Be glad you can’t escape from French red tape
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