Buying a Property in France


The Role of the French Notaire

Once you find a property and agree on a price, the actual contract process will be handled by a notaire as they are the only persons permitted by law to perform conveyancing in France. The notaire charges a fee – usually between 6% and 8% of the net property price (the cheaper the property, the higher the percentage). The notaire is required by law to act impartially and acts for both buyer and seller.


Clauses Suspensives

‘Clauses suspensives’ permit you to withdraw from the purchase under certain circumstances, so it is important to give this some thought before you sign the Compromis de Vente. You can add any clauses you like to the contract (provided of course that the vendor is willing to accept them). If you are obtaining a mortgage, the notaire will automatically include this fact as a conditional clause in the contract. This means if your mortgage provider turns you down or refuses to lend on the property, you are not obliged to go ahead with the purchase. Other typical clauses you might include are ensuring that you are able to obtain planning permission, or ensuring that certain works or repairs are carried out. Many problematic purchases or disputes could have been avoided if the purchasers had introduced clauses to protect themselves at this stage.

3 Key Stages

The buying process in France is very straight forward. 

Here are the 3 keys stages:


Making An Offer

When you find the property you would like to purchase we would advise you to make an offer as soon as you can. If your offer is accepted you may be asked to sign an “offer d’achat” (commitment to purchase the property). This does not legally bind you to buying the property, but the vendor will effectively take the property off the market and will not be allowed to accept offers from other potential buyers. No money exchanges hands at this time.


Compromis De Vente

This is a contract signed by both the vendor and purchaser to seal the deal and commence the French property purchase process. The signing is normally undertaken at the Notaire’s office. If you do not speak French fluently you are advised to organise a translator to attend unless your notaire is happy to translate for you. A deposit of up to 10% is normally paid to the Notaire on, or shortly after, signing the sale and purchase agreement. Whilst 10% is the normal deposit it is quite legal to pay a lesser amount. However, in some cases, a 5% deposit is accepted if the seller agrees.

A completion date will normally be set at this stage. You (the buyer) will have a 10 day “cooling off” period before you are legally committed to the purchase.

Acte De Vente

It normally takes between 6 to 12 weeks to complete all the necessary paperwork for a property purchase. When the day of completion arrives the vendor/s and buyer/s are invited to the Notaire's office to sign the ‘Acte de Vente’ (deed of sale) which guarantees the legal transfer of the property. The balance of funds must have been transferred to the Notaire before you sign the deed of sale. Ask for confirmation the money has been received. You will need to have a valid house and content insurance cover in place for the day of completion.


Notaire Fees - How Much Will It Cost?

The legal costs associated with the purchase of property in France are known as the Notaire fees. However, this covers both the fees and taxes. In summary, the total fees and taxes payable are as follows. 

Older Property - The total conveyancing fees and taxes payable for the purchase of an existing property are between 7% and 10% of the purchase price. 

New Property - You will pay around 2% in conveyancing fees and registration taxes, plus VAT at the rate of 20% on the purchase price, except for sales between private individuals. Of this total, the actual notaire fee is only about 1%. The rest of the fee includes stamp duty registration taxes and disbursements. Notaire fees are regulated by the government and vary according to the sale price of the property and the department in which you are purchasing.

You can calculate what the notaires fees will be on the property you are buying using this facility.


What is SAFER™

If you are purchasing or selling a property in France on agricultural land (such as a farmhouse, vineyard, or many other rural properties) SAFER will become involved at the stage of signing the compromis de vente. The SAFER has pre-emptive purchase rights and the notaire is under obligation to notify this government body of any sale of farmland. In the notary’s jargon, the notaire “purges” the SAFER’s right to exercise its droit de pré-emption (right of first refusal). The SAFER then studies the file and can, in some cases, choose to object to the sale. Le droit de pré-emption may sound harsh, but, contrary to what one may think, the SAFER cannot expropriate nor can it purchase any property piecemeal.

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