The information contained below has been expanded in our new Guides section on Buying a property in France.
More and more people are buying in France but there is still a lot of information they need to bear in mind.The following ten points are the minimum to watch out for.
It is very important to understand the terms of the contract and check these before signing.
It is surprising how often a French property is described merely as a house situated in a parish. The parties of course know which house they are talking about but legally it could be any one of a number of properties.
Problems arise especially when the land is large or when a stream or wood obscures boundaries. Make sure you are certain of how much land is included in the sale and check the boundaries. If in doubt insist that a Surveyor define the limits. Also check if there are any rights of way. French Farmers are no respecters of boundaries.
Check that all the outbuildings are included in the description of the French property. Even if they are small sheds, a garage or even a barn. Do make certain that all you see in the site is included in the contract. If not why not?
When buying a house in England a purchaser receives a full list of fixtures and fittings. In France, this is not necessarily the case, so make sure everything is listed in the contract. Definitely record each of the items you want to remain in the property.
It is also preferable to have discussed the matter with the vendor or the Agent Immobilier beforehand. The French are not used to leaving even a bulb at the end of an electric wire! So do not leave it a chance. Vendors have been known to remove the kitchen sink and even on occasions a fitted kitchen.
This is paid at the signing of the sale agreement. It should never be paid to the vendor but to the solicitor (notaire) or the licensed estate agent. It is calculated either from the purchase price or from the price including the various commissions. It is now more and more usual to see properties for sale with the price shown inclusive of the agent and Notaire's fees.
This is one of the first practical consequences of the movement of the English buying in France. The deposit is deducted from the purchase price but no interest is paid for the period between signing the contract and completion which can take at least two months. If you decide not to proceed, you will lose your deposit unless there are suspensive conditions set out in the contract.There is no subject to contract situation as in England therefore there is no chance of second thoughts.
Do be absolutely clear as to whether the advertised price includes the commission or not. Usually, the commission is included but if you negotiate a price downwards, then be especially careful.
These are now sometimes included in the purchase price but this is still rare. They are payable on signing the acte authentique (final deed). They vary from 8% to 10% for the purchase of a property more than five years old and 3% to 4% for the purchase of new properties.
If you are taking out a mortgage on a French property, there will be fixed charges of approximately 1-2% of the mortgage payable to the Notaire. Also do not forget the mortgage arrangement fee. Exchange rates can still fluctuate, therefore your instalment payments can alter.
The purchase of building land is subject to VAT at 20.6% up to 2,500 square metres. Agricultural land is subject to 16.2% for a purchaser who has an agricultural certificate and agrees to cultivate the land, and 18.2% if they have no certificate. The actual house and the first 2,500 square metres will be taxed between 8% and 10%.
If you wish to avoid the application of French Succession Law, you can ask to buy with a clause tontine which is the equivalent of joint tenancy in English law. Other solutions are "convention d'indivision" or "Société civile immobilière".Remember that French law applies to French land and your Will is of no effect.
There are three usual clauses: The purchaser cannot get a mortgage; pre-emption by SAFER (French Land Adminisration);an unsatisfactory certificat d'urbanisme which confirms the planning status of the property. You are free to add other conditions ,e.g. Vendor to pay the Surveyor's fees for defining the boundaries; obtaining planning permission; various administrative authorisations to set up a business in the property...
The agreement traditionnally states that completion will take place within 60 days of signing the contract. However, this is usually extended to 90 days since it can take two months before the SAFER or local Planning Office respond to the Notaire's search application which are started only when a sale agreement is signed between two parties. In reality, the date is often a moveable feast.Do not rely on this completion date for moving. There are clearly other matters which need to be considered. Take care and take advice.