Buying a Property

About estate agents in France
The simplest way to find a property to buy is via an [estate agent->-Estate-agents-] as you rarely see ‘for sale’ signs outside French property. One of the main reasons for this is that a seller can put his property for sale with as many estate agents as he wishes. An agent may try to persuade the owner to let him sell the property ‘en exclusivité’ but on the whole the race is on amongst several agencies to sell the property first! Do not allow yourself to be ‘bullied’ by your agent. Remember that the first one to make the sale gets the commission. This means that they will often push you to make a quick decision before the property is seen and sold by another agent. Some are more pushy than others!

Agencies usually charge in between 4 and 10% on top of the seller’s asking price (it is the buyer who pays the agency commission, not the seller). Check that the prices you are being quoted already include the agent’s fee. The procedure for buying property depends to a certain extent on the type/size of the property being purchased and your own personal situation but the following explanation will give you some idea of the order of events. (Newer properties actually have lower charges as both solicitor’s fees and stamp duty are reduced)

Procedure for buying a property in France
Once you have found a suitable property and had your offer accepted, you will sign a [sous seing privé->Compromis-de-vente-and-Sous-seing] or (if it has been drawn up by an agent) [Compromis de Vente->Compromis-de-vente-and-Sous-seing] (if the agreement has been drawn up by a [notaire->-Finance-Insurance-Law-]- sollicitor) This states the details of the agreement, price, date limits and any finance to be obtained from a third party. You will need to take with you: passport, marriage certificate (where applicable)

You will be required to pay a deposit of up to 10% either to the agent or directly to a notaire. This money will be placed into a closed account until the exchange of contracts. Only authorised agencies may carry out the signing and accept deposits; these tend to be the larger national agencies.

French law then stipulates that you are entitled to a delai de rétraction a seven day [‘cooling off’ period->The-seven-day-cooling-off-period] during which time you can change your mind about the sale without incurring any expense (If the agent or ‘notaire’ has already asked you for a deposit, that will be refunded in full within 21 days maximum.) If you no longer want the property, you must send the vendor [a registered letter->The-seven-day-cooling-off-period] stating your intention within the 7 day period. The seller on the other hand is now under obligation to sell you the property and would be legally bound to pay you 10% of the asking price if he were to renege.

Once the seven day ‘cooling off’ period is over the contract is binding on both sides. However, if the sale is dependant on a mortgage offer, a further period of time is available to secure the finance. (stipulated in the Compromis de Vente under Conditions suspensives ) If the finance is not granted, the buyer may pull out without any penalty. French mortgages may offer a better deal if the interest rate is low at that time, and many [mortgage companies->-Finance-Insurance-Law-] and most [banks->-Finance-Insurance-Law-] in France are happy to finance non-nationals

The job of the ‘notaire’
The solicitor should now check out rights of way, ownership, termite infestation etc. However actual building surveys are not required by finance companies nor carried out routinely in France. If you wish for a [survey->-Architecture-surveys-], you will need to arrange this privately.

By the completion date, all monies should be transferred to the solicitor. It is advisable to do this a few days before the agreed date in case of bank delays etc. At this point you will sign the Acte authentique de vente (in person if possible but if not you may appoint a third party to act for you) ET VOILA! – the property belongs to you!

Procedures do differ depending on the size of the estate agency, the area, the type of property, the ‘notaire’ etc

Checklist of documents you should take with you when house-hunting to be on the safe side!
marriage licence
proof of finance (bank/building society statement, proof of loan application)

Checklist of documents you should take with you if you intend to apply for a loan/mortgage with a French bank If you wish to get the ball rolling immediately:
marriage licence
proof of income (last 3 pay slips/P60/last 3 bank statements)
RIB (relevé d’identité bancaire) This is quite simply your bank details, account number etc
Details of any ongoing mortgage/loan
Compromis de vente/sous seing

Information that you should try to obtain from the vendor before comitting yourself Any planning permission pending
Location of drains and sewerage
The heating and  air conditioning system
Gas and electricity supplies
Swimming pool conformity regulations
If the property is less than 10 years old there should be a construction insurance called an assurance dommages-ouvrages et assurance responsibilité décennale This means that the builder guarantees the construction under article 1792 to 1792.6 and 2270 of the civil code.

Where to buy
Where you buy your house is really the most important part of the decision. A house can be changed, renovated, extended or modernised but you can’t change your location. The Pyrénées-Orientales has so many possibilities that you are able to choose beach, mountain or plain, all within the region.

If you wish to buy your property in a quiet and unspoilt part of the region, do be sure that you have access to all services and that you are able to return to ‘civilisation’ if neccessary in times of snow or high winds. If you are buying through an agent, remember that ’10km from shops’ might mean 10 km of steep, narrow, winding mountain road.

If you have a young family, schools and public transport have to play an important part in your decision. Take a look at a couple of sites which will tell you a little about schools in the region: (in french) and – an excellent site which will give you all the info you need for choosing a school in France.

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