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Pre-Contract Enquiries on Property Purchase

Tuesday 05 July 2016

The notaire undertakes a verification of the property title prior to signing of the deed, but you would be wise to also make your own pre-contract enquiries.

We have stated on these pages in the past that although the notaire will ensure you get good title to the property you are buying, the extent of the broader enquiries they make on your behalf are more limited than would normally be undertaken, for instance, by a conveyancing solicitor in the UK.

The planning search of the local authority undertaken by the notaire, to establish any planning developments proposed in the vicinity of the property, may only reveal any planned developments in the immediate proximity of the property, and they reveal nothing about its planning history.

And, as we reported on last month, some notaires can even be a bit shy about disclosing to buyers planned developments in the immediate vicinity of the property.

A building survey of the property is also something that you will need to arrange entirely on your own initiative, although a surprisingly high number of international buyers do not have one undertaken. The diagnostics immobilier survey arranged by the seller will provide some important information, but it is far from a complete building survey.

As John Marshall, at JohnMarshallSurveys in France states: "Whatever the condition of a French property on purchase it is unlikely to fall down. But that is not the point. In my experience many international buyers pay over the market price for French property and not infrequently run into financial difficulties during renovation."

"So you need to be sure you are not paying substantially more than the property is worth, and if works are required you need to have some idea of what they are likely to cost. Would you buy a used car without having it checked over before you buy?"

The checklist below is a list of possible enquiries you may wish to make and to do so prior to signing the sale and purchase contract - the compromis de vente.

The list is not meant to be necessary in all cases. Some enquiries may, for instance, be undertaken by a diligent notaire.

However, neither may it be exhaustive. In particular, other specific enquries will need to be made concerning co-ownership properties.

1. Documentation

What bills are available for repairs, servicing and improvements carried out to the property?
What warranties are available on repairs and improvements and new installations, eg boiler?
Are there any construction or planning drawings available on the property?

2. Boundaries of the Property

What are the boundaries to the property?
How are they shown on site?
Are the actual boundaries on site the same as those shown on the plan cadastral?
Is the land area of the property the same as that stated on the sales particulars?
To whom do the boundary fences/hedges/walls belong?
Is there any agreements governing the maintenance of boundaries?
If the boundaries are jointly maintained what are the arrangements?
Is there any dispute with the neighbours over the boundaries?

3. Party Walls

Are there any party walls?
Have there been or are there any disputes or agreements regarding the walls?
Do the neighbours consider there is any dispute or an agreement in existence?

4. Rights over Property

Are there any rights or restrictions that adversely the property?
Is there, in particular, any formal or informal rights of way over the property?
Are there any pipes or cables or drains belonging to others that run over or under the property?

5. Access to Property

Is there direct access to the property from a public highway?
If there is not, what agreements are in place to obtain access?
Who owns the access road and who has maintenance responsibility for it?
Is there likely to be a need to obtain access to neighbouring land in order to carry out repairs to the property?
Has access to neighbouring land for such repairs ever been refused?

6. Physical Condition

You need to consider what approach suits you best, but if you do not have any technical ability and you have doubts, then bring in professional assistance.

A few of the areas you need to check or get checked are the following:

  • Structure of the Property

What are the basic construction characteristics of the property?
Is the internal surface area of the property the same as that stated on the sales particulars?
Are there any internal or external cracks in the property?
If so, has the property suffered from any structural movement?
Has any work been carried out to remedy structural defects?
Is the area prone to subsidence or soil heave?
Is there any evidence of rising damp?

  • Roof

What is the condition of the timber roofing structure in the attic space?
Does the roof covering look as though it needs replacing?
Is there evidence of roof leaks in the attic or elsewhere in the property?
What is the condition of the chimney stacks?

  • Electrics

How old is the wiring in the property?
Do the outlets actually work?
What is the capacity of the system?
Are there a sufficient number of sockets and outlets?
How old is the boiler? Is there a maintenance certificate?

  • Plumbing

What is condition of pipework?
Do the plumbing services actually operate?
Is there any evidence of leaks?
Is there mains water? If not, are the statutory authorities willing to connect to the property?

  • Rainwater Goods

Are there gutters and downpipes?
Is there evidence of leaks?
Are rainwater drains installed and where do they run to?

  • Termites/Insect Infestation

Has timber treatment been carried out and are the guarantees available? The diagnostics immobilier should reveal whether there is an infestation.

  • Heating System

What type of heating system is provided?
How old is it and in what sort of condition?

  • Floors/Windows/Doors

What is the condition of the woodwork?
What level of insulation does it provide?

7. Contents

What items that are attached to the property will remain?
What items not attached to the property will remain?
Is the seller willing to agree a list of such items in the contract?

8. Utilities and Services

Is the property connected to a mains electricity supply?
If not is the electricity supplier willing to provide a supply to the property and at what cost?
Is the property connected to mains drainage?
If not what is the provision for foul drainage?
Does the septic tank meet current regulations (certificat de conformité)?
If not, what is the view of the local council about the septic tank? There should be a diagnostics immobilier report.

9. Internet/Telecoms

Does the property have access to the internet and how is it provided?
How reliable is it?
What is the internet speed?

10. Alterations

Have any major internal alterations been carried out to the property?
Have there been any alterations to the openings of the property?
If so, are there planning certificates available for external alterations or additions?
Has planning permission for any alterations or additions ever been refused?
Are there any disputes currently with the planning authority?
Is the property a registered historic property?
Does the property have residential use?
If so, is a copy of the planning certificate available?
Have any grants been made in respect of the property?

11. Environment

Are there any building or infrastructure proposals in the vicinity of the property?
Are there any nuisances arising from activities or traffic in the vicinity of the property?
Are there any disputes with neighbours concerning nuisance?
What will the surrounding area look like at different times of the year?
Is the property liable to flooding? The diagnostics immobilier report may say something on this issue.


12. Rates, Taxes and Charges

What is the gross annual amount of the taxe d’habitation?
What is the gross annual amount of the taxe foncière?
Has the rateable value of the property been revised as a result of improvements/alterations?
What annual service charges are payable?

13. Disputes

Are there any other neighbour disputes relate to the right enjoyed by the property?
Are there any other disputes with statutory authorities, which relate to the rights enjoyed by the property?
Have there been such disputes in the past? How have they been resolved?


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