Law

Cross-bor­der le­gal spe­cial­ist Char­lotte Mac­don­ald ex­plains how some as­pects of buy­ing and sell­ing prop­erty in France dif­fer from the process in the UK

French Property News - - Contents - Char­lotte Mac­don­ald is an as­so­ci­ate so­lic­i­tor spe­cial­is­ing in in­ter­na­tional and cross-bor­der law at Stone King LLP Tel: 01225 326757 stonek­ing.co.uk

How the prop­erty buy­ing process dif­fers in the UK and France

When a prop­erty is pur­chased in Eng­land or Wales the buyer is gen­er­ally ex­pected to pay for all searches to en­sure that there are no nasty sur­prises once the sale has com­pleted. This can be very frus­trat­ing for the buyer if the sale falls through af­ter they have gone to the trou­ble and ex­pense of ob­tain­ing the searches.

In con­trast, in France it is the seller who must pay for and pro­vide the fol­low­ing searches ( les di­ag­nos­tics): as­bestos, lead in the paint­work, ter­mites (in some ar­eas of France), gas, elec­tric­ity, en­ergy per­for­mance, dry rot (in some ar­eas), se­cu­rity de­vices on pools (if ap­pli­ca­ble) and nat­u­ral risks.

In France, a no­taire must carry out the le­gal trans­ac­tion of trans­fer­ring a prop­erty be­tween buyer and seller. The no­taire’s fees are gen­er­ally paid for by the buyer.

If you use a so­lic­i­tor too, both in France and the UK the buyer and seller will each pay for their own so­lic­i­tor.

Ex­change and com­ple­tion In Eng­land or Wales, when you pur­chase a prop­erty the steps are, broadly speak­ing, as fol­lows: The buyer finds the prop­erty that they want to buy. The buyer makes an of­fer and, when the of­fer has been ac­cepted by the seller, the buyer car­ries out their searches with re­gards to the con­di­tion of the prop­erty (eg a sur­vey). Only when the buyer is sat­is­fied with the re­sults of this, will the buyer and seller ‘ex­change con­tracts’. Once con­tracts are ex­changed they are both bound to the trans­ac­tion. The fi­nal stage is to com­plete the sale. This can take place on the same day as ex­change of con­tracts but is usu­ally a few weeks later.

In France, when you pur­chase a prop­erty the steps are, broadly speak­ing, as fol­lows: The buyer finds the prop­erty that they want to buy. The buyer makes an of­fer and, if it is ac­cepted, the pre­lim­i­nary con­tract (a com­pro­mis de vente or promesse de vente) is of­ten signed at this stage. It con­tains the re­sults of the di­ag­nos­tics, which have been paid for and pro­vided by the seller. Once the con­tract is signed, the buyer and seller are gen­er­ally bound to the trans­ac­tion (with the ex­cep­tion of a 10-day cool­ing off pe­riod for the buyer). Some­times the buyer will de­lay sign­ing the pre­lim­i­nary con­tract un­til they are sat­is­fied that they have checked all the searches and car­ried out any ad­di­tional en­quiries. The fi­nal stage is to com­plete the sale with the sign­ing of the acte de vente. This takes place at least six weeks af­ter the pre­lim­i­nary con­tract has been signed.

It is im­por­tant to note that the sign­ing of the French pre­lim­i­nary con­tract usu­ally takes place far ear­lier in the process than you would ex­change con­tracts in an English prop­erty trans­ac­tion.

It is not un­usual for the es­tate agent to draft the pre­lim­i­nary con­tract and ask the buyer to sign it once they have seen the prop­erty and de­cided that they like it.

It is gen­er­ally prefer­able for the no­taire to draft the pre­lim­i­nary con­tract, how­ever, as they can draft con­di­tions into the con­tract that the par­ties may need.

Be­cause of the bind­ing na­ture of the pre­lim­i­nary con­tract it is vi­tal that the buyer knows what they are sign­ing.

Meet­ing the seller/buyer In France it is com­mon for the buyer and seller to meet. It can be a good op­por­tu­nity for the buyer to ask ques­tions about the prop­erty. Both par­ties will usu­ally be present at the no­taire’s of­fice when the sale doc­u­men­ta­tion is signed.

In con­trast, in Eng­land and Wales the buyer and seller may never meet. The so­lic­i­tors will usu­ally ar­range the com­ple­tion of the sale over the tele­phone once the par­ties have signed the nec­es­sary pa­per­work.

If you live in the UK and are buy­ing or sell­ing a prop­erty in France, and can­not be present in France for the sign­ing of the doc­u­men­ta­tion, your UK so­lic­i­tor, work­ing with your no­taire, can ar­range for you to sign a power of at­tor­ney in Eng­land, which au­tho­rises an em­ployee of the no­taire to sign on your be­half.

Wills In France, as in the UK it is im­por­tant to make sure that you have wills in place to make sure that prop­erty passes as you wish on your death.

A UK so­lic­i­tor fa­mil­iar with the French sale and pur­chase process and an ex­pert in cross-bor­der suc­ces­sion law can as­sist you with this.

Be­cause of the bind­ing na­ture of the pre­lim­i­nary con­tract it is vi­tal that the buyer knows what they are sign­ing

See Stone King on Stand P299

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