Buyers Guide

Making An Offer On French Property

There is scope for making offers that are lower than asking prices, and ultimately having those offers accepted. This is because transaction prices never exceed a property’s asking price. Legally, if an agent secures the asking price, the vendor is obliged to accept it. Because of this, more room for negotiation is introduced into an asking price in France than you may be used to elsewhere. 

Ultimately of course, the price is dictated by the market – ie what a buyer is prepared to offer and a vendor is prepared to accept. Factors specific to the two parties, and perhaps outside the norms can result in transaction prices below or above what might be expected, and there are circumstances in which we would certainly recommend negotiating the asking price.

An offer to purchase can include conditions, a common one is the obtaining of a mortgage. This is so common that if you are not applying for a mortgage you will have to insert a special paragraph in your contract to confirm this. A French mortgage application cannot be made without a signed first contract accompanying the application form. Be aware that when purchasing with a mortgage, the Notaire will make a further charge to register the lender’s interest on the property, normally about 1.5% of the mortgage amount.

Buyer Costs

The fees associated with buying a property in France can be alarming. This page provides a checklist of what you as a buyer can expect to pay. The main factors that affect the level of fees are:
- the age of the property (new houses attract lower charges)
- the number of people involved (lawyers, mortgage companies, surveyors etc)
- whether you buy through an estate agent

Total fees can be as low as 2% of the price of the property, but can be as high as 20%. Typically, you can expect to pay around 6-9% of the net value of the property on an older property and around 2-3% on a new build (less than five years old). Please note that most fees are paid by the buyer. However, since the introduction of a series of diagnostic tests on any property to be advertised for sale, the seller too has a liability to bear this cost (see below).

Immobilliers or Estate Agent Sales Commission (usually paid by the buyer of the property) Where an agent is involved - allow between 5 and 10%.
10% is quite commonly charged.

Notaire Sales Commission (usually paid by the buyer)  

The system tends to work satisfactorily in practice, but you can elect to have a ‘notaire accompagnant’ at no extra cost. The Notaire will not especially appreciate this as he will have to share a single fee, but it can be an idea especially if the vendor’s notaire lives away from where the property is situated  and is in consequence not aware of what is going on in the area such as proposed new roads, railways or airports.

The whole process is rather long-winded, at least by UK standards, as contracts are signed very early on but completion can take place up to three months later. This is because certain rights of pre-emption which may exist have to be ‘purged.

We can recommend a UK/France based solicitor who has 10 years conveyancing experience  for property distance purchases in France and is fluent in French. He can  assist you in the process by reading the contract and supporting papers before they are signed. This does not involve any delay as they can be faxed or scanned then emailed and the solicitor can normally look at them the same day.  He can also liaise between the client,  the agent and the notaire so as to avoid any misunderstanding. He will then check through the conveyance to see that it too contains nothing untoward. Contact Us if you require assistance.

Stamp Duty (paid by the buyer) 0.6% for property less than five years old, 5.9% for older properties. This is included in the fees paid to the Notaire.

Land Registry (paid by the buyer) Land registry fees are approximately 4.89%. These are included in the fees paid to the Notaire.

Safer (paid by the buyer) Safer is the agricultural organisation who may become involved if the property has a certain amount of land over one hectare. Any associated cost is usually included in the fees paid to the Notaire and is usually only a few hundred Euros.

New Diagnostic Tests or Diagnostics Immobiliers (paid by the seller) Unusually for France, the burden of payment for these does not fall on the buyer, but on the seller. Before a property is advertised, approved experts must be called to report on the energy efficiency, presence of dangerous and outdated materials such as asbestos, tests on the provision for gas, electricity and sewage, and tests to establish if there is evidence of termite activity or other natural risks. Costs vary from area to area and from expert to expert, but expect to pay between 400-900 Euros for a Dossier Diagnostique Technique, or DDT.

Possible Additional Costs

Where an Estate agent is not used - allow up to 5%

Notaires' Conveyancing Fees (paid by the buyer)

A Notaire's fees are calculated on a sliding scale. Thus, the higher the price of the property, the lower the percentage the Notaire will take. The amount is usually in the region of 1% (plus TVA at 19.6%). The other fees that are paid to the Notaire but do not, in fact, ultimately go to the Notaire, are fees for stamp duty, land registry fees and other disbursements. All the Notaire's fees are usually paid by the buyer, even if the Notaire acts for both parties, which is normal as they are not supposed to protect the interests of either party over the other. If the seller instructs a different Notaire to the buyer, the fee for both Notaires is paid by the buyer. (In this case the work and fee is split between the two Notaires, it does not mean a higher cost for Notaires' fees).

The Notaire & Your Solicitor as a Notaire Accompagnant

The notaire acting for both sides sounds like a conflict of interest, but is not as bad as it sounds. UK solicitors regularly did this until it was outlawed in about 1975. The notaire is in fact an appointee of the state, and as such owes his duties to the state, in particular to record who owns what land within France and to collect any taxes due - especially capital gains tax.

Structural Surveys: It is not common practice in France to have a structural survey performed before buying a property, but the buyer has this option at his own expense should he wish. They vary greatly in price according to size of property etc. but as a rough guide, a basic survey may be as little as 200 Euros, while a full survey could be as much as 1,500 Euros or even higher for a very large property. 
 The other option is to have a registered builder's opinion on the property, and this is what the French sometimes do.

Legal Advice: If there are complicated clauses in the sale, or other complex issues, additional legal advice may be required, again at additional expense. This cost may be paid by both buyer and seller, or one or the other. Legal fees vary hugely, depending on the solicitor and also on how much work is involved.

You should also take advice on your inheritance provision. Whatever your nationality, the inheritance of your property is subject to French law and the provision made has to be included in the house-buying contract. We advise consulting a legal representative on this as French inheritance law is extremely complex and you don't want to find a surviving partner paying unnecessarily high death duties if the worst should occur. Again we can arrange this advice for you.

Geometra's charge: This may or may not be necessary to ascertain and mark or realign the exact boundaries of the property, for example if the seller has sold some of his land, or if the boundaries are unclear. Expect to pay around 200 Euros for a simple job on an average sized property, more for a more complex job. This charge is paid by the seller.

Additionally if you need a French mortgage:

Mortgage Arrangement and Administration Fee - Commonly 2%

Mortgage Registration Fee - Commonly 1-2%

Mortgage Insurance - Commonly around 0.5%

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