Ask the experts
Whether you’re planning your move to France, or are already living there, our panel of professionals aims to keep you fully informed with the best advice for every eventuality
QMy husband and I recently travelled to France to sign the compromis de vente for a property we hoped to purchase. As our appointment was first thing in the morning, and we had only arrived the previous evening, we did not have time to view the property again before the signing. It was only when looking around afterwards that we spotted a few issues that we had overlooked on the previous visits. We returned to the UK a couple of days later and after much agonising, decided to withdraw from the purchase. We sent an official letter by courier which was ‘signed for’ by the notaire on the last day of the cooling-off period. This was now five weeks ago, and although the compromis stated that our deposit monies should be returned within three weeks, we have not received our money back. Our spoken French is not wonderful, so we have emailed (rather than telephoned) on several occasions, but have not had a reply. Is this normal? Should we be worried, and how do we sort it out? KATH RISELY
AThe 10-day cooling-off period does offer immense protection for a person who may wish to buy a property in France. It offers the opportunity for someone to consider their situation and perhaps decide that the purchase may not be right for them. It starts when a copy of the contract, after signature by both parties, is sent to the buyer by registered post or MATTHEW CAMERON is partner and head of the French Legal Service team at law firm Ashton KCJ www.ashtonkcj.co.uk handed to the buyer in person by a notaire if the buyer signs it at the notaire’s office.
In this case, the situation is apparently that there were some particular problems with the property that had not come to light previously; if that is the case then the decision to withdraw is understandable. It is not, however, necessary for the buyers to justify why they do not wish to proceed: they are perfectly at liberty, within the 10-day period, to cancel the purchase on a whim. And withdrawal by one member of a couple would terminate for both.
However, the timing and method of notifying the withdrawal are strict: it must be served in person or by registered post at least. In this case, it appears that the notice was sent within the required time period, and by courier, so that would be suitable.
If the termination is notified properly, then the notaire is obliged to refund the deposit within 21 days. If this has not happened, the next step may be to complain about the notaire: there are ways in which a complaint can be raised. The assistance of a specialist solicitor in England may help. MATTHEW CAMERON
QHow can I improve the service I offer guests at my holiday let to create more income and get repeat bookings each year? To compete with others, I know I need to offer something special. ELEONORA GLADWELL
ACustomer service is important these days, so expanding guests’ holiday experience can create repeat bookings – and increase your profitability.
If you live on-site, you might offer meals to your guests as an extra, whether breakfast or a home-cooked dinner. To keep things simple, have a single set menu with vegetarian and allergy options, using fresh, local ingredients. Other ideas are selling a picnic for lunch or organising a communal curry, wine-tasting or barbecue night.
Make recommendations for wines from an exclusive, friendly local vineyard and maybe sell local, homemade products to your guests. Could you offer baby-sitting for parents who want an evening out?
Activities and courses mean either passing on your own expertise or buying it in locally. Arrange painting classes or landscape photography or you could help guests improve their French with classes. JOHN BUSBY is private clients director of French Private Finance, specialists and advisers in French mortgages. www.frenchprivatefinance. com