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Frequently Asked Questions

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Q: Who are the parties that will be involved?

We will obviously be involved, as will the vendor and also the Notaire who is responsible for drawing up the contracts and doing the searches. An ‘Expert de Batiment’ (literally a property expert), who is responsible for examining the property and producing the ‘Etude Diagnostique’ (ie the survey report). We would also recommend appointing a third party lawyer to advise you on legal, tax and inheritance issues, and will shadow the Notaire to ensure that the contracts meet your requirements.

Q. What is a notaire?

The process of buying a property in France is rather different from that of the UK. The most fundamental difference is that if you’re buying houses in France then it is the norm for neither party to have a solicitor. That’s not to say that you can’t appoint a solicitor if you want to, of course you can, it’s just that in place of a solicitor a “Notaire” is used.

A Notaire is a government registered official who acts neither for the buyer or the seller, but for the contract. That is to say that he is there to oversee the proceedings and ensure that everything is above board and as it should be. It will be the Notaire who will draw up the contract. The Notaire will attend to the various formalities and searches in the same way as a solicitor conducts searches in the UK to confirm that the property is suitable for sale. The Notaire is empowered by the government and is a collector of taxes on their behalf. Usually he acts for both buyer and seller. The purchaser pays his fees.

Part of the Notaire’s duty is to obtain three certificates in order to be able to finalise the sale of the property;

1. The “Certicicat des Hypotheques” This is an extract from the French government mortgage registry and will declare whether or not there are any outstanding loans on the property. If he finds any outstanding loans, the Notaire must either repay the loan in full out of the proceeds of the sale before paying the vendor, or, if he believes the monies have already been repaid, sort out the discrepancy before being able to issue the clearance certificate.

2. The “Certificat d’Urbanism”. This is issued by the Mairie (Town hall) confirming that the house is what it should be i.e.: a house rather than a factory or hotel. It also confirms the planning aspects of the property and whether there are any rights of way or something similar that relate to the sale.

3. The “Certificat de Pre-Emption”. In nearly all French villages, the Mairie has the legal right to purchase any property that is being sold. This could be enforced if they feel that the property would be useful for use a government building or to extend a school, or even to demolish it to create an open space

Q. Will I have to pay a deposit?

A deposit will be required to have been deposited in the Notaire's Bank Account by the time of signing the Compromis de Vente. It will usually be 10% of the purchase price and is refundable:

  • If you as the Buyer pull out of the deal within the seven day cooling off period;
  • Not all of the clauses laid out in the Compromis de Vente (called 'Clauses Suspensives') are satisfied. For example, you may choose to include a clause relating to propery finance - you will only be committed to purchase the property if you are granted a mortgage. If you are unable to get a mortgage within a reasonable period of time, the deal is unwound and your deposit is returned.

Q. Will there be a survey?

The vendor is obliged to pay for an Etude Diagnostique and this report forms part of the Compromis de Vente. Structural Surveys are not common practice in France and, but if you require one please ask and we can arrange one for you.

Q. What happens after the signing of the first contract?

The notaire undertakes all the searches, contacts administrative and other bodies and completes the formalities necessary for the sale to take place, including checks on the title to the property. We will liaise with the notaire, to find out if there is anything adverse revealed during this process and we will keep you fully informed of progress throughout.


Q. When does ownership of property pass to me?

You will sign a deed in front of the notaire and the ownership of the property will pass with this signing. You will take possession of the property immediately afterwards.

Q. What happens if I don’t understand what is happening during the signing in the notaire’s office?

It is possible for us to use an English speaking Notaire or have a translater there for you during the meeting. An option we find works best is to employ a local English solicitor who you will probably have taken advice from in any event, he is fluent in French and is then able to advise on both legal aspects as well as language. In addition, we are always at the meetings with you to assist wherever possible.


Q. How long does the purchase process take?

Normally, it takes between two and three months from the signing of the first contract to the signing of the deed. It can and does longer where there are complications of inheritance and boundary issues.


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