JESUISUNE ESTATEAGEN­T

Be glad you can’t es­cape from French red tape

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Overseas - Mi­randa In­gram

A SUNNY, very late­sum­mer evening at last and I spend it comb­ing the lo­cal bars and ho­tels look­ing for my clients. I don’t know where they were stay­ing but I am de­ter­mined to root them out. We’re an ag­gres­sive lot, us es­tate agents.

Mid-af­ter­noon we had all gath­ered at the no­taire’s of­fice to sign the com­ple­tion pa­pers. No sooner had we sat down than the no­taire said that he still hadn’t re­ceived a fi­nal but vi­tal piece of pa­per­work and we should re­con­vene the fol­low­ing day.

Mrs House­buyer flipped. This was the third time the sig­na­tures had been de­layed. She screamed at the no­taire, told him, among other things, that he could stuff the sale, she was pulling out of the deal and go­ing home to Bri­tain.

I did that an­noy­ing trans­la­tor’s thing of ren­der­ing a tor­rent of ex­citable abuse as “Madame is very up­set”, but I think the no­taire had got the drift any­way.

She left. Mr House­buyer fol­lowed in her slip­stream.

The no­taire looked rather star­tled. In fact, no­taires of­ten look star­tled when con­fronted with feisty UK buy­ers, par­tic­u­larly buy­ers who are up­set. Ad­dressed as maître rather than mon­sieur, the French no­taire still en­joys the sort of re­spect once re­served for the vil­lage doc­tor in Bri­tain.

They set the dates for house sales and rarely give a choice or, in­deed, much warn­ing (re­gard­less of fer­ries that have to be booked and days off work ne­go­ti­ated). The cor­rect re­sponse to any in­ep­ti­tude by the no­taire is a smile and a shrug, not a slammed fist and grand exit.

He did not, how­ever, look un­duly per­turbed by Madame’s dis­ap­pear­ance. He knew and I knew (and he knew I knew) that the cou­ple were com­mit­ted to buy­ing and couldn’t pull out of the deal, how­ever badly they were messed around. That’s why, hav­ing failed to catch up with them out­side the of­fice, I was try­ing to track them down to their ho­tel. I didn’t want them to fly home only to have to come back out yet again.

Once you have signed your com­pro­mis and had your seven-day cool­ing-off pe­riod, you have to go ahead with the sale un­less one of the con­tin­gency clauses is un­ful­filled. You can in­clude get-out clauses (a clause sus­pen­sive) into your com­pro­mis so that the sale is de­pen­dent on, say, get­ting plan­ning per­mis­sion for the barn or, more com­monly, get­ting a mort­gage. But if th­ese are all ful­filled, it’s not just a mat­ter of go ahead or lose your 10 per cent de­posit — which would al­low you to make the grand ges­ture of walk­ing out and los­ing money — but you can ac­tu­ally be forced to go ahead any­way. Of course, the plus side of the bind­ing na­ture of the com­pro­mis is that the seller can’t pull out ei­ther, so you can’t get gazumped.

I fi­nally lo­cate my buy­ers calm­ing their nerves with a cou­ple of beers in the place cen­trale. Mrs House­buyer doesn’t want to lis­ten (I don’t blame her — that would be me in sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances) but I ex­plain the sit­u­a­tion to Mr and pass on the stun­ning news that the no­taire has man­aged to get a fax of the miss­ing doc­u­ment and the sale is def­i­nitely on for 9am the fol­low­ing morn­ing.

At the week­end I find them sit­ting over more beers — this time on the veranda of their new French house, look­ing out over the Nor­mandy coun­try­side. “Bliss,” beams Mrs House­buyer. “So glad we couldn’t get out of it.”

Mi­randa In­gram is Edi­torRé­dac­trice of Ren­dezvous: ed­i­[email protected]­dezvous.info

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