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When Buying a Property in France, What is a Compromis de Vente?

Buying a house in France may seem not too dissimilar to buying one in the UK but there are some important differences to be aware of and some things to watch out for.

French Property WIDE

When you have chosen a house you wish to buy, before you sign anything, you must check which form of contract you have been offered. You may have been offered a compromis de vente, promesse de vente or d’achat or a reservation contract. Which one you sign will affect how the sales process progresses together with your rights and obligations in relation to this.

When you buy a house in France you sign the contracts and are committed to the purchase at a much earlier stage than you are in the UK sales process. You are now given a 10 day cooling off period but you must be sure you know precisely how to exercise this right should you choose to withdraw.

A compromis de vente binds both parties equally. If either party fails to complete the transaction they would usually incur a loss of deposit, claim for damages and may even face court action to force the sale.

Make sure that you have checked the following:

  • the agreed price is correct,
  • the amount of commission to be paid to the agency,
  • who has to pay the commission to the agency,
  • total amount for the deposit,
  • and the deadline for payment.

A French preliminary contract will normally include an anticipated latest signing date, unlike the UK where a completion date is fixed at a much later stage. The French contract date is the date that the parties and notaire will work towards to complete the sale and the date from which legal action can be taken should either party refuse to sign.

Make sure you also get a dossier de diagnostics techniques from the vendors. This is a set of reports that they must supply at their own expense. The reports will include information about the property such as termites, asbestos, energy performance, gas and electric installation, lead poisoning and any major natural or technological risks.

“Get out” clauses, known as conditions suspensives, can render a contract null and void, entitling you to withdraw and recover any deposit that you have paid. But this can only be actioned if you have done everything correctly. Using a lawyer specialising in French property law will ensure that you know what to do.

Make sure that you read the contract over carefully and allow your lawyer to do the same. A contract should be subject to conditions that there are no adverse planning restrictions, no third party rights, no existing mortgages or charges affecting the property and no claims to the property by the local authority or French State. The contract should also be conditional upon purchasers being granted a specified loan to buy the property, unless stated in the contract, in their own writing, that they do not need one.

If the property has had extensions or alterations, you could request that the contract is subject to a condition that all required building approvals have been obtained and that the seller should provide proof of this is or that the work done did not need official approval before completion.

It is always wise to use the services of a French speaking lawyer who is well experienced in French property law. Slater and Gordon’s French property team know the ins and outs of the system and can guide you through your property purchase. Call us on freephone 0800 916 9083 or contact us online and we will call you.