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Buying A Property In France

The guidance notes on this page have been now been largely superseded by our comprehensive Guide to Buying Property in France

If you are searching for a French property to buy, please visit our property search at French Properties For Sale

Initial Agreement of Sale

An agreement is negotiated between buyer and seller and the initial contract signed, normally called a Compromis de Vente. This is a legal document binding on both parties and should not be taken lightly.

At this stage the buyer pays a deposit of a percentage of the purchase price which remains `blocked' in a special account at the notaires office until such time as completion takes place, or the purchase is aborted.

If you seek a survey of the property, this should be carried out before you sign the contract.

For more information on surveying a French property, please visit our guide section: French Property Surveys.

Once the contract has been signed there follows a period of generally 6-8 weeks in which the searches are carried out and during which time the purchaser will be required to obtain any financing for the purchase.

These searches are carried out by the notaire. The notaire is unlike most European solicitors/lawyers as he is not appointed to act for either party in the transaction, but as a public official whose duty is to the State.

Their function is to ensure that the transaction is carried out legally and accurately and in accordance with the proper processes and to give the transaction absolute validity that cannot be contested.

Accordingly, it is not necessary to appoint a second notaire to act for yourselves, although we consider it advisable to appoint your own notaire if the contract is complicated or you are not familar with French property laws. No extra costs are payable.

If the buyer intends to take out a mortgage then it is necessary for this to be declared at the time of the agreement and a substantive clause in the contract protects the purchaser's interests in the event that a loan is not made available.

In this occurs, the sale does not proceed and the deposit is returned.

For more information on French mortgages, please visit French Mortgages.

Should the buyer break the contract, the deposit is paid to the vendor as an indemnity - conversely, should the vendor break the contract, the deposit is returned to the purchaser.


At the end of this period, which can be extended at the agreement of both parties, the conveyance, called the acte de vente, is signed at the notaire's office and the property passes to the buyer, who must pay the balance of the purchase price to the notaire for onward transmission to the seller.

The balance must be in the notaire's possession before the contract is signed. It will also be necessary to provide to the notaire before completion a copy of your birth certificate and, if applicable, a copy of your marriage certificate

Early advice should be sought in order to understand fully the complexities of French inheritance law which does not allow you to leave your share of the property to whom you wish - even if you have an existing Will.

There are ways of mitigating these laws about which you should take advise from the notaire before you sign the sale contract.

Fees and Commission

The buyer of a Fench house pays the legal fees and registration taxes which amount to approximately 7.5% of the purchase price.

These fees are paid to the notaire on the day of signature of the acte de vente and are paid together with the balance of the purchase price.

For more information on fees, taxes and commision, please visit our guide section: Fees and commission.

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