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A quick guide to buying property in France

” Unless you are fully confident that you know what is being said, it is advisable to get some assistance with translation. “

The process of buying property in France is fairly straightforward and the land registration system is secure. However, as a general rule, it proceeds without the appointment of a solicitor or an avocat, so you need to have your wits about you.

A limited knowledge of the French language may be worse than none at all, as it may give you a false sense of security. Unless you are fully confident that you know what is being said, it is advisable to get some assistance with translation.

The notaire is not going to verify everything you need to know about the property, so it is imperative you make your own pre-contract enquiries and/or consider appointing a specialist property lawyer.

Take care on the content of written offers. Ensure they state that the offer is subject to such conditions to be elaborated in a sale and purchase contract. It’s always best to take advice before signing a sale and purchase contract prepared by an estate agent. As agents also act as the vendor so you need to ensure the contract is equitable. Ideally, you should only sign in front of a notaire.

If at all possible, appoint your own notaire to act for you in the transaction, rather than using a single notaire on a shared basis with the vendor. Alternatively, appoint a specialist solicitor from your own country.

If you are unsure whether you are paying over the odds ask your own notaire for their opinion as they will be familiar with the actual selling prices for properties in the area.

As mortgages are comparatively cheap in France, you might wish to consider buying with a French mortgage on the property. Seeking a mortgage to buy the property it is imperative you include a conditional clause in the sale contract. You should also include conditional clauses relating to planning and other matters as necessary.

If the seller owns additional land or buildings adjoining the property not included in the sale, endeavour to include a clause in the sale contract granting you the right of first refusal in the event of future sale of the property.

A 10% deposit is not obligatory, as a lesser sum is equally valid, so you may be able to get away with offering a lower deposit.

The vendor is obliged to provide a number of statutory survey reports, which you should verify with the notaire. These surveys fall well short of a full building survey, so do not be over-reliant upon these reports. The vendor is also obliged to make a number of statutory disclosures, which you should verify in front of the notaire and include in the contract, e.g. condition, tenancies.

Insist that any clause that exonerates the seller from hidden/latent defects is not included in the sale contract.

Establish with the vendor, and confirm with the notaire in the contract, the fixtures and fittings that are to remain in the property.

Married or unmarried – it matters!

If you are an unmarried couple it is imperative you buy on a joint basis in order to protect the interests of each party.

If you are married and you wish your surviving spouse to inherit all of your estates, you should adopt a French marriage contract or buy en tontine.

If you are not married, or you are buying as an unrelated group of people, then you should consider buying through a property company, called a Société Civile Immobilière (SCI).

On the day of completion, or the day before completion takes place, if possible, visit the property to ensure all is as it should be, particularly in relation to fixtures and fittings.

The legal fees and taxes in connection with purchase are not inconsiderable, so you need to ensure you budget for them in the total purchase costs. Buying an off-plan new property you will pay around 20% VAT and other taxes.

Your dream property could become a nightmare. If this is your first time buying in France, my advise, seek guidance.

Rob Monk –