Just £2 per issue Subscribe to one of our France Magazines click here

The legal process of buying a French property

PUBLISHED: 12:09 20 March 2017 | UPDATED: 12:09 20 March 2017

The legal process of buying a French property © AlexRaths / Thinkstockphotos

The legal process of buying a French property © AlexRaths / Thinkstockphotos


You’ve found your dream French property, but now what? Here is the legal process of buying a French property in five easy steps

Step 1: making an offer

Once you have found your perfect French property you can make an offer on it, either through an agent or privately if it is a private sale. Make sure you have all your finances in place before doing this and that you have arranged any surveys that you want and thoroughly researched the property and the area – once you have signed the contract you have 10 days to change your mind and then it is legally binding.


Related articles

10 insider tips for successful househunting

How much should you negotiate on a property price?


Step 2: signing the compromis de vente

While contracts are exchanged at the end of the process in the UK, in France they’re exchanged at the start. Once an offer on a property has been accepted, both the buyer and seller sign a preliminary contract, usually the compromis de vente. Most agencies have a standard compromis de vente but you might want to consider having one drawn up by a notaire, as it is possible to insert conditional clauses (clauses suspensives) which would tailor it to your own personal needs and circumstances. These could be things like the sale is dependent on planning permission or a successful survey.

Step 3: paying the deposit

On signing the compromis de vente, the buyer is required to pay a deposit, which is normally 10% of the purchase price. This should be paid to the notaire or to the agent if they have an escrow account, but never directly to the seller.


Related articles

12 things you should know about buying a French property

Common types of French property


Step 4: the cooling-off period

Once the compromis de vente has been signed by both parties, a 10-day cooling-off period then follows, during which time the buyer can pull out for any reason without losing their deposit. The cooling-off period only applies to a property (e.g. a house or apartment), and not to land or a building plot, and it also does not apply if you are buying a property through an SCI/société civile immobilière (property-holding company).

If you sign in front of the notaire you will normally be given a copy of the contract, and the 10-day period begins the following day. If you are not handed the contract by the notaire then they are legally obliged to send you the contract by recorded delivery letter, and the cooling-off period then begins the day following signed receipt of the contract.

Once the 10-day cooling-off period has passed the sale becomes legally binding, and neither party can pull out without incurring a penalty. If you do decide to pull out during the cooling-off period, you are required to send a recorded delivery letter to the estate agent or notaire giving notice of your withdrawal, before the cooling-off period comes to an end.

Step 5: completing the sale – the acte de vente

It generally takes around three to four months to complete on a French property purchase. Once the relevant searches have been carried out by the notaire, he will prepare the acte de vente and both the buyer and seller will be invited to sign it at the notaire’s office. You can also take your solicitor and/or a translator with you if you wish. If you are unable to attend in person, you can appoint a power of attorney to sign for you. You should check the property beforehand to ensure that it is in a satisfactory condition; if any repair work is required the notaire can hold back part of the final sum to pay for it.

In the notaire’s office, the notaire reads through the acte de vente and the buyer and seller are asked to initial each page. The last page is signed, along with the words bon pour accord or lu et apprové, to show that you understand and accept the terms of the document. The final balance is then paid, along with the notaire and agency fees. You will be given an attestation de propriété, a certificate showing that you are now the legal owner of the property, along with the keys to your new home. The notaire will register the property with the land registry, where the deed of sale is stamped, and a certified copy will be sent to you two to six months after completion. The original deed of sale is kept at the notaire’s office for 100 years, after which it is moved to the public archives.


Related articles

I wish I’d known that before buying my French property

Where you can buy a proeprty in France for under €100,000



Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Complete France visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Complete France staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Complete France account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from French Property

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

One of the best ways to find out if France is the place for you is to take out a long winter let in the area you’re thinking of moving to. Here’s how and what you need to think about

Read more
Renting in France
Friday, September 23, 2016

Planning to rent a property in France? Make sure you understand how the renting process works in France and a tenant’s rights and responsibilities first

Read more
Renting in France
Monday, November 7, 2016

Alpine developer MGM French Properties have noticed a surge in interest from British buyers post-Brexit and enjoyed record sales this summer with signs this will continue till the end of the year

Read more
Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Trying to renovate a property on a tight budget? Kris and Dave Hallet managed it and share their tips for renovating on a budget

Read more
Thursday, January 19, 2017

Don’t lose out on your dream French home because your French mortgage application takes too long, instead find out how to get ahead by preparing your finances and paperwork

Read more
Tuesday, November 15, 2016

There are a number of different ways to buy a ski property in France including a mortgage, buying leaseback or off-plan. We take a look at the advantages and disadvantages

Read more
Fri, 16:23

Before you start researching your currency exchange make sure you understand the jargon professionals use both in English and French

Read more
Friday, April 7, 2017

Now Article 50 has been triggered and Brexit negotiations can begin it is crucial to keep up-to-date with exchange rates as a sudden change in rates can cost you thousands on a property purchase

Read more
Monday, April 3, 2017

If you are buying a French property as a couple then there are a number of legal points to consider, including how to structure your property purchase and how to make use of matrimonial regimes for your inheritance planning, especially with new EU rules coming into effect

Read more
Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Selling your house in France? Keep an eye on your liabilities or you could end up in a difficult situation

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

France Forum

Questions about France? Visit our free France forum to get help and advice from thousands of other Francophiles and expats. Topics include: property, tax, law, travelling, pets, education, healthcare and much more.

Join the forum

Most Read

Join us on social media

France magazine
Living France magazine
French Property News magazine

Enter our competitions

Win books, DVDs, travel and even holidays in France in our great competitions! Take a look at our latest competitions…

Enter now