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Posted on Friday 20th May 2016 | Lesley Thomas

Buying a property in France

Buying a property in France, is straightforward, as long as you understand the process involved.

The role of the Notaire

A notaire must be used for the purchase of any property or piece of land in France. Offering services similar to that of a UK Solicitor, notaries are employed by the State and often act on behalf of both the buyer and the seller. This is possible, because their primary role is to ensure everything about the sale is legal, follows due process and that all appropriate taxes on the purchase are paid. Fees can varying from 2.5% for a newbuild property, up to 8%, on a sliding scale based on the property’s value. A proportion of the fees, also incorporates the French equivalent of stamp duty.

Whilst the norm is for the notary to represent both the buyer and the seller, buyers can also appoint their own notary and in this instance, the fees are shared. We would be happy to recommend a bi-lingual notaire, please contact us for details.

Compromis de Vente

This is the preliminary contact between the buyer and seller and is drawn up by the notaire, once an offer has been accepted. Conditional clauses, known as suspensive clauses, can be included, for example the offer is dependent on the buyer obtaining finance/mortgage, but the seller is not obliged to accept these. In the case of off-plan property, the Contrat de reservation, will replace the Compromis.

Cooling off period and deposit

Once the compromis/reservation contract has been signed by both parties, a 10 day cooling off period follows, during which the buyer can withdraw from the sale, without loss of their deposit. The deposit is usually 10%, normally paid onto the notary’s Escrow account.

Acte de Vente

This is the final contract, signed by both the buyer and the seller, and usually in the notary’s office. However if the buyer cannot attend in person, they can appoint a power of attorney,for someone else to sign on their behalf. At this time the balance of the sale price is paid ( for existing property, or up to a certain staged payment in the case of Off-plan ), along with all fees.


In France, surveys are not the norm, but it is possible to arrange one, if the buyer requires. This should be done before the Compromis becomes binding, or a conditional clause can be inserted stating that the completion of the sale is dependent on the outcome of the survey. Selles are required by law to provide a number of reports on lead, asbestos, termites, gas installation, electrics, water drainage, natural and technological risks. In addition, since January 2011, it has become compulsory for a DPE Report to be produced on existing property, showing its energy efficiency.

For further information, please request a copy of our guide to buying property in France.

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