Buying a house in France: part 13: housing: the buying process

At the notaires In many ways, the house buying process in France is quite similar to that in the UK but there are important differences.

Once you’ve found a place, the first stage is to sign a Promis d’Achat (promise to buy). If the seller accepts this, then you have your house as they aren’t allowed to even show it to anyone else (ie no gazumping), subject to you following through with the later stages of the purchase, of course. Signing this commits you to buy the place at the agreed price but only commits the seller to sell to you if they accept this contract.

Since it commits you to buying, you MUST add a “subject to mortgage” clause if you plan on getting a mortgage for the purchase. The mortgage clause needs to include the bank that will be giving you the mortgage, the rate and the term of the mortgage so if you are hoping to get a French mortgage you’ll need to see the bank first. If you haven’t done so already, you should open a French bank account at this stage (links to the various banks are in the Foreign Perspectives directory) During the next two weeks or so the notary will draw up the Compris d’Achat which is the sale contract and will come with an inventory of what’s included in the price and a completion date for the sale. You need to pay a deposit of 10% (sometimes 5%) to the notary at this point. Although you and the seller can use the same notary, it’s best to have your own one (this doesn’t cost any extra as the notaries split the fees). Read the inventory very carefully as what is understood to be included in France is very different to what is understood in the UK. For instance, you can be left with bare wires where light fittings used to be and even gaps where there used to be doors.

On the completion date, you go along to the office of the sellers notary and sign for the property. You need to sign every single page of the contract so allow an hour or perhaps two to do this. Once completed, the property and everything in it is yours. Unlike in the UK, everything you find within the property at that point belongs to you which sometimes includes the likes of unwashed dishes in the sink but can also include furniture and the like eg in our case we acquired a very nice desk valued at 9,000‚€!

Once the sale is completed, the estate agent will arrange to have the electricity, phone, etc. transferred into your name. If you are buying a commercial property (eg B&B) you must be registered with the Chambre of Commerce before these can be transferred into your name.

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