How to buy in France?


The acquisition process in France does'nt consist of a simple exchange of letters, but is structured in various stages :

1. The "Promesse d'Achat"
At the beginning of the process stands usually a "promesse d'achat", a written offer by the potential buyer.
Although this step is not mandatory, it's usually undertaken in case the initial asking price is not matched by the potential buyer.

2. The "Compromis de vente"
After the parties have reached an agreement about the main parameters of the sale, they sign a "compromis de vente".
The "compromis" already contains the term of the sale, and constitutes, in general, a binding contract for both parties.
The signing of the compromise is accompagnied by a deposit, "the indemnity of immobilisation", of usually approx. 10% of the purchase price.
The buyer have 7 day "cooling-off-period" during wich he can withdraw from the contract (by registered mail and confirmation receipt) without incurring any legal disadvantages.
The seller, however, cannot withdraw from a "written compromis" without cause.
After this cooling-off-period has expired, the contract becomes binding for both parties.
At this stage, the buyer can't usually withdraw from contract without losing his deposit.
The deposit is, of course, fully accounted against the purchase price upon the realisation oh the sale.

However, the "compromis" may contain a number of suspensive conditions ("clauses suspensives") upon which the validity of the contract is made dependant.
For the most part, these conditions concern the ability of the buyer to secure (mortgage) financing for the purchase through a lender.
However, other conditions may include the ability of the buyer to obtain building permission.
In case such condition is not fulfilled, the buyer has the right to abstain from the acquisition without contractual penalities.

3. The "Acte de Vente"
The signing final contract ("Acte de Vente"), takes place in a notary's office.
In France, a "notaire" is not mere "notary public" in the US sense, but a highly regarded, qualified lawyer who acts in the capacity of an official government.
He is required by law to act impartially, i.e. for both the buyer and the seller, ensuring that sale conforms to all legal requirements.

4. Reports
Certain mandatory reports have to be supplied. A report on the possible existence of lead must be provided by sellers of properties which have been built prior to 1948 and which are located in a so-called "risk area".
Other mandatory reports that may have to be supplied include reports on asbestos, termites, natural gas, and "natural and technological risks", DPE (Diagnostic energy performance), lead, electricity.

In general, it's advisable for buyer to always check such parameters as building and property surfaces, property boundaries, building permits or annual ownership taxes and charges.

We will be happy to guide you through all French legal and fiscal matters, and, if necessary, put you in touch with an expert (lawyer, notary...) who speaks your language.