French property buyers guide
10 steps to success in buying French property
1. Determine your budget
The very first things you should do are:
- Decide what your budget is and then,
- Decide whether you will be buying as a cash purchase or with a mortgage.
(If you plan to buy with a French mortgage then we highly recommend that you contact a mortgage broker or French bank to get an agreement in principle for the amount you want to borrow. This saves everyone involved a lot of time as you won’t waste time viewing properties which you cannot afford to get a mortgage for.)
2. Select some agencies and properties you wish to view
You will need to call the agent one to two weeks before your visit to ensure that they are available to see you. You can just book it all last minute or just pitch up at the agency but you do run the risk of not being able to take an appointment.
3. Sign the “Bon de Visite”
Many agents will ask you to sign a form called the “Bon de Visite”. This is fine - it just protects their commission as it proves that you viewed the property through them.
4. Get a survey
When you find a property that you like and are thinking of putting an offer in you may want to consider getting an expert to look over the structure of the property for you. In France they don’t have Chartered surveyors like they do in England so most French people will just get a local builder or Architect to do this for them. Alternatively you could employ the services of English Chartered Surveyors who live in France.
5. Make an offer
If you are happy with the condition of the property then you can make an offer. You will have to gauge if the owner will accept an offer by speaking with the agent but discounts of 5 to 10% are not unheard of.
6. Sign the preliminary sales contract (compromis de vente)
If your offer is accepted, then you will be asked to sign the preliminary sales contract (the Compromis de Vente) and usually asked to pay a 10% deposit to the notaire’s account. Please note that this is a legally binding contract and from the time you sign it you will have a 7 day cooling off period. After this period expires you are legally bound to purchase the property or you will forfeit your deposit. The only exemption to this rule is if there are any suspensive clauses put into the contract which are not fulfilled, like getting a mortgage for example.
Now the notary carries out the searches on your behalf: public works that may affect the property, land boundaries, rights of way and ownership.
8. Change your money early
Once the sale is agreed you ought to change your money so that you know exactly how much it will cost you in pounds sterling. A depreciation in the value of the pound could otherwise prove to be costly. For the best exchange rates backed up by excellent service please call the currency experts HIFX via the contact form on our home page of our website.
9. Date for completion
The notary will have given you a date for completion (Acte de vente) and all money, including any loans must be in the notary’s account prior to this date including the stamp duty and his fees. The fees are 7-8% for property over 5 years old and 2-3% if new build, off-plan or under 5 years old and never previously sold.
10. The final signing - the “Acte de Vente”
The final signing is called the “Acte de vente” and is held in the notary’s office and is the final stage in this process. If you cannot be there then you may give the notary power of attorney to sign on your behalf.
You might want to add an 11th step - cracking open that bottle of champagne!
Off-Plan buying process
For off-plan property, the buying process is very similar. However if the property is not completed yet then you will be paying in stages. What build stage the property is in will dictate how much will need to be paid at signature of the final sales contract - the “Acte Authentique”. The minimum amount is normally 30% once the foundations have been laid. For more information view our New Build page.
Email us with any questions or ring 00 44 (0) 203 59 77 030.