Living France - - THE ESSENTIALS -

While buy­ing an ex­ist­ing prop­erty is surely the most com­mon op­tion for Brits look­ing to se­cure their home in France, we are reg­u­larly in­structed to as­sist those who are look­ing to buy a new house or apart­ment. Some­times, this will in­volve the pur­chase of a com­pleted build­ing that has never been oc­cu­pied and is be­ing sold by a de­vel­oper. Most com­monly, though, a buyer will have seen plans, and per­haps a model or com­puter-gen­er­ated vis­ual, but noth­ing more.

It may seem to some to be a brave de­ci­sion to buy a French prop­erty based on a few plans. In re­al­ity we all ac­cept that no pur­chase – old or new – is en­tirely free of any risk, yet clearly an off-plan pur­chase gives rise to its own risks. In this ar­ti­cle, we shall con­sider some of the main points of note in the process of buy­ing a home that is yet to be built.


Per­haps the first ques­tion to ask is whether the builder is suit­ably rep­utable. If at all pos­si­ble, it is wise to visit any pre­vi­ous de­vel­op­ments, both those that have been fin­ished and any that may be in the process of con­struc­tion. Just as is the case for a stan­dard prop­erty pur­chase rather than a new build, there is very lit­tle that can re­place a visit and in­spec­tion. Vis­it­ing a pre­vi­ous site will demon­strate the con­struc­tion qual­ity, and a visit to the in­tended new de­vel­op­ment is in­valu­able. Clearly, one of the risks of buy­ing a new-build prop­erty is that the con­struc­tion will not be com­plete. To pro­tect against this, the pur­chase deed will need to con­tain ex­tra guar­an­tees on the part of the de­vel­oper. In the event that the de­vel­oper com­pany be­came in­sol­vent dur­ing the con­struc­tion process, there should be a guar­an­tee by virtue of which suf­fi­cient fi­nance would be avail­able to con­tinue the build. It is im­por­tant to en­sure that this guar­an­tee is in place, and it should be re­it­er­ated in the ini­tial pur­chase con­tract. This ini­tial con­tract dif­fers in var­i­ous ways from what one may ex­pect in a ‘stan­dard’ pur­chase, when the par­ties would typ­i­cally sign a promesse de vente or a com­pro­mis de vente. In a new-build pur­chase the buyer is gen­er­ally asked to sign a con­trat de réser­va­tion (reser­va­tion con­tract). The rea­sons for the dif­fer­ences are un­der­stand­able: if the prop­erty does not ex­ist, it is not pos­si­ble to com­plete a con­tract to pur­chase it. In­stead, there­fore, a buyer will re­serve the right to com­plete a pur­chase as and when a prop­erty is de­vel­oped.

A reser­va­tion con­tract also means that if for any rea­son the con­struc­tion work does not start, the buyer is en­ti­tled to a full re­im­burse­ment of the de­posit they have paid, al­beit no fur­ther penal­ties could be im­posed on the de­vel­oper.


Yet why would a de­vel­oper not pro­ceed with any work? This ques­tion ap­pears to be one of the most mis­un­der­stood points of the new-build process, at least in re­la­tion to mul­ti­ple prop­erty de­vel­op­ments such as a hous­ing es­tate or an apart­ment block.

It is often the case that the de­vel­oper com­pany may not even own the land upon which the con­struc­tion work is to take place. A rel­a­tively com­mon sce­nario is that a de­vel­oper will agree with a landowner

Above: This new de­vel­op­ment in St-Raphaël in Var in­cludes apart­ments rang­ing in price from €217,000 to €492,000 ( sex­tant­prop­er­

Con­sid­er­ing buy­ing a new-build prop­erty in France?

Matthew Cameron ex­plains the le­gal process and the guar­an­tees in place to pro­tect your in­vest­ment

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