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Buying a property in France

France is one of Europe’s core performing housing markets. Paris and the French Riviera continue to attract international investors, with stable year-on-year price growth.

After the lockdowns across the world, people realised that the only way to survive any crisis is in style, under the sun.
That’s why we saw in the spring of 2021 a run on luxury properties.

Different than in Spain or Italy, the real estate prices in France remained robust. Transactions went fast, sometimes within two days. The Great Awakening for a better life in the South of France is growing.

With so much demand, investing in a property will most likely drive the prices further up over the following years. After all, there is not much space left on the French Riviera coast.

Mortgage rates in France

The euro is also weaker than it has been in recent years. This economic reality means foreign buyers can get a more attractive exchange rate for their property investments and essentially pay less for a property than compared in recent years.

Finding a property in France

You can find French properties for sale if you can search online, in newspapers and in real-estate property magazines. Quality properties are sold with an estate agent or realtor (un agent immobilier).

People that care about personal service and assistance during the buying process will feel happy at Living on the Côte d’Azur. Our international team is 7/7 available and prides itself in a professional, transparent way of working.

Our real estate portal collects the best listings along the coastline and Paris, thanks to solid partnerships with trusted local agencies.

Working with us means you’re also connected to fully licensed agencies. International buyers prefer a buyer agent who can communicate and later negotiate in English.

Our partner agencies have these ‘codes’: FNAIM, SNPI, UNIS, or CNAB. These show that the company belongs to a registered organisation with a financial guarantee, liability insurance, and at least one staff member holding a carte professionelle, a licence issued by the prefecture de police.

Like in every country, fake professionals are engaging in unethical practices. You could have signed for a piece of land with a fake notary and agent, paid a lot of money and discovered that the land was never theirs to sell.

As a measure to further safeguard buyers, the French government created the Conseil National de la Transaction et de la Gestion Immobilières (CNTGI) in 2014, a representative body for maintaining ethics and creating regulations for real estate professionals and property-related activities. The government controls every step, and there is no more space for fraudulent people. 

When choosing a realtor, ask whether they help prepare the compromis de vente (the sales contract) and liaise with a local notaire, the official who handles the legal side of the purchase. Even if the seller already has a notaire, you can nominate your own with legal fees split between the two officials. The agent immobilier may also help you set up utilities and find local services; it helps to ask what they can offer.

After you choose a realtor and view French properties, they usually ask you to sign a bon de visite, which certifies they showed you certain properties.

Buying a property in France

Once you find a French property you like, you can make the owners an offer. If they accept, you have to sign a contract, either a promesse unilatérale de vente (unilateral offer to sell) or, more commonly, a compromis de vente. The compromis de vente is typically a sale and purchase agreement, while the ‘promesse ‘is commonly used by property professionals wanting to secure an ‘option’ to buy land or property that they may be seeking planning consent or if there are other unknown parameters.

With the formerthe owner promises to sell the property to the buyer at a given price and keeps the option open for a limited period (two to three months). The buyer puts down a 10% deposit, and the document has to be registered with the authorities (for a fee). The buyer can’t sell to anyone else, but the buyer can withdraw and lose the deposit.

With the latter, both buyer and seller agree to cement the deal at a given price, the buyer puts down a 10% deposit, and in legal terms, this is a final sale. If either party pulls out, the other can take legal action and claim damages. Both contracts have a ten-day cooling-off period during which time the buyer can withdraw without penalty.

Before signing the contract

We always advise bringing your notary. Our notary office in Opio will not charge you any costs, as the seller’s notary will share the fees amongst them. The notary will double-check that all the details are correct. It should include full details of the property (its surface area and boundaries), set out exactly what is included in the sale. Such as dependences (outbuildings), fixtures and fittings, the results of legally required reports (energy performance report, checks for termites, asbestos and lead in the property, electricity and gas safety certificates). There will be also a check whether there are any conditions suspensives (conditional clauses) or other statutory disclosures, such as vive cache (hidden defects), easements and other possible legal interests over the property, such as tenancies. 

Include a penalty clause. For example, requiring vacant possession of the property can lead to fines if the vendor — or other occupants — fail to vacate the property after the sale.

You’ll need to supply details of how you’re going to finance the purchase, too. Are you planning to purchase the property through a mortgage? The loan’s main details and state must be in the compromis de vente with the cancellation clause that the sale can be made when a satisfactory mortgage is secured. 

To secure a mortgage at an advantageous rate, use our mortgage broker who helps ex-pats obtain financing on their dream home. And if you need to transfer money from outside Europe, we can introduce you to our Foreign Exchange partner. This foreign exchange service can save you thousands of euros in banking fees.

After the signature

Your notary will investigate any legal, financial, or other claims on the property. This process usually takes about two to three months. Once this is underway, a completion date (when you sign the acte de vente, or deed of sale) can be set. 

If you’re planning to build an extra part to an existing building, you’ll need to get permission from the mairie. You’ll need to apply for the certificate d’urbanisme (certificate of town planning), provide a permis de construire setting out your building plans and check what other taxes or fees you’ll need to pay. We can introduce you to a team of architects that will take care of this.

In France, property always passes to the children. Take advice from the notary before you take the next step – signing the acte de vente. It might be wise to make them already owner, and you will have the usufruct. Our notary can advise you on this subject.

The deed of sale

Once all the checks are complete and the purchasing funds are in place, you’re ready to go to the notary office to sign the deed of sale, the acte de vente. You may need to take a translator with you if you don’t speak French; the document is read aloud to you before you sign. On the date of signing, the various taxes and fees must be on the notary’s account. He/she will use this money to pay the taxes and fees, pay the commission to the selling real estate agent and pay off mortgages that might be connected to the house from the previous owner. The deeds in your name are registered at the land registry. You are now the new owner of a property in France!

After the sale

If you’re thinking about a pool, a swim spa, a jacuzzi, a wellness area or renovation, you can contact us for our extensive after-service.