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House prices throughout France have risen 15.5% since 2003 and much of this growth has been attributed to English, Dutch and German purchasing holiday, second or retirement homes. Even with the growth in buyer numbers obstacles remain in the French real estate buying process: Foreignproperty's guide to buying in France aims to make potential purchasers aware of the issues involved.


Five things never to forget:

  • Research all aspects of the property purchase
  • Have clear goals of purpose for the property
  • Obtain as much advice as possible
  • Be cautious in all of your actions
  • Ask yourself searching questions
    1. Is this the ‘one’?
    2. Am I happy with the price?
    3. Would I buy this property in a different location?
    4. Will this property fulfil the purpose I have in mind for it?


    How to buy, tips, rules and advice:

    Please note that the description below is not guaranteed and Foreignproperty Limited recommends seeking professional advice.

    The French estate agents only earn commission on the sale; they don't always have your interests in mind.

    The French property lawyer "Notaire" represents both parties in the sale; they do not always act in your interests as a solicitor in the UK would.

    The French estate agent has to have a mandate or written authority from the seller to be able to negotiate the transaction.

    A "Bon de Visite" is the only document the agents should ask you to sign it allows them to show you the properties on their books.

    Any income generated by letting the property in France is taxable in France.

    Before arranging finances for the property purchase in France consult with UK banking and mortgage companies who may be able to help in the financing or the purchase.

    NEGOTIATE THE PRICE with the seller, just as in the UK this is a crucial step.

    Once the price is agreed a preliminary purchase contact will need to be signed be sure what you are signing as these are not standardised contracts. If necessary obtain an English Translation of the contract. Ensure you understand the exact nature of this contract, clauses and protections left out of this contract can cause problems in the latter stages of the purchase.

    As a general rule do NOT sign the following named contracts: "promesse de vente" or "promesse d’achet" They allow for only one party to commit to the sale or purchase of the property.

    As a general rule the "compromise de vente" commits both parties to the sale to purchase of the property.

    A contract should contain special terms and conditions the "conditions suspensives". These will be included to ensure that if they are not met then the contract will be void and entitle withdrawal by the purchaser or seller. Check for restrictions of ownership, planning and claims on the property. State within the "conditions suspensives" the financing arrangements to purchase the property.

    Contracts for new and as yet incomplete ‘development’ properties often differ in the contracts that are offered to the consumer. Ensure you protect yourself in this case by seeking advice and understanding the contract you will be expected to sign.

    Only sign the contract when you are happy, the "conditions suspensives" is the only protection you will have. Don't forget time scale inclusions, the last thing you want is the French property lawyer holding your deposit for a year before doing any work!!

    Unlike in the UK, planning, local authority and boundary searches and enquires are conducted after the contract is signed and deposit paid. At this point in the sale process only the "condition suspensives" provides you with any protection.

    Don't pay money direct to the seller, always go through the French Property Lawyer ‘Notaire’ who should hold a license for their position as a ‘Notaire’.

    As in the UK obtain a survey from an "expert immobilier en batiment" as well as advice from local builders, architects or UK based Chartered Surveyor to ensure you know what you are buying.

    Who should purchase the property, don't forget UK inheritance tax issues and the tax issues arising from ownership.

    Obtain boundary plans "plan cadastral" of the property, the seller should provide these, they can be checked with the French local authorities. Any planning permission "permis de construire" should be noted and considered. Check the local town hall’s zoning and locations of proposed developments. Once the contract is signed the "Notaire" will obtain a certificate d’urbanisme from the local authority indicating any possible developments or planning permission restrictions.

    If in any doubt obtain legal advice from an independent advisor, a number of UK based French property solicitors exist who can help you with this. Please contact adam@foreignproperty.com for further information.

    Since June 2001 a seven day cooling off period has been enforced from the point the contract is received for the purchaser to decide if they wish to proceed.

    A Land registry "the Bureau de Conservaton des Hypotheques" search will be completed by the "Notaire" once the contract has been signed.

    The "acte de vente" is the completion document. Always request this document from the "Notaire" well in advance of the date of completion as you need to ensure you understand its contents.

    The completion date will be arranged by the "Notiare" at his office in France where the parties will meet and sign the "acte de vente". It is at this point where the balance of the price and legal fees are paid and the funds cleared before completion has been finalised.

    The title of the property will be registered in your name by the "Notiare" at the "Bureau de Conservation Des Hypotheques" once the "acte de vente" is executed.

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