Vendor and buyer agree on the price and terms of contract, including any conditional clauses ( clauses suspensives) and any furniture included in the sale.
If it’s a private sale, it is unwise to rely on the vendor to supply accurate answers to all questions. Some information is best obtained from the local town hall; for other queries, consult the relevant authorities or call in an expert.
Agent’s fees ( les frais d’agence) are usually included in the price and as such, paid by the buyer. Check this is the case. The notaire’s fixed fees plus tax ( les frais de notaire) are also usually paid by the buyer and are on top of the purchase price. When buying privately, there will be no agent’s fees but notaire’s fees will still apply.
The preliminary sales contract ( compromis de vente) is drawn up by the agent or notaire and signed by both parties. If the buyer is buying privately from a vendor, it’s the notaire who draws up the contract.
The buyer pays the deposit (usually 5-10% of the purchase price) to the notaire and a seven-day cooling off period ensues, during which the buyer can withdraw (but the vendor cannot) and after which the contract is legally binding. If the buyer pulls out after this, he forfeits his deposit.
If you are going to buy with a mortgage, now is the time to put in your application. However, it is wise to apply for a mortgage in principle before you start your property hunt, to avoid disappointment later.
If you are taking out a mortgage, this will be a condition of the preliminary sales contract, giving you the possibility of pulling out should your application be turned down. Once the offer is official, it will be confirmed to the notaire and the contract becomes unconditional.
The notaire handles the conveyancing, which typically takes two to three months. When all the paperwork is ready, the notaire confirms the date and time of the signing of the acte de vente.
Reports on lead, asbestos and flood zones (and in some areas, termites) are mandatory; the vendor pays for these. An energyefficiency report (known as a DPE, or diagnostic de performance énergétique) is now also mandatory, while a natural disaster risk report ( état des risques naturels et technologiques) has to be provided in addition. It specifies whether the property is within an area where there is a risk of flooding or other natural or technological disaster or accident.
The property has to be insured in the buyer’s name from the date of completion.
The buyer transfers the balance of payment to the notaire prior to completion. On the day of completion, all parties meet the notaire to sign the contract (the buyer can appoint a proxy). Keys and an attestation de vente are handed over and ownership is transferred. The final acte de vente papers are sent out around six months later.
Buying a business follows much the same procedure as buying property with the added factor of goodwill, or fonds de commerce. The local chamber of commerce can offer advice as well as statistics to verify a business’s potential profitability. Make sure that the business is legitimate and properly registered by checking its SIREN or SIRET number. Seek professional accountancy and legal advice before proceeding with the sale.
DOS & DON’TS
LAND & BUSINESS
Before buying a plot of land you should check the limite de la zone constructible – even if the plot is large, you might only be permitted to construct on a limited part of it. The plan local d’urbanisme (PLU) is available at the mairie and will tell you what size property can be constructed on the plot. The PLU will also state whether the plot is a terrain de loisirs, which means that you cannot build on the land.
Do check the records of the property and land before making an offer; be clear about boundaries, rights of way and access.
Do take legal advice on inheritance law.
Do view the property on the day of completion before signing the acte de vente, which specifies that the purchase is ‘sold as seen’.
Do prepare any personal assets you intend to use for the purchase (eg give notice for any savings to withdraw, sell securities, etc).
Do shop around in advance for the best currency exchange rate deals.
Do remember to open a French bank account and make your mortgage application in good time.
Do visit the Notaires de France website. It has lots of helpful information in English. www.notaires.fr
Don’t be tempted to sign a sales contract unless you are sure; once the cooling-off period is over, it is legally binding and if you pull out you will lose your deposit.
Don’t forget that the notaire will make a charge of 6.5-10% in addition to the purchase price (this amount is different for new builds). The cheaper the property, the higher the percentage charged; this amount consists of the notaire’s fixed fees and tax.
Don’t forget to allow for the expense of an interpreter being present if your French language skills are poor; ask your agent or notaire about this, as they may be able to help.
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