Guide to buying property in France

As anyone who has bought a property knows, the process can be a veritable minefield of delays and disappointments. Thorough research, a cool head and buckets of patience are requisite to sealing that dream home deal… and that’s just here in the UK.
Choosing to buy a property abroad presents a whole new list of concerns; an unfamiliar legal system in an unfamiliar country can be a daunting obstacle, particularly in the ever-popular expat destination of La Belle France. If you’re moving to France from London, a lack of language skills could turn a purchase at the local corner shop into an adventure, never mind navigating the complex property process.
Key considerations
One of the key differences between purchasing property in France and here in the UK is that the contract can become binding extremely early on, so err on the side of caution when it comes to signing on the dotted line, or you risk validating an unconditional offer to buy. Should the seller insist upon the traditional first contract – the offre d’achat – ensure all conditions to the final sale are clearly detailed. The final contract is the acte de vente, which occurs after all fees and amounts are paid and officiates the transfer of property from seller to buyer.
Another fact to bear in mind is that surveyors are not considered to be part of the process – it will be up to you to find an English-speaking surveyor working in France; a tough call but important as the seller is under no obligation to disclose structural issues. Your agent might be able to help; however bear in mind that it is best to find a surveyor with a knowledge of French architecture to get the best advice. It’s worth putting out feelers also with an expat network like InterNations: it’s almost certain that whatever area of France you’re looking to buy in, another expat will have trodden that path before you, and may have some recommendations.
And be prepared for the legal costs on the horizon. In France, the buyer takes responsibility for most of the fees – the notaire, a solicitor and the mortgage arrangement fee should each come to roughly 1% of the purchase price. Older properties (over five years) accrue legal and conveyance fees of 5.09%. You may also foot the bill for the estate agent’s costs, which can fall between 5-10%. Ensure all responsibility is laid out in the contract.
We strongly recommend finding an English-speaking solicitor to help guide you, as the French notaire is not there for specific advice but rather to ensure the paperwork dots the i’s and crosses the t’s, and all the relevant taxes are paid.
The different types of contract
There are three main types of property contract to be aware of in France. The traditional promesse de vente and the promesse d’achat document the commitment of the seller and buyer to the deal. However, the most common contract these days is the compromis de vente, which binds the seller and buyer to the deal, subject to specified conditions. You will be expected to sign the contract before the mortgage advance or any searches take place.
It is essential to secure professional legal advice when embarking on your property buying mission in France; but remember to keep the end in sight – picking up the keys as you take control of your very own home in your new country of residence is a feeling that’s very hard to beat.
If you are considering a move to France, Cadogan Tate will assist you every step of the way – from your first enquiry  to unpacking at your new home, we are here to help and advise you. For more details about Cadogan Tate’s specialist international removals services from London, contact us.
If you’re moving to France, find out how our international removals team can help to arrange packing, storage and transportation on your behalf.
Information correct at time of publication.