<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
5 ISSUES FOR £5 Subscribe to France Magazines today click here

The legal process of buying a French property

PUBLISHED: 12:09 20 March 2017 | UPDATED: 17:18 26 January 2018

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, December 19, 2017

Renovation expert Matthew Chalk tells us about an ambitious project to restore a prominent village house in Brittany

Read more
Monday, October 30, 2017

Follow these tips to make sure you choose a good builder to carry out renovation work on your French property

Read more
Monday, September 4, 2017

Conditions for mortgage borrowers in France remain very favourable thanks to the election of President Macron, so is a mortgage a good option for British buyers?

Read more
Sunday, May 14, 2017

If you’re planning to buy a property in France, make sure you understand how French and UK mortgages differ

Read more
Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Pound to Euro exchange rate has continued to slide, presenting headaches for Euro buyers with Pounds. What seemed unthinkable a few months ago has now become a reality. What will be the main drivers on the rate for the coming weeks and months and just how low could this go?

Read more
Currency exchange update
Monday, July 10, 2017

One year after the EU referendum, currency broker TorFX asked their customers how Brexit and the subsequent currency exchange movements have affected them

Read more
Monday, March 5, 2018

Once a price has been agreed, the buyer and seller of a French property sign a preliminary contract, the compromis de vente. Here is everything you need to know about this legally binding contract

Read more
Wednesday, February 14, 2018

If you want to give someone the power to act on your behalf in France, whether to sign your property purchase documents or if you lose mental capacity, you’ll need to apply for the French equivalent of power of attorney

Read more
Wednesday, January 3, 2018

New wealth tax laws came into effect on 1 January 2018 which could save you money on your tax bill. A tax expert explains the changes to the law and what they mean for you

Read more
French tax
Wednesday, December 13, 2017

If you’re planning to run a business in France then you’ll need to make sure you choose the correct tax regime when setting it up – here is a guide to the different regimes

Read more
Running a business
Subscribe today

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