Interested in buying a French property? You need to know about the role of the Notaire

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I am currently dealing with various Notaires out here in the foothills while overseeing the property transactions of a number of clients who are hoping to take possession of their new homes in France in the next few months. The role of the Notaire in regard to buying and selling property in France is not always well understood by foreign buyers in France so here is a short summary of their role.

When you purchase a property in France, it is obligatory for a Notaire to oversee the transaction regardless of whether you go through an estate agent or buy privately although you are free to appoint the Notaire of your choice. The Notaire in France is similar to a solicitor in that they do the conveyancing of the property but, unlike a solicitor, a Notaire represents neither party exclusively, rather they are a representative of the French State. The Notaire oversees the legal work connected to the French house sale which includes the following tasks:

  • Checking and confirming details of any debts affecting the property
  • Confirming details of ownership and third party rights to the property
  • Checking that the property meets certain regulations and is eligible for sale
  • Drafting the acte authentique de venteor property purchase deeds
  • Collecting and paying all taxes relating to the transaction 
· Collecting the agreed purchase price from the buyer and delivering it to the seller

The Notaire’s report has, since 2007, been consolidated under French law into one document entitled ‘dossier de diagnostic technique’ or DDT and has since been expanded to encompass an energy performance report and reports on the condition of gas and electricity services and the septic tank. This is in addition to those reports already included on the presence of asbestos, lead and termites. It does not, however, include a valuation or an appraisal of the structural soundness of the building

The buyer is responsible for paying the Frais de Notaire or notary fees and these fees are fixed by law but each party may use his/her own Notaire at no extra cost to the buyer as fees will be shared equally between the respective Notaires. The fees are a fixed percentage of the value of the property (around 6-8%) based on a graduated scale set by French law with the percentage decreasing the more expensive the property becomes. It is worth remembering that the notary fees you are asked to pay are actually an estimate of the actual cost of the transaction which is normally slightly over-estimated so often you will receive a small refund a couple of months after the sale. Contrary to common belief, notary fees do not just cover the commission charged by the Notaire for his or her work but include local and government taxes and the equivalent of stamp duty in France.


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