Property trading in France
The property market in France, like in Denmark, has lost some steam in the past few years. Where, 4-5 years ago, everything from a dovecote to a disused stable was sold for astronomical sums, the market has found a better balance. However, it is a fact that there are more and more sun-hungry northerners who want a piece of the south’s warmth.
At the same time, it has become easier for Danes to buy property in France, because the Danish credit unions have entered into lending and can offer loans on the terms we know from home.
If you have found the property you want to buy, it is important to make it clear that you do not basically have anyone “on your side”. Properties are sold as occupied, and neither the estate agent nor the notary can be the buyer’s husband. It may therefore be a good idea to have your own adviser on board for advice, both in terms of construction technology and legal matters.
Buying real estate in France follows guidelines that differ in certain respects from the Danish rules. All formalities in connection with the completion of the transaction are handled by the notary (“le notaire”).
The notary is an independent trader with a legal education, who covers all the areas that come under the Ministry of Justice, and who is authorized by the Ministry to represent the public in dealing with property, estate administration, marriage contracts, wills, etc. With regard to real estate, the notary has the exclusive statutory right to handle the tasks that the lawyer in Denmark typically takes care of: obtaining necessary documents from the public, banks, insurance company, etc., drawing up deeds, land registration, etc. In addition, the notary collects taxes and duties for the public and ensures payment thereof to the state. The notary is neutral and cannot be the buyer’s or seller’s husband.
According to French law, it is the buyer who pays the costs of drawing up and properly registering the deed. These costs are called, somewhat erroneously, “frais de notaire”, as the notary’s fee, which is a statutory percentage, is only a part of it, the rest consists of taxes, charges, fees and expenses for obtaining necessary documents. If you buy a property for 150,000 Euros, the notary charges approx. 10,400, of which his salary is approx. 1,870.
Condition reports, as we have them in Denmark, do not exist in France. On the other hand, there are several statutory investigations (“expertises immobilières”) which must be carried out, e.g. it must be investigated whether there is or has been an attack by termites, whether there are residues of asbestos or lead, whether the property is located in a zone that is or has been exposed to earthquakes, landslides, floods or other natural disasters. These “expertises” are paid for by the seller.
Seller and buyer meet at the notary when the deed (“l’acte”) is ready for signature. Here, the notary must read the entire text to the parties, and if you do not speak enough French to understand him, you must have someone with you who can translate continuously. The notary office keeps the registered deed for 100 years and must then hand it over to the state archives. A copy can be given to the parties to the case, and only to them.
You must be prepared that a real estate transaction in France takes longer than in Denmark. In part, the paper process itself is more old-fashioned than in Denmark, where the electronic media have long since gained ground. On the one hand, practical problems can arise in connection with the writing of the deed: it is not uncommon for a property to have been passed down in a family for generations and is now jointly owned by a group of siblings. All these siblings must first agree to sell, and signatures must be obtained from all of them, perhaps from the other end of the country or from abroad.
Terms you will encounter in connection with the purchase of real estate:
- “l’agent immobilier”: estate agent
- “le compromis de vente”: final note
- “l’hypothèque”: mortgage
- “l’acte”: deed
- “le certificat d’urbanisme”, abbreviated CU: municipal information form
- “l’expertise”: examination by a professional of various potential problems
- “la copie authentique”: a complete copy of the deed with the notary’s stamp and signature. Has the same validity as the original.