Are you interested in buying a house in France? If so, great. This article aims to give you advice on the best places to look for property, detail the steps you will need to take to secure a property, and give you some hints and tips on how to navigate the legal process of buying property in France. We will also highlight some of the most popular French cities in which to buy property.
Searching for a Property in France
There are many ways to discover properties for sale in France, you can search newspapers, property magazines, use an estate agent, or even check out property auctions. Generally, the easiest option is to look online initially as you can cover more ground without having to even leave home.
Here at Drive-France we list a variety of French property websites that you can checkout to find the home of your dreams. First though lets look at the French property buying process in more detail.
How to Buy and What to Expect
French properties can be sold in a number different of ways, through a public notary (notaires), by using estate agents (called immobiliers) or privately. Most overseas buyers purchase property using estate agents, as this process is more familiar and buyers are more likely to find people who speak English if they choose this path.
Make sure, when you select an estate agent that they are part of the membership of a registered body, for example SNPI, FNAIM or UNPI, this information should be readily available to you. You should not use an estate agent without visiting their office first to check their set up.
You will often be asked by an agent to sign a “Bon de visite”. This officially informs the seller that the agent, are the ones who showed you, the potential buyer, that particular property. This is to ensure no conflict exists between agents.
Prices shown in a French estate agent’s office or on their website should include their fees. Fees can be anywhere between four and ten per cent of the full price. However, prices rarely include the notaire’s fee. A notaire will be the person who actually handles the contract process as notaires are the only people under French law who are allowed to carry out conveyancing. They act impartially and for both the buyer and the seller. They typically charge a fee of between two and eight percent of the property price. This makes it especially important to ask, when you’re considering pursing a property to ask what the quoted price includes. You can also asked for an estimate of any added costs. Remember to factor in the 19.6 percent VAT and add it to the total price. You can make an offer for a property in just the same way you would in the UK.
In France, surveys are not usually done as the job of surveyor does not exist as it does in the UK. If you have any concerns about a property’s structure you can contact a number of UK surveyors working in France, or visit the site with a local builder to get costings and opinions. If you want to do this, it may be wise to do so before agreeing on a final price and signing a contract. You should also ensure you have viewed the plans of the property and its land (known as cadastral plans) so that you can check there are no communal or private plans to build anything close to your house.
When you have made an offer which has been accepted, you will then be required to sign either a promesse unilatérale de vente or more often a compromis de vente. When the owner promises to sell to a buyer for a given price the seller cannot sell to another party for a short period of time. The buyer pays a deposit. The buyer can choose to withdraw from the sale within the accepted period and lose the deposit.
If you sign a compromis de vente both parties agree to cement the deal at a fixed price, the buyer pays a ten percent deposit. This is, in legal terms, a final sale. If either person pulls out, the other can take legal action against them. Both types of contract have a one week period in which the buyer can withdraw from the agreement without penalty.
Things to Check before Signing a Contract
Before you enter into an agreement you need to check that all the details are accurate and correct. It should include the area and boundaries of the property and outline exactly what is being sold. This includes the results of all reports required by law, for example energy and pest reports.
You need to find out if there exists any conditional clauses or other statuary disclosers. Be sure to add penalty clauses if this is not the case.
You will also need to detail how you are going to pay for the property as well. If you want to purchase a property using a mortgage there has to be a description of the loan’s detail, which states that a sale may only progress if a mortgage is obtained.
What is Included in the Compromis de Vente?
The Compromis de Vente details nearly all the information which will also be in the final Acte de Vente, which is the equivalent of the Deed of Sale in the UK, which is when the buyer takes possession of the property.
The Compromis de Vente includes:
The full personal details of both parties involved including their marital status. There will also be a description of the house and any out-buildings, the area of the plot. The title deeds will also be confirmed. Along with this, there will be a price, which has been agreed upon. This would typically include the notaire’s fees. Situations in which a deposit would be lost are noted, and it sets out the duties of the buyer, and what the vender has declared about the property. This is also where you will find standard suspensive clauses, and the results of all legally required surveys. An estimated date is given for completion, which serves as a target for both parties, but can be changed. A list of furniture or other possessions included in the sale, is provided if needed.
What Happens after you’ve Signed?
The notaire will look into any financial and legal claims on the house or other property. This normally takes a few months, but can take longer. A date of completion can be agreed, once this process is underway. This may also be when you choose to have any surveys completed, if you did not do so before signing a contract.
