Notaires in France

French Notaires - Who they are and what they do

The process of buying a property in France is rather different from that of the UK. The most fundamental difference is that if you’re buying houses in France then it is the norm for neither party to have a solicitor. That’s not to say that you can’t appoint a solicitor if you want to, of course you can, it’s just that in place of a solicitor a “Notaire” is used.

A Notaire is a government registered official who acts neither for the buyer or the seller, but for the contract. That is to say that he is there to oversee the proceedings and ensure that everything is above board and as it should be. It will be either the Notaire or the estate agent who will draw up the contract.

Part of the Notaire’s duty is to obtain three certificates in order to be able to finalise the sale of the property;

1. The “Certicicat des Hypotheques” This is an extract from the French government mortgage registry and will declare whether or not there are any outstanding loans on the property. If he finds any outstanding loans, the Notaire must either repay the loan in full out of the proceeds of the sale before paying the vendor, or, if he believes the monies have already been repaid, sort out the discrepancy before being able to issue the clearance certificate.

2. The “Certificat d’Urbanism”. This is issued by the Mairie (Town hall) confirming that the house is what it should be i.e.: a house rather than a factory or hotel. It also confirms the planning aspects of the property and whether there are any rights of way or something similar that relate to the sale.

3. The “Certificat de Pre-Emption”. In nearly all French villages, the Mairie has the legal right to purchase any property that is being sold. This could be enforced if they feel that the property would be useful for use a government building or to extend a school, or even to demolish it to create an open space. This is very rare and the village would have to be in full funds to be able to buy.

The Notaire’s fees usually referred to as the “Frais de Notaire” are paid for by the purchaser. These are a combination of actual fees for the Notaire’s work, plus various stamp duties, taxes, registration fees etc. You should allow approx 7% of the purchase price for this.

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