The basics of buying a house in France

The basics of buying a house in France

A property agent in France explains how the house-buying process in France works and what you need to do to prepare for your property search

Buying a property in France is actually a simple and secure process as long as you find a good agent who will help to guide you through the steps.

It may sound simple, but finding the right area is where you need to start. We are surprised by the number of clients who come to us and have not done any research on the region they would like to live in.

After narrowing down your choice (France is twice as large in area as the UK), it is essential to make contact with an established estate agent: one who will speak your language and take the time to understand your individual requirements and be able to shortlist the most suitable properties within your budget.

On finding a property, your agent will be able to advise you on the offer to make and carry out the negotiations on your behalf. Having an agent in this instance will avoid the problems which often occur when trying to deal direct with a vendor and stop you falling into the trap of paying over the odds for a property as and when you find one.

Once negotiations have been completed, the vendor will provide diagnostic tests for termites, lead paintwork and asbestos, etc. These will be annexed to the compromis de vente, which is a legally binding document signed by both parties. After signing the compromis, you will be informed, by recorded delivery letter, of your right to withdraw within seven days. Your vendor, however, does not have this option. There is no chance of ‘gazumping’ or being let down without penalty, something that seems to be missing in the UK buying process.

After seven days, a holding deposit of up to 10% (not obligatory) is sent to the notaire (the public official works as a conveyancer/tax collector for the state), and it is their legal responsibility to ensure that all legal searches and title deeds are in order. This process will take approximately 8-10 weeks, after which point the final deed can be completed. The signing will take place at the notaire’s office, and at this time house insurance will need to be in place and your keys handed over.

Christophe Guay is director of TIC Immobilier, an estate agency in Charente specialising in the Poitou-Charentes region

Find out more: 12 things you should know about buying a French property

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