Property in France is always passed on to children, so be advised by the notaire before signing the Acte de Vente setting out your civic status and personal details.
Costs and Taxes you should be aware of
The costs involved can include the notaire’s fees, which are determined by the government and according to which tax bracket a property falls into. The total costs involved cannot exceed ten percent of the property’s value. You will also be required to cover the stamp duty. There are also two taxes applied to residential properties; land tax and taxes for the local area, which are paid on 1st January each year.
The Final Sale - The Acte de Vente
This usually happens a few months after signing the Compromis de Vente. All the required work will have been conducted by the notaire. A completion date will have been set, the date on which you will sign the Acte de Vente. This will happen in France, with the notaire present. Once this has happened the property is yours and the keys will be handed over.
Before doing this you will need to make sure that all the necessary funds have been deposited into the correct account, usually the notaire’s account. Paying at the time of singing by cheque or cash is not permitted. You must also make sure you have property insurance in place before meeting to sign the final contract.
Top Tips for Navigating the Legal Process
Despite what you’ve just read the legal process is quite simple. Also, the land registration system in France is secure. It does usually proceed without the aid of a solicitor to advise you, so you have to be on the ball throughout the process. We recommend that you get some help with translation, as you may get the wrong idea if you have only a limited knowledge of French. Remember, though, that translation costs are not included in the contract. Make sure you budget for taxes and fees when looking to buy, as these are not inconsiderable. You may also need to pay an estate agent’s commission. You can try to offset this by negotiating the overall price of the property. Make sure to get conditions of the offer in writing and are set out in a contract. To be safe, you should only sign a contract which has been prepared by a notaire, in their presence. It is not the notaire’s job to verify everything you need to know about the house, so it’s important that you make your own enquires, perhaps through a specialist property lawyer. If you can, appoint your own notaire to act for you in the transaction. Verify all disclosers the seller is obliged to make in front of the notaire. Make sure you are perfectly clear about the terms of the sale, and what your liabilities are. You should take steps to discover any disputes with neighbours and any development in the area as well.
You should not rely too much on the statutory survey reports the seller will pay for, as they do not constitute a full building survey. Ask that any clauses which absolves the vender from responsibility of any hidden problems with the property is not in the contract. Also, it is not always necessary to pay a ten percent deposit. It is possible to offer a lower deposit. If you are an unmarried couple it is vital that you buy the property jointly to protect the interest of each person involved. You will have to undertake the appropriate steps in order to pass a property down to your spouse if you’re married. You should, if possible, visit the property on the day of completion in order to check the fixtures and fittings of the property.
The Best Cites in which to buy Property in France
According to a recent survey, Western France’s Reenes topped the rankings as the number one place to buy property. The lucrative market there is thought to be largely due to a high demand for rented accommodation for students attending Reenes University. Prices here are also quire stable and reasonable when compared to Paris. It also offers lots of business opportunities, and a well-organised transport system, because it provides quick access to the capital, and thereby to all the attractions of that city. It is, however, far cheaper to buy property in Reenes, than to is to buy in Paris.
Bordeaux placed second in the list. Its transport system was also noted as an advantage in the area, while Montpellier in the south of France was ranked third. It has a booming area, Port Marianne, which was noted as being a particularly attractive feature of the city.
Nautes came next, and is recognised as a great place to work and as a result, business is thriving in this city.
We set out to help you simplify and conduct your search for property in France. Now that we have provided you with some tips about how to begin looking for a property including what recommendations to look out for at a notarie’s office and have given you some idea of what you may expect, we hope you are ready to enter in to the search for your perfect French property with confidence.
We hope that some of the tips we have outlined for dealing with the legal processes of purchasing property in France has helped, and that the prospect seems a little less intimidating, as there are some key differences with the process in the UK. Finally, we have highlighted four of the most popular cities to buy property in, two of which have first-rate transport links to Paris.
Author: Article written by guest writer Steve Holden who is a Estate Agent specialising in properties on the continent.
Driving around France
Clearly once you have decided on an area of France the best thing to do is either fly over and hire a car or drive you own car all the way there. Having a car to check out the surrounding areas of the property you are considering is essential really, so make sure you are prepared for the French driving regulations by checking out our “All in One” Travel kit and our checklist page.