House Buying In France
If you have ever thought of buying a house in France, how do you go about it and what are the differences from buying in England ?
Find A House To Buy
This may seem obvious but you do need to do a lot of research to find what you want before you put an offer in on a house in France. France is a large country with many differences in climate & scenery and so you should have plenty of options to look at to give you what you are specifying.
For initial research go online and look at sites such as Beaux Village , Leggett & GreenAcres . On these sites you can select your area of France you are interested in and type of property and price range and come up with some great options. Then you arrange your viewings as you would do in the UK.
You can also contact Notaires in the areas you are interested in because often they have inheritance properties to sell which do not get advertised with estate agents. You will still have to pay a fee for this but it can be around 50% of the estate agent cost would be.
Driving around an area you may also see private for sale signs, look out for those.
Making An Offer
As in England, if you like a property you have seen, make an offer through the estate agent ( in France, the buyer pays the estate agent fees, can be upto 10% . When you see prices quoted, they show the net figure & the total figure with agents fees ).
In some regions of France, there are a number of properties for sale and it can often be a buyers market and so it is not uncommon for offers to be made 30% less than the asking price. As in any market, some properties can be overvalued and you do not know the personal circumstances of the seller. They might just accept that low offer if it has being on the market for a long time.
In rural areas often the property has being inherited and the younger generation has moved to the cities and do not want to live in the countryside and in these situations, a lower offer may be accepted.
A point of difference to England is I believe that if you offer the full asking price, the seller has to accept. No danger of Gazumping in these situations.
Letter of Intent
When you have had your offer accepted, the estate agent will prepare a Letter of Intention to Purchase which will confirm the price being paid and the agents fees.
I have written this assuming you are buying a property without a mortgage and using your own funds. As in the UK, you can take a mortgage out to buy in France. Since this is not my area of expertise, I recommend you seek suitable qualified advice if you are going to be purchasing this way.
Proof Of Identity
As in the UK, you will need to provide proof of identity to satisfy AML requirements and so be prepared with your passport, birth certificate and utility bills etc !
In the UK, you have a valuation survey and on most occasions, a structural survey, in France these very rarely happen. You can arrange for a building survey which you will have to pay for. The rules may be different if you are taking a mortgage out but your independent financial adviser can let you know more about this.
In France they do a Dossier de Diagnostic Technique ( DDT ) and this will look at the quality of the electrics and gas installations. They will also look for any evidence of asbestos or lead and in certain areas of the country, termites !
They will also look at environmental issues such as flooding , soil & earthquakes. In addition, a check is made on the presence of radon.
In rural areas it is common to have a fosse septique ( septic tank ) and these have to be of a certain standard to meet current regulations. If the fosse in the property does not make these standards, it is the responsibility of the buyer to make it good in 12 months. This will all depend on what needs to be done but a new fosse could be between €5,000 – €15,000 and so this could be a negotiating point on the price.
The property will also need an energy efficiency survey.
All the surveys are paid for by the seller.
Compromis de Vente ( CdV )
This is where you start getting differences to England. The CdV is a commitment to buy and will require a deposit to be paid of around 10%. You will sign this either at the notaires ( solicitor ) office or at your estate agents. The seller will also sign this. After signing, the buyer is allowed a 10 day cooling off period where you can back out (but not the seller) and after this period, you pay your deposit.
If after the 10 day cooling off period you decide you do not want to go ahead, you will lose your deposit.
If you are buying a property in an agricultural area, SAFER , the French government regulated agricultural body will be informed depending on the size of the property & the land and they have a right to purchase the property in its entirety. If they decide this is the case, they must pay the price you had agreed to pay.
This process normally takes 2 months but for a fee of around €150 , you can have this timescale reduced to 1 month.
A quick note on the notaires. In the UK you would deal with a conveyancing solicitor when buying or selling a property but in France you deal with a notaire. A notaire is a public officer and acts on behalf of the State and is appointed by the Minister of Justice. They work as self-employed professionals but are not paid by the State but are paid by their clients to agreed rates fixed by the State.
Unlike the UK, the buyer and the seller can use the same notaire and is often preferable to ensure all the information is at hand.
About a week before completion, you will need to pay the notaire the balance of the monies for the purchase.
On the day of completion, the buyer and the agent will check the property to ensure everything is in order and fixtures & fittings are left as expected. It is important to specify this for the CdV because it has being known to turn up at a house to find you are only left with a sink in the kitchen.
Acte de Vente
This is the completion stage and will take place at the notaires offices and where you will sign. You can assign power of attorney to the notaire if you cannot be there. The Acte de Vente is the governing contract going forward and is signed by both the buyer & seller.
Often this will be accompanied with a glass of wine on completion, after all, it is France !