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The first step in selling a property is to sign an agreement, a so-called sales contract, with a licensed and registered real estate agent in France. The sales contract must be formulated according to a statutory template that applies throughout France. This includes, among other things, the owner’s name, the property’s address, a brief description of the property, brokerage fees, the contract’s validity, any special conditions for the sale, as well as a time limit and termination terms.
In France there are both exclusive and non-exclusive sales contracts. It is important to discuss this with your agent as the choice of contract can affect the reach of the property and the final amount of the transaction!
When selling a property, the seller needs to order a technical examination of the home – “diagnostic”. This gives an account of the exact surface measurement of the property (if the property is part of a housing co-ownership), energy consumption, assessment of natural risks in the area, the state of the electrical system, gas installation, and if there are traces of lead, asbestos or termites on the property. The owner also needs to present his ownership certificate and proof of property tax.
In addition, when selling a home that is part of a housing association, you must be able to provide information on the association’s fees, its statutes and the voting records from the three latest annual meetings.
In France you make an offer at or below the asking price. The seller is obliged to sell if the buyer’s offer agrees with the listed asking price and the terms of the sales order. When you make an offer, you usually officialize it in a written way, with a “lettre d’intention d’achat“. At this stage the bid is not binding for the buyer.
The seller must carefully consider all terms before accepting an offer, since a written acceptance means that he is bound to selling his property. The buyer can thus later apply for damages if the seller refuses to sell the property. The buyer can withdraw even after an offer has been accepted.
The notary is a legally qualified civil servant who prepares documents, controls and is responsible for the registration of the sale. French people often have the same notary throughout their lives, as they can advise on issues regarding inheritance tax and such. Most often, buyers and sellers are represented by their own notaries who then share the fee without increasing the cost.
Notaries are impartial and expected to be neutral. Their final responsibility being to the French Ministry of Justice. The notary fee, also called acquisition cost, includes various taxes and fees such as stamp duty and shipping costs. It stands at about 7.5% of the purchase price of existing items and 2.5% of new production. The notary fee is paid by the buyer.
Wretman Estate cooperates with a number of reliable English-speaking notaries on the French Riviera.
The pre-contract is drawn up by the notary or real estate agent and includes all terms of the sale. This must be very precise as it is the basis for the final agreement.
The pre-contract contains all terms of purchase such as loan clause, date of entry, possible list of furnishings to be included in the purchase, information on fees and housing association. It also describes under what circumstances the contract can be broken without penalties. This could be, for example, that the property has building permit restrictions or if the buyers’ mortgages would not be granted. Signing this agreement is binding for the seller.
The agent must carefully check that all the necessary points are included, and that the agreement does not contain clauses that affect the seller negatively.
The buyer is legally entitled to withdraw from the sale free of charge within 10 days after he has signed and received a copy of the pre-contract with attachments.
Important to note is that the 10 days start after the buyer has received all the attachments relating to the property, it is not enough to just have signed the pre-contract. After that, the withdrawal period is over.
The down payment of between 5 and 10% is deposited in an account managed by the notary. It must reach the notary no later than 10 days after the pre-contract was signed, provided that the buyer wishes to complete the transaction.
After the notary has completed all the inspections and obtained all the necessary information about the town planning and mortgages on the property, the final purchasing contract “Acte authentique de vente” can be signed. It usually takes two to three months between the signing of the “Compromis de Vente” and “Acte Authentique de Vente.“
On the contract date, the notary ensures that the total amount of the transaction has been received into the client funds account.
Admittance takes place on the same day as the signing of the contract, therefore the property must be vacated before signing.
When the contract is signed, the keys are handed over and both parties receive written proof of the sale.