How to buy a house in France

I have a number of clients from all over the world in the process of buying property here in the Ariège, Haute Garonne and the Gers right now so I thought I would blog briefly on how the house buying process works in France.

Buying a house in France is usually very straightforward, well-regulated and generally far less stressful than in many other countries, particularly the UK. This is a very brief outline of the process but for more detailed information take a look at this article on the Frenchentree website.

Once your offer on a French property has been accepted, you will sign a Compromis de Vente with the vendor drawn up by the local Notaire. This is a written document and binding agreement between the vendor and the buyer which means that gazumping is pretty much non-existent in France. The Notaire is completely impartial, working for the government and often acts for both buyer and seller although I can also recommend an English speaking Notaire if preferred. You will usually be asked to pay a deposit of 5-10% of the agreed price on signing the Compromis de Vente.

Once you have signed, the house is taken off the market and you know that you have secured your home in France. There is a cooling off period of 7 days however for the buyer (not for the seller) to allow you to pull out without penalty and to give you peace of mind.

It then takes around two to three months for the Acte de Vente – the deed of sale – to be drawn up by the Notaire so as to be ready for the final signatures between the parties. The Notaire has to conduct planning and other searches and enquiries with the local authorities including ensuring that the necessary reports have been done by the vendor. These include lead, asbestos, termites, gas, electricity and energy reports which are all grouped together in a single report called the Dossier de Diagnostic Technique or the DDT.

Once the Acte de Vente is ready, the vendor and buyer meet in the Notaire’s office to sign and to pay the balance of the purchase price, legal fees and taxes to the Notaire (this money must be with the Notaire by the date of signing so, if transferring from abroad, allow at least 10 days to two weeks for the money to clear.) The Notaire’s fee is usually between 2-8% of the ‘net’ property price, the majority of which is effectively stamp duty that goes to the government. The estate agent’s fees are generally around 5-6% of the purchase price and sometimes these are included within the purchase price while other times they are quoted separately. House insurance must also be arranged by the time of signing. I usually advise my clients to visit the property on the day of (before) signing to ensure that the house has been left as agreed because the French do have a tendency to take everything with them, including the kitchen sink!

And finally you will get the keys to your new house. Congratulations, you are now the proud owner of your dream home in France. Enjoy.

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