Your guide to owning a property in France

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Buying a French property

We offer specialist, bilingual expertise to clients who require advice on all aspects of buying a property in France. Our advice is tailored to the client and is cost effective and practical.

We can assist you throughout the process:

  • Terms of the initial contract and supporting documentation, including proposed amendments or modifications
  • Liaising with the French notaire and other French advisers.
  • Making the necessary enquiries about matters such as planning issues, drainage and rights of way
  • The ownership structure in the light of French succession law and tax
  • The purchase deed
  • French tax consequences arising from the transaction
  • Advice on the French capital gains tax position and assisting the Notaire with the French formalities

Understanding the buying process

Every country is different but our breadth of experience means we are well placed to advise in the field of French property law:

Making an offer

  • In the same way as in the UK if you are dealing directly with the Vendor, you will make an offer directly to him or if not, through the agent who has introduced you to the property. However if you are to sign a written offer, you should be careful to ensure that this does not take the form of a contract to purchase and this is made subject to conditions.
  • You should consider, prior to making the offer, so that the Vendor is forewarned, the conditions you will wish to impose, e.g. a surveyor’s report, quote on repair works.

Conditions included in the preliminary contract

The most important document to be signed is the Purchase contract ‘Compromis de vente’ or in some cases the ‘Promesse de vente’ or contrat de réservation (for new build), as it will govern the sale transaction.

‘Conditions Suspensives’ (conditions precedents)
  • Contracts are signed early on in France and contain ‘Conditions Suspensives’. These are conditions which must be satisfied before completion can take place and make the contract conditional.
  • The contractual conditions are very important and need to be drafted and checked carefully. The drafting of the contract is very important and the consequences are too serious not to ensure that advice is taken before signing the contract.
Cooling off period
  • Since June 2001, the Purchaser of a residential property is given a cooling off period (Loi SRU) during which he can withdraw from the contract without penalties.
New build
  • For new build you should make sure that you will benefit from all the standard construction guarantees and financial guarantees if applicable.
Buying a flat
  • If you are buying a flat there is additional information which you will need to see, such as the last three years accounts and the minutes of the last General Meeting of the co-ownership. You should look carefully the clauses regarding the amount payable at completion.
  • The co-ownership scheme is governed by two documents, the règlement de Co-propriété and the Etat Descriptif.

Appointing your own Notaire

The Notaire is the French lawyer who deals with property transactions. In many cases, the name of the Vendor’s Notaire is inserted in the contract.

The Purchaser pays the notaire’s fees, if there are two notaires involved, there is no extra cost to the Purchaser as the notaire’s fees are fixed by law and the fee is shared.

Advising on the final deed (completion)

The signing of the Acte de Vente, the final deed of sale, has to take place before a Notaire. If you are unable to attend completion in person you can appoint an attorney to execute the Acte de Vente on your behalf using a Power of Attorney or Procuration.

Professional advisors

We are often asked to provide advice to other professional advisers who have clients with french law issues. Contact us for further details.

Our team

Our team is dual-qualified and has the expertise to advise on both English and French law. We belong to the relevant professional associations including the Barreau de Paris, Barreau de Bordeaux, Franco-British Lawyers Society, the French Chamber of Commerce, STEP UK and STEP France (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) and CRIDON LYON.