The Buying Process
Step 1 : Signing the Proposition d'Achat
A Proposition d'Achat is drawn up by the estate agent, and signed by the prospective buyer, to serve as a written offer for the vendor. Once the vendor has accepted the offer, he then counter signs the document and agrees to reserve the property for a set period, until the relevant paperwork can be collated and sent to the French solicitor (Notaire).
Step 2 : Preparing the Draft Compromis de Vente
The Notaire prepares a draft of initial legal contract, known as the Compromis de Vente. This draft is sent to both parties for their agreement. The purchaser is given the right, with the agreement of both parties, to stipulate any conditions of the purchase; these are known as Clause Suspensives. For example, the purchaser may request the sale be subject to a mortgage acceptance. These Clause Suspensives basically safe-guard the buyer's deposit, which is otherwise non-refundable.
Diagnostic Tests & Septic Tank Control
In France, there are two obligatory pre-sale property controls which are organised and paid for, by the vendor.
The Diagnostic Tests are carried out by a private licensed company and examine the gas and electricity installation; the energy rating of the property; the presence of any termites or wood insects; the presence and state of any asbestos; the presence and degree of any lead; and presence of any potential natural risks locally (ie. flooding, seismic zone).
The Diagnostic Tests do not exam the structure of the property. A private survey would be an optional extra choice for the buyer.
The Septic Tank Control is carried out by a public company, following a change in law from January 2011. If abnormalities are detected, a buyer will be informed of the work required and the costs involved. The new owner has one year to rectify these abnormalities or replace the system.
The purchaser is supplied with a copy of these two reports and the relevant results are cited in the Compromis de Vente.
French Character Homes offers a free verbal explanation of the legal documents, by Skype or telephone. Please note we are not licensed translators; in France licensed translators are registered with the Appeals Court. Clients may prefer to have the legal document officially translated by a third party, in which case we can supply a list of Sworn Translators, registered with the Appeals Court.
Step 3 : Signing the Compromis de Vente
The Notaires prefer both parties to be present for signing the Compromis de Vente. If this is not possible, then either or both parties can sign by proxy. The Notaire draws up a Power of Attorney (known as a Procuration) which is then signed, witnessed and certified by either the French Embassy or a Legal Professional. At time of signing, the purchaser transfers the security deposit equating to 5-10% of the purchase price.
Then follows a ten day cooling off period, during which time the purchaser may elect to withdraw from the sale, without any penalties. If the purchaser has a simple change of heart after this period, he risks to loose his deposit or 10% of the purchase price in compensation to the vendor.
Step 4 : Signing the Acte Authentique
The second and final contract is known as the Acte Authentique and is signed by the vendor and purchaser in the presence of the Notaire. This legal document repeats the terms and conditions of the Compromis de Vente and serves to finalize the sale and transfer the Title Deeds to the new owners.
The legal fees represent approximately 7 - 7.5% of the purchase price. These are comprised of Registration fees (equivalent to UK Stamp Duty), local taxes, Notary fees and a Mortgage Registry fee, if applicable.
Estate Agent fees are not fixed by law and are normally agreed by the agent and the vendor in advance. These fees are incorporated into the asking price and tend to be around 6%.
The Taxe d’Habitation is a local residential tax and is payable by the occupant of the property on the 1st January each year.
The Taxe Foncière is a tax imposed on buildings and land. It will be divided between the vendor and the purchaser on a pro rata basis for the calendar year.
Both Tax bills are issued in October or November and paid in arrears.