The property buying process in France

The property buying process in France is rather different, and a lot simpler to that in the UK.
The things that you will need to know can be broken down as follows;


A lot of people buy property in this area of France without having any formal building survey. You can, however, get a full structural survey done by a qualified surveyor based in the Languedoc. Alternatively, you can have a less formal “Walkthrough” by a qualified surveyor or trusted builder.

Termite, Asbestos and Lead Surveys

All properties being sold in France must have a selection of up to date diagnostic reports provided by the seller. These will form part of the selling contract and serve to inform the buyer. The seller is not obliged to undertake any works highlighted by these surveys. The selection of surveys will depend on the age of the property but can include termites, lead, asbestos, natural risk (flood) assessment, electrical installation report, gas. If a property is in a “Copropriété” such as a development with communal areas or a building divided into flats, then an official measurement of the living space is also required. It is worth noting that the Official “Norms” or “Standards” laid out by the French government change fairly regularly so it is quite common for some of these reports to highlight items that do not conform. This does not necessarily mean that the property has a problem, so it is best to speak to your agent or Notaire to take advice on this before you panic.

Energy Efficiency Survey

This report called the DPE has been required since the 15th September 2006 and its purpose is to enable you to compare the energy consumption and pollution of the house that you are buying with other properties.

The Contract

Once you’ve found your ideal property and have negotiated your price, the next step is for the sales contract or “Compromis de vente” to be drawn up. This can be done by a licensed Estate Agent but we always defer to the Notaire for this as it is his/her area of expertise.

The Notaire

The role of the Notaire in France is subtly different from appointing a Lawyer in the UK.

When 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/she is there to oversee the proceedings and ensure that everything is above board and as it should be.

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. 8% of the purchase price for this. It is worth noting that only around 1% of these fees are the actual fees taken by the Notaire for doing the legal work. Most of it is in fact tax !!!

The Lawyer

English French lawyers are sometimes used in addition to a Notaire by people buying property in France. This is not very common but if you feel that you would like to work with a Lawyer then we will be able to advise you on this.

French Mortgages

Taking a French mortgage is an option that some people may choose to explore. We can introduce you to a trusted mortgage broker who will be able to talk you though the process and advise you of your options.

Electricity, Water, Telephone

This aspect of taking possession of a new property is taken care of by us as part of our service to all of our clients.

Currency Exchange

When buying a property abroad one of the key stages that a lot of people do not think about in advance is their purchase of euros. The right choice here can make the difference of hundreds or even thousands of euros that end up in your bank account so make sure you speak to us so we can advise you of the best way to go about this.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.