If you haven’t found a property you want to buy, make sure you give clear and honest feedback to your agent(s), in order for them to ensure any further properties they show you will be suitable.
If, on the other hand, you want to make an offer, it’s best to wait until after the viewing. Seek the agent’s advice on whether the vendor will be open to negotiation, and if so, by how much. Although the agent is mandated by the seller, they should be able to advise you professionally. Check too if there have been any previous offers (accepted or refused).
When deciding on the price you will offer, take into account whether any work is needed to the property, how much it will cost and whether the asking price reflects this. Don’t forget to include buying costs too (agent’s and notaire’s fees and taxes).
Technically, once an offer has been accepted, the sale is binding, but in practice it is the initial sales contract, usually called the compromis de vente that is legally binding. The buyer has a 10-day cooling-off period during which they can pull out for any reason. You may be asked to sign an offre d’achat before the official contract; this just shows a commitment to buy the property.
The compromis can include conditional clauses, such as whether planning permission or finance is needed to go ahead with the purchase.
Don’t be pressured into signing the sales contract for a property unless you’re sure it’s ‘the one’. If you are sure though, don’t dither about making an offer – you wouldn’t want to lose out to another buyer.
Once the 10-day cooling-off period has passed, the notaire will commence the conveyancing process, with completion ( acte de vente) usually taking place around three or four months later.
The vendor is obliged to provide a series of diagnostic reports, covering the presence of asbestos, lead and termites as well as energy efficiency, natural or industrial risks, gas installations, electrical wiring and septic tanks. Don’t confuse these with a building survey; they are not the same.
Should you wish to organise a survey or get a builder in to quote on renovation costs, it’s advisable to get this done within the cooling-off period if possible. If not, you may be able to include a successful survey as one of the conditional clauses.
Your notaire and agent should keep in touch with you throughout the whole process, and before you know it you’ll be celebrating with your favourite French tipple and the keys to your new home.