Once your offer has been accepted, the agency, in coordination with the French notaire, will begin to draw up the legal purchase contract known as the Compromis de Vente.
This document will include all of the relevant information about the property you intend to purchase and is presented with various annexes. There will also be a full breakdown of all associated costs of your purchase (often called the notaire’s fees) including stamp duty taxes, legal fees, land registry and any agency fees.
It’s important to note in the first contract that the notaire’s fee may be provisional as until date of completion the exact figure for the fee is unknown. This scenario means most notaires slightly overestimate the charges shown in the first contract and any over-payment made would be returned at the date of completion.
Compromis de Vente: Initial document signing
This is a legally binding contract and it is essential that you understand it fully prior to signing it.
If you have any conditions to your offer (such as getting a mortgage to fund the purchase) these conditions can be written into the Compromis de Vente. Writing in these types of clauses can protect you from having to forfeit your deposit if you are unable to complete your purchase.
The annexes mentioned earlier include diagnostic reports on various elements of the property. It must be noted these are advisory reports, not structural surveys, and rarely is there any obligation to do anything as they are intended more for buyer’s information.
You will also receive full details of the Copropriété if you are buying an apartment or domaine property, which belongs to an owners association.
The following items will be tested for according to age of property and location: Lead in paint (plomb), asbestos (amiante), fixed gas installation, electrical installation, termites, natural and technological risks, energy efficiency (DPE), smoke alarms, pool security, and septic tanks (fosse septiques).
There are a couple of exceptions to the advisory above. If the property has a septic tank installed and the diagnostic report states it does not conform to current norms, then a buyer needs to be aware they may be liable to bring the system up to norms inside one year of completion of the purchase. Secondly, if a property diagnostic reveals the presence of termites (test not required in all areas), then the vendor is obliged to rectify this prior to completion.
By having these diagnostics carried out at the beginning, it gives a buyer security in the knowledge of any unforeseen costs implied before they commit to signing the first contract.
Cooling off period
After both parties have signed the Compromis de Vente, buyers will be sent notification of their right to change their minds. This is a 7-day period commencing the day after receipt of this written notice. It is seven full days and includes weekends, bank holidays etc.
If you wish to retract at this stage you need to send a letter by recorded delivery to your agent or notaire. I also advise you discuss the issue with either party before you take this action as often concerns can be resolved easily.
You would need to lodge your holding deposit at this stage too, and this may be with your agent or, as we prefer, with the notaire.
It is important to note that at the end of this period, you are legally bound to purchase the property and cannot withdraw without being liable to pay damages equating to 10% of the property price (if you have paid your 10% deposit, your deposit will cover this.) You may also have to pay a portion of the estate agency fee.
Acte de Vente: Final document signing
Usually around three or four months after the signing of the Compromis de Vente, the notaire will have undertaken all of the necessary work and you will have agreed on a date for the final signing of the Acte de Vente. This will usually take place in France, at the notaire’s office. Once this final document is signed, you will be the owner of the property and from the meeting will take the keys away with you.
Before this meeting, you will need to ensure that the balance of funds to complete the purchase of your property is in the notaire’s bank account, this includes any funds that are being paid by a mortgage company. You will not be able to pay on the day with either a cheque or cash, due to money laundering laws. If you are using a currency exchange company to transfer funds being paid by yourself, they will work with you to ensure that this money arrives on time.
You also need to ensure that you have insurance on the property before you take ownership on the day of signing. It is also advisable to have in place a French bank account by this point, too.
Congratulations – you did it!
Now it’s time to sit back, open a bottle of something and enjoy your new purchase. France is a wonderful country to spend time in, and if you are anything like us here at Leggett Immobilier, you will fall in love with it all over again once you own property here.