Buying Property in France

Purchasing property in France is probably very different from your previous experiences, but it needn’t be confusing.

I provide a relatively unique service to English speaking people looking to purchase a property here in France. Thanks to my years of experience working with notaires as a négociatrice in the Groupement Notarial du Carcassonnais, I am able to guide you successfully through the process of buying or selling your property in France.

Working through me ensures a British quality service, in English from start to finish. My privileged relations with some of the most respected notaires’ firms in the area ensure that your purchase goes through smoothly and that you are sure of avoiding all the nightmare situations you‘ve probably heard about from British TV, and believe me, the unsuspecting can get terribly and expensively burnt.

As soon as your future sale/purchase is ready to move forward, I will contact a competent notaire. I then become your sole contact, liaising between all the parties at all times. I will take care of all the details and work needed to have the preliminary sales contract drawn up as quickly as possible. I will also provide you with a translation of the contracts and the results of the various surveys carried out on the property (see “The Six step Guide” on the Buying a Property page).

As the purchase advances I keep you up to date and inform you immediately should anything unusual come to light. Don’t worry about the geography, as notaires have national competency. Any notaire can deal with a property transaction in any part of France. Physical proximity to the property being bought or sold is of no importance.

Communication is my key word, so I like to make sure that everyone is aware of what’s happening at each stage. Even when not much is happening, it’s nice to be part of the loop and feel reassured. I’m always available to answer questions and explain things. Remember, you are under the responsibility of a foreign legal system, so it is important to understand what’s happening and why at each step. That’s why I’m happy to be contacted by e-mail or by phone.

There are no silly questions, just questions that need to be answered.


My fees cover the following services:

  • a native English speaker as sole contact.
  • someone experienced in the French legal system to explain the buying/selling process to you in detail.
  • one number to call to get instant reassurance and answers to all your questions.
  • documents translated as required.
  • one person who knows what everyone’s doing.
  • someone competent and trustworthy who you can count on to sign all the paperwork on your behalf when the miles are too much.

The Property Game in France

In France the business of conveyancing, i.e. the buying and selling of property, is handled by a public official called “le notaire”. As they are personally responsible for the contracts drawn up, they must be objective in the advice given and must act with impartiality towards the various contractual parties. Hence the possibility for both purchaser and vendor to use the same notaire without any risk. If, however, you still prefer to use your own notaire, you are free to do so and it will not cost you any extra.


Preliminary Sales Agreement

When you buy a property in France, the transfer of title deeds is in two parts: an initial preliminary sales agreement and the signing of the final deeds.  Once you have agreed upon a price with the vendor, you will need to sign the preliminary sales agreement (sous-seing privé/compromis de vente/ contrat conditionelle). This agreement is drawn up and witnessed either by your notaire or an estate agent. Your notaire is a good person to advise you on conditions and wording of the agreement. Transfer of property will only take place on the day the final deed of sale is signed.


The Six-Step Guide to Signing

  1. The property to be purchased, and the price, have been mutually agreed upon.
  2. Conditions of payment need to be set out – are you making a cash payment or taking a mortgage out?
  3. The buyer should make sure they have sufficient funds available to make the deposit – normally 5% to 10%. This money should be kept by the notaire and deducted from the final balance. Nb if the preliminary sales agreement is unjustly broken, the deposit is paid to the seller in the form of damages.
  4. A full legal search concerning the property being sold is carried out by the notaire. The property must be fully described including land registry number (plan cadastral) and any rights of way, outstanding mortgages etc.
  5. What are the results of the search for termites, asbestos, lead (for properties built after 1947) gas installation, electrical installation, natural and industrial risks and energy performances with regards to the property? Such surveys are a legal obligation and are the seller’s responsibility. Not all of the surveys may apply to the area in which the property you are buying is located. Check with your notaire.
  6. A time period must be established for completion and a date set for signing the final deed of sale (Acte Authentique de Vente). The official formalities normally take around 3 months, but a longer or shorter period may be fixed if all the parties are in agreement.

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After signing the preliminary sales agreement, French law provides the purchaser with a seven day cooling off period. During these seven days, you may pull out of the sale without any justification and get your full deposit back. You need to inform your notaire in writing if you wish to cancel the sale.


The notaire takes care of all the necessary papers and authorisations required before signing the final deed of sale. The buyer should make sure that they have thought about buildings insurance for the day the final deed of sale is signed.

At this point the balance of the purchase price and the legal fees, the amount of which should already have been provided, are paid. The legal fees include the notaire’s fees as well as various state taxes and stamp duties.

The buyer now has the keys to their new house and the notaire will send the title deeds to them five to six months later, once he receives them. Don’t worry, he will provide the buyer with proof that they are the now the owner of the property and the seller with proof that they have sold it for the requirements of cancelling property insurance, etc.

It should be noted that all signings may take place either by proxy (designating a person like myself or a notaire’s employee to sign on behalf of everyone) or by having the preliminary sales agreement posted or e-mailed to both parties, signed and returned to the notaire (not possible for the final deed of sale).

Rachel Thomas-Bonnet, Gibalaux le Haut, 11800 Laure Minervois FRANCE

OFFICE: +33 (0)9 82 46 77 35   |   MOBILE: +33 (0)6 62 78 39 77   |   FAX: +33 (0)9 81 40 11 40