No real estate transaction in France is possible without an inspection of the technical condition of the property. As a rule, the inspection is carried out before the preliminary contract is signed, but if there is a deadline, the