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Beginner’s Guide to Buying Property in France


You want to buy a property in France but you’re bombarded with advice, some of it conflicting, some of it frankly out of date. So we’ve put together an beginner’s guide to the property market in France and here we look at buying a property…

The first question is, do you use an agency or do it yourself?

There are various ways of finding a property to buy in France; a friend tells you that they’ve seen an advert or that they know someone with a house to sell; you look online in classified adverts such as Leboncoin or even for private sellers. But generally the favoured way is to use an agency. They will have a wide choice and the agents will be knowledgeable about the local market and more importantly about the local area.

With this in mind, you’ll need to ask yourself plenty of questions. Do you want a holiday home or are you going to live there permanently? Why and where do you want to have your home? How much space do you need? What style of home do you want? Are you able to renovate? Probably the most important of all is – what can you afford?

A good agent will ask all these and you need to be honest with them.

Let’s start with the budget. In France, a property cannot be offered for sale with a price of “Offers in the region of” etc. The price shown will usually be inclusive of the agency fee (FAI – Frais Agence Inclus) but check to make sure.

That doesn’t mean that the price is not negotiable. The price negotiated by your agent will not include “Notaire’s fees” which includes the fee for the transfer of the title and all the duties payable to the French government. These are usually 7% to 8% of the property price so allow for this in your budget and when talking to your agent it’s advisable to ask them for an approximate calculation of all fees to avoid a nasty shock later in the process!

That brings us to the transfer of your new home. Only a Notaire can do the legal transfer of a property and they are totally impartial. Unlike the UK, where buyer and seller have their own solicitors, the Notaire takes total responsibility for the legal transfer and payment of duties, therefore there is no requirement for each party to use a different notaire. As in the UK, the transfer is in two parts; the initial contract (Compromis de Vente) and the final contract (Acte de Vente).

The Compromis is an initial draft of what will become the Acte de Vente laying out all the conditions and obligations between the seller and buyer. This will include details of mortgages, rights of way etc. and all the required surveys (you’ll find details in the January issue of The Good Life France Magazine).

The Acte de Vente will include details of the previous owners and transfers giving a paper trail that proves ownership. These documents will be in French but don’t be afraid to ask your agent for an English translation of the Compromis.

That’s a brief view of how your purchase in France will work…

More on Selling Property in France

By Tim Sage, Property Expert in France at Leggett Immobillier

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