How to buy a property in France

1.Make an offer

Once the seller has accepted your offer on a property, the real estate agent contacts the Notary to organize the drafting of the first contract, the Compromis de Vente. Notaries are public officials, appointed by the Minister of Justice and, as such, they are vested with a delegation of public powers. The use of a notary is necessary to conclude a marriage contract, to carry out real estate sales (due to the land register), to make a will, etc. The rules of ethics applicable to the notary mean that he can act alone to represent two parties in a single act, for the seller and the buyer of a property. However, each party can request its own notary, without increasing the cost of the operation: in fact, notary fees are essentially based on the deed, so that if two notaries are involved in the implementation of a sale or a mortgage, the costs are the same as if there had been a notary and will simply be divided between them. However, most often the seller and the buyer will use the same notary for speed and ease.

2.Le Compromis de Vente
The Compromis de Vente or Sous-Seing Privé defines the terms and conditions of the purchase and manages the calendar of the sale. Both parties are bound to purchase the property under various conditions - 'suspensive clauses' - which must be fulfilled before completion, such as obtaining a mortgage for example. Once the conditions are met, the sale will take place. If the conditions are not met, the two parties release themselves from the commitment and the deposit is returned to the buyer.

3. The 10 day refletion period

There is a cooling-off period of ten days after the first stage of the contract, the signing of the compromise. This begins the day after the signing of the contract if it is carried out in the presence of the Notary in France. If you sign by proxy, the ten-day reflection period begins the day after receipt of the copy by email or post. At any time during the ten-day cooling-off period, you may withdraw from the purchase without providing a reason and your deposit must be returned within 21 days of the date of withdrawal. The seller does not benefit from a cooling-off period. The deposit is paid during this period and can be up to 10% of the purchase price and must be paid directly to the notary. This money remains yours and is kept by the notary in a special account called the Escrow Account, until the purchase is completed.

To draft the Compromis de Vente (or Sous-Seing Privé), the Notary must first have in his possession the compulsory studies, all at the expense and expense of the seller and for the information of the buyer. These surveys are: lead / termites / asbestos / thermal efficiency / radon / dry rot / ERP / electricity & gas / sanitation. Sellers of properties with swimming pools are required provide a pool safety features report.

5. Intermediate stage

This follows the ten-day cooling-off period following the signing of the Compromis de Vente and usually takes around three months. During this time, the notary and his staff will carry out the various checks and searches and will inform the necessary organizations of the potential sale. During this period, mortgages are also usually completed and issued.

The buyers responsibility at this stage is to provide the notary with all outstanding documents, such as birth and marriage certificates. It is also the buyers responsibility to ensure that the final balance is deposited in the notary's account in time for the final deed of sale. At this stage, the sellers responsibility is to provide the notary with any outstanding documents, such as guarantees for any work on the property by registered craftsmen, and any invoices they may have which can be used against their capital gain - if any.

6. Achèvement - l'Acte de Vente
The final step is the signing of the Deed of Authenticity or the Deed of Sale. Funds must be transferred to the notary's account at the time of signing and so it is advisable to ensure this happens with some flexibility. The seller must show the property for an inventory before the final signature or the agent can do it on his behalf. Once the Deed of Sale is ready, the seller and buyer meet in the notary's office to sign and pay the balance of the purchase price, legal fees and taxes to the notary. Home insurance should also be arranged prior to signing time.

The Authentic Act is executed by the notary in the presence of all parties unless a power of attorney has been established beforehand. The Deed contains all the information present in the Compromis de Vente as well as the mention of all the notarial checks carried out.

If the property is mortgaged, the mortgage will be paid out of the funds by the notary and the balance returned to the seller. If the buyer buys with a mortgage, this is also administered by the notary and will incur additional costs, calculated by the notary at the time of the compromis de vente. Declarations will be made to the tax authorities by the notary. Possession usually takes place immediately after signing the Deed.

7. Costs and expenses

Agency costs

Agency fees in France vary according to the value of the property and are, in most cases, payable by the buyer. They are usually included in the advertised price, where their amount should be specified.

Notary fees

These represent approximately 7.5% of the purchase price but are not included in the advertised price. These are in addition to the advertised price.

Mortgage costs

These are calculated on a fixed scale and represent approximately 0.5 to 1% of the mortgage value. The Notary will give you the approximate figure when signing the Compromis de Vente

This amount is payable by the seller on any property under construction or less than five years old.

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