Buying in France

The house-buying process in France

European law has homogenized the house-buying process in the EU member states. The same regulations aim at protecting the market, property buyers as well as property sellers, enforcing useful norms or laws – even though they may be considered excessive or restrictive.

For instance, each member state must abide by specific environmental regulatory obligations. Property sellers must produce an EPC coupled with an EIR when they put the house on the market : the EPC (or Energy Performance Certificate) establishes how energy-efficient the property is while the EIR (Environmental Impact Rating) measures the home’s impact on the environment in terms of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, on a yearly basis. EPC for the Brits or the Dutch (who then refer to Energieprestatiecertificaat) is DPE for the French or PEB for the Belgians…

So, you have obviously heard of these regulations whether you are Belgian, Luxemburgese, or Dutch, as you have the same in your respective countries. As for the Brits, despite Brexit and the potential divergence between European and British laws that should increase as time goes by, we may safely assume that most of these regulations (if not all of them) will remain unchanged or will be only slightly amended. The British government’s will to make the economy greener cannot go against norms and measures that aim at achieving similar objectives.

Thus the technical aspect of the house-buying process should not be that much of a hurdle – there will always be common international standards i.e. : a common ground that make it comprehensible.

When domestic law defines the roles of the key players in the house-selling or house-buying process

Things may be more complicated when considering the roles of the various players in the process. Who does what ? What does an estate agent (agent immobilier) do in France ? What does a solicitor (notaire) do ?

These roles differ. In France, the house-buying or house-selling process goes through two main stages : once the buyer’s offer has been accepted, the seller and buyer sign a « compromis de vente » i.e. : a sale agreement. This contract is legally binding, however it does not always reach completion for various (unexpected) reasons (e.g. : mortgage refusal).
Can the parties reconsider their intention? Only the buyer can : he/she has 7 days to pull out if he/she wishes to do so. Should sale completion be delayed and the contractual date set in the agreement have expired, he/she can also invoke that reason to cancel the whole thing.
Estate agents are entitled to write these sale agreements.

When the process reaches completion, both parties then sign the « acte de vente ». This is the time in Britain when they exchange contracts. But it is also the time when the sale completes and the seller collects his/her keys. There is no delay between exchange and completion, they both happen at the same time, when the parties sign this acte de vente.

In France, only the solicitor (le notaire) is entitled to issue the acte de vente : he is a representative of the French state, « l’État Français » who delegates its powers to him/her. As such he/she is the only official who can both write and validate the sale contract, as well as transfer the property title. It is similar in the Netherlands or Belgium. In Britain, conveyancers are also entitled to transfer the property title. There is no similar role in France. French solicitors are conveyancers… A two-into-one role !

As estate agents, we are well aware of these differences – this is the reason why we have compiled information that explain how the house-buying process works in France, establishing comparisons similar to the ones we mentioned earlier, when need be. This information is available for our potential buyers/ clients.

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