How to Buy Property in France
If you're looking to purchase a home or a piece of land in France, the task ahead may seem daunting. It is very different than buying homes or land in the United States. You're in luck, the process of buying French real estate is actually fairly straightforward.
Even though buying a home in France may seem scary, you'll be protected by a number of French laws.
If you don’t know French or do not have a good grasp of it, you’ll want to hire a translator. This is for your protection since you’ll be dealing with legal contracts.
If you have dealt with real estate contracts (or really any contract) back home in the US, you already know why a translator is a good idea.
Making an Offer
Once you make an offer on a property, you have committed to making the purchase. There need not be a written offer, so be careful not to accidentally say, “I’ll buy it.”
Once the seller agrees to your offer, they will send a certified letter saying they agree. Under French law, you are given seven days from the date of receiving the letter of confirmation to pull out of the offer without penalty.
It's against French law for a seller or agent to ask you for any kind of deposit when an offer is made. That being said, don’t hand over any kind of deposit to the seller or agent. You should only be asked to give the deposit when the actual sale is being made.
It's a good idea to consider getting a loan from a French bank. Mortgages in France have major perks, including huge tax advantages!
Buying the Property
There are two different types of contracts when buying French property: the Promesse de Vente and the Compromis de Vente. There isn’t really much that differs between the two, however, you’ll likely use a Compromis de Vente as they are more commonly used.
In France, a 'notaire' is used for purchasing the property instead of an agent. A notaire is a publicly appointed official who can often be cheaper (cost is based on a fixed scale set by the French government.)
If the seller insists you shouldn't use a notaire, you have reason to be suspicious. A notaire will help you with any legalese and is legally responsible for making sure you're aware of everything you're signing. If you're unsure about a particular clause in the contract, ask! It's better to be safe than sorry!
Signing the Contract
Notaires usually use their own version of a contract, which may be of advantage to one of the parties involved in the agreement. This is why it’s important to have your own notaire present to make sure that the contract is exactly as you want it to be.
Once you sign the contract you are obligated to actually purchase the property subject to any conditions set by the contract and the seven-day “cooling off” period. So, of course, don’t sign a contract unless you’re sure about it.
Make sure everything in the house you are buying is as it should be on the day before the contract closes. You don’t want to sign the contract to find that the previous owner took all the light fixtures a week before the contract closed. Take pictures if possible.
Now that you know the process of buying property in France, you still may be a bit nervous about it. This is totally normal!
Remember that it's okay to ask your notaire questions. You may also want to ask other expats questions about how French real estate works as they will have advice that relates to your specific situation.
© 2009 Melanie Shebel