In our Buying Property in France Guide you will find everything you need to consider when buying your dream house in France including the main stages of the buying process and what to expect.
With concerns about the carbon footprint we’re all creating and worries about fuel costs and increasing travel surcharges, many people are considering looking a little closer to home when it comes to buying property abroad. As a result, France is receiving something of a reawakening of international interest in its property market.
This Buying Property in France Guide is for those who are interested in the market and want quickly and easily access the comprehensive information they need to make a safe purchase.
The very first thing to mention is fees!
When buying property in France, the fees and taxes involved in the process can be astronomically high. Consider up to 10% in estate agency fees, over 19% in VAT and then having to pay for surveys, notaires, an independent solicitor and so on and so forth.
So, step one: have a fixed idea of your budget in mind and stick to it. To do so you need to ask your estate agent up front about all fees.
In terms of fixing a budget that is both realistic for the area of France and the property type you are interested in, you need to take a good look at the property market in France to see what average prices look like in your preferred location at the moment.
If you need a mortgage for buying property in France, discuss getting a mortgage agreed in principal with a lender. Shop around, some big lenders such as HSBC and Barclays offer international mortgages with acceptable rates.
With a budget in mind you can begin looking for a property to buy in one of your favourite locations in France.
Agents, Prices and Fees
When you begin approaching estate agents there are a number of factors to consider. The first is that they are a professional set up and registered with official bodies such as FNAIM, SNPI or UNPI.
The second is that any properties they show you are given to you with the all-inclusive price displayed – i.e., this is the price that includes their fees and sometimes even the notaire fees and VAT as well.
Ask every time you get details from a new agent about what the displayed price includes in the way of fees so you can ensure you are not going to exceed your budget!
With lots of British buyers buying property in France, most estate agents are totally used to this request and usually display prices for properties followed by the letters FAI which indicate that this is the purchase price AND the estate agent’s commission added together.
Buying property in France also involves the notaire’s fees, so you need to budget for between 2.5 and 8% on top, plus 19.6% for VAT.
Making an Offer and Proceeding with Purchase
Having identified a property that you would like to buy you can make an offer. Your estate agent usually can tell you how low you can offer without upsetting the vendor!
Remember, before you do make an offer double check what the price includes in the way of fees and what you will have to find on top. Also see the plans and boundaries of your property.
A verbal or written offer to buy is legally binding so only make an offer with any required conditions laid out. It’s sensible when making an offer to do so in writing (offre d’achat), and include a statement saying the sale is conditional on the preparation of a sale and purchase contract in which all the conditions will be elaborated upon ‘clauses suspensives’ will be drawn.
Clauses suspensives will allow you to withdraw from the sale if certain conditions haven’t been met!
Clauses suspensives is basically a legal document detailing the reasons you are allowed to cite if you have to withdraw from the sale, which include factors such as you not getting the mortgage you expected, planning permission not being granted for essential work to the property or perhaps something bad being found if you elect to have a survey done.
With the offer submitted by the estate agent you wait and see if it is accepted. If it is, you will need to submit documents such as details of your loan, copies of your passport etc., to the agent who will pass required data to the noitaire who manages the sale for both the buyer and the seller.
This is an unusual practice in the UK where we have an independent solicitor for each party. If you want to have your own notaire you can, and you don’t pay double the fees as the notaires have to split the money between them. Alternatively you can appoint a solicitor to act as your adviser, but they cannot get involved in the sale directly as only notaires have the legal authority to do so.
The next stage of buying property in France is the signing of the compromis which is the first contract. This is legally binding on the vendor immediately but as a buyer you have a 7 day cooling off period – regardless of this, you should never sign the compromis unless you are 100% certain that you are ready to go ahead.
However, during your cooling off period you can withdraw from the contract without any penalty.
Do not pay any monies, not even a deposit, until this period has ended and certainly not when making an offer on a property!
Once your 7 days are up you must make payment of your deposit which is usually 10% of the purchase price. This is non-refundable from this point forward unless you withdraw from the sale as a result of a clause in your clauses suspensives document.
Next step is carrying out various surveys
In France having a ‘sold subject to survey’ clause in the contract is not the norm. The vendor, however, has an obligation to supply the findings of multiple surveys as part of their role in the sale, these are collectively called the Dossier de Diagnostic Technique (DDT).
You will be wise to have your own surveys done as well before signing the contract to buy. You’ll have to meet the cost unless the surveys are obligatory for the area of France in which you are buying and then the vendor pays. If in doubt, ask up front.
Signing the Final Contract
Once all has been found to be in order with the property, the sale can proceed to signing the final contract.
You will either sign a Promesse de Vente or a Compromis de Vente – the compromis is increasingly being used, and is preferable as there’s a reciprocal obligation in the contract.
Ensure your contract contains all the conditional clauses you require like getting a mortgage, checking planning permissions, access, easements, etc.
Once you have signed the contract, you are obliged to buy the property subject to any conditions that are included in the contract. Be certain you want to go ahead and that the contract is correctly phrased including all your personal conditions before you sign.
You need to ensure the balance for the property is with the notaire by the date of final signing otherwise the whole sale could collapse and you lose not only your dream property in France, but your 10% deposit as well.
Before you go and sign the contract on the day the signature is due, you need to view the property as the final signature rests beside a statement that says the property is being sold as seen!
A lot can happen to a property between the day you view it and the day you sign the final contract – so do view it before you finally sign for it.
Following signature all final fees and taxes become payable and the property is also registered in your name. And voilà! you become the proud owner of a home in France. Congratulations!!!