French Property Purchase

The process of the purchase of a French property is significantly different to the British system and thus can be very confusing for British buyers. Our technical expertise will help ensure you make the right decisions, and provide peace of mind, safe in the knowledge that you are legally protected.

When buying a French property, you get to sign a binding contract (compromis) early on, before the searches are carried out. Thus, it is important to seek legal advice from a specialist French property lawyer before you sign the compromis to ensure you understand what you are signing, and that conditions, such as subject to the result of the searches, etc., which protect your interest are in the contract.

The positive of being bound so early is that, once the contract is signed, the transaction is more definite, the vendors cannot accept a higher offer, nor can they withdraw from the sale if they were to change their mind.

You can only withdraw from the compromis if one of its condition is not fulfilled. If you were to later on change your mind, when all conditions set out in the contract have been fulfilled, you would forfeit your deposit which is usually 10% of the purchase price and expose yourself to further penalties.

Unlike a purchase in the UK, a French estate agent can draft the contract (compromis de vente). Because estate agents are not lawyers, the quality of their contracts varies hugely. They sometimes provide an English translation, but you should not rely on it since you will be bound by the terms of the French version only and not the English one. It is important to bear in mind that sometimes it is what has been left out of the contract which matters!

It is important to obtain legal advice for French estate planning and French Wills. Effectively, it is French inheritance law and French Inheritance taxes/income tax which will apply to your French property at the time of your death and these are very different from the UK. It is best to choose the ownership structure for your French property before completion of the purchase, to ensure the property passes in accordance with your wishes with minimal French inheritance taxes.

A French notaire will be involved in your purchase process.  French notaires are lawyers appointed by the government (refer to the Glossary Page for more information). They have a monopoly over the transfer of ownership of French property and thus one will always be involved in the purchase/sale of a French property. The notaire will carry out the searches and draft the final deed and, if the agent is not drafting the compromis, the notaire will. A French notaire acts on behalf of both parties and its role is limited to carrying out the searches and drafting the deed, which is why it is necessary to obtain legal advice from a bilingual French property Lawyer who will understand your requirements as an international purchaser, and explain how the purchase of your French property works.
Your bilingual French property lawyer will ensure your interest is protected, that you get a good title to the property and choose the appropriate form of ownership structure.

One last thing to consider, if you are moving furniture from the UK to France following your house purchase, is the use of a removal company specialising in removal between the UK and France. There are various removal companies offering such services. In view of the recent Brexit, there might be more paperwork to fill in and the removal companies should be able to assist you in these.

French Property Legal Services provides advice on all aspects of your French property purchase:

• Liaising with the agent and the notaire
• Making an offer subject to contract on your behalf
• Checking the preliminary binding contract/compromis de vente and providing you with a detailed report on it as well as on the result of the compulsory surveys;
• Drafting, if necessary, any protective clauses and arrange for these to be inserted in the contract
• Providing French estate planning to elect the appropriate ownership structure (including in our fixed fee)
• Checking the draft title deed (acte de vente) and providing a detailed report on it as well as on the result of the searches
• Arranging for powers of attorney and assisting you for their execution
• Co-ordinating the completion process and obtaining an attestation of purchase

All of the above is included in our highly-competitive fixed fee package. Please contact us for further information, or of you have any questions.

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