Cats’ Home!!

If both the purchaser and vendor agree the terms, they sign the document. The normal deposit payable is 10%, of the price, but this is negotiable, including the Agents’ fees. This is held in trust by the Notaire and does not attract interest. The property is now off the market and there can be no gazumping. A withdrawal by either party, except as mentioned below, leads to either loss of the deposit or payment of equivalent compensation.

It is not unusual for the local Notaire or his predecessors to have handled the sale and purchase of the property from the time it was first built or the law requiring Notarial action enacted. There is no need to engage different Notaires. There is no French equivalent of a Chartered Surveyor and structural surveys are not the norm. If a purchaser requires a survey an Architect can undertake the work.

There are strict requirements covering the existence of lead (for instance in water pipes), asbestos and termites.


Compromis de Vente

Contracts do vary and the contents should be verified before signing. The following details give an outline of the structure of the contract which is binding on both parties.

The contract starts with the identity of the parties including marital status, place and date, birth details and passport number. In France a wife is known by her maiden name.

Then follow details of the property giving a basic description and the cadastral references listing each parcel of land, its surface area and its designation. This is usually accompanied by a "plan cadastre" which maps out the boundaries of each parcel.

The contract will usually contain the following clauses:

  1. details of the previous sale to the Vendors.
  2. a statement that the Purchaser takes possession on the day of the Acte (Completion).
  3. a statement that the Purchaser buys the property in its present condition.
  4. a statement that the Purchaser accepts existing rights of way.
  5. a statement that the Purchaser accepts liability for all taxes, charges and insurance on the day of the Acte.
  6. the agreed price.
  7. the Agency fees.
  8. details of any financing or mortgage.

It is important to ensure that at this stage any Suspensive Clauses are inserted. These give the Purchaser the right to withdraw if the conditions are not met. They can cover a number of matters such as:

  1. the requirement for a mortgage.
  2. the grant of a Certificate d’Urbanisme – the property is for habitation, there are no rights of way or approved development projects that will interfere with the enjoyment of the property.
  3. S.A.F.E.R. (Société d’Aménagement Foncier et d’Établissement Rural) A Government body with the right to pre-empt a sale with more that 2,500 m² of land. This is a power to aid new farmers, permit development projects of benefit to the environment. It is rarely exercised but takes two months before a decision.
  4. a survey for termites, lead and asbestos to the account of the Vendor. This is now obligatory in many departments.

A clause outlining the Notaire’s duty.

A clause binding the Purchaser to pay the price, Notaire’s fees and taxes.

Other clauses covering the penalties if the terms are broken, a statement whether the property is a main or secondary residence, that the price is the true price i.e. there has been no passing of money ‘under the table’ and the completion date.


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