Guide to Legal Process of Buying Property in France
2. 'Offer to Buy'
Strictly speaking, if you make an offer to a seller to buy their property (even a verbal offer) and the seller accepts it, then, provided the main terms of the deal are clear, a contractual commitment arises.
There is no such thing in France as a sale ‘subject to contract’, as is the case in the UK.
Sometimes, you may be asked by an estate agent or seller to make a formal written offer, called an offre d’achat. A pre-printed form for this purpose is often used.
If the other party accepts your offer then a contract arises, subject to any conditions that may be in the offer.
Now, rare are the circumstances when a seller would seek to enforce a contract on this basis, but you need to be a little cautious about signing an unconditional offer to buy.
You may wish to prepare a written offer in order to secure the property, but if you do so ensure that it states the sale is conditional on the preparation of a sale and purchase contract in which all the conditions will be elaborated.
You can read more about a legal case in which the issue arose at Offer and Acceptance on French Property.
Once the sale and purchase contract has been prepared, one of your main safeguards is that the law grants a buyer a ten-day cooling off period, during which you can withdraw from the contract without penalty. We say more about this in later pages.
This cooling off period does not apply in the case of the purchase of a single building plot and neither does it apply to a purchase through a French property company, called an SCI.
The law strictly forbids a seller or agent to ask for a deposit at the time an offer to buy is made.
Accordingly, if you do sign an offre d'achat do not, under any circumstances, hand over any kind of deposit to the owner or the estate agent.
A deposit should only be handed over at the time you sign the sale and purchase agreement.
Next: Contract Types
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