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There are no restrictions on non-French nationals from buying property in France and the purchase procedure is fairly straightforward. It is advised that you procure the services of a legal representative and also an estate agent who will be able to advise on what you should offer for the property and what similar properties have sold for in the area. It is worth noting that one should not make an offer substantially below the asking price because this is considered an insulting gesture in France.

Once you have viewed a property and are considering making an offer, it is advisable to request to view a copy of the property plans (plans cadastres), which should also map out the surrounding land. If all goes well and your offer is accepted, the buyer and seller will be required to sign the Compromis de vente, which is legally binding and is essentially a preliminary contract that will include details of the purchase, and the fees involved. You should also insure that any potential problems you may encounter with buying the property such as financial difficulties or problems with the survey are detailed in this document in one of the clauses. Typically the Compromis de vente will take 3-4 weeks to be formulated. The Compromis de vente will be solely in the French language so it is essential that your legal advisor provide you with assistance at this point. If your offer was below the asking price, the vendor may request that prior to signing the Compromis de vente, you should sign a promesse d'achat, which basically is a document spelling out your intention to buy the property.

Upon both the buyer and seller executing the Compromis de vente document, the Compromis de vente will be returned to the buyer whereupon a 7-day cooling off period will begin. During this period, the buyer may withdraw from the property purchase at no penalty, but the seller will not have this option. After the 7-day cooling off period has elapsed, the buyer will then have to pay a deposit, usually this is 10% of the purchase price. If the buyer was to pull out of the sale after the Compromis de vente had been signed and the deposit paid, the deposit would not be refunded.

The property searches will then take place and the notary (notaire) will ensure that these are completed satisfactorily. You may opt for a survey to be made on the house, however, this is not typical in France as the French will usually simply request the opinion of a registered builder on the condition of the property.

The buyer should ensure that the funds for the remainder of the purchase price are transferred into the escrow account of the notaire prior to the day on which the final contract will be signed. This is important because if the funds are not in place prior to the signing day, the property sale could fall through. It is usual for both the buyer and seller to execute the final contract (Acte de vente) in the office of the notaire on signing day, but it is possible for the buyer to give power of attorney to their legal representative on their behalf. Before actually signing the Acte de vente it is important that your estate agent arranges for you to view the property on the day of the signing because there is a stipulation in the Acte de vente mandating that the property has been sold as seen on the signing day. Therefore, it is important to see the condition of the property on this day so that you can verify that all is in order.

Once the Acte de vente has been signed and the funds have transferred from the escrow bank account of the notaire to the buyer’s bank account, the property will be considered as sold.

When buying a property in France it is important that you allow 15-20% on top of the property price for estate agents fees and legal costs.

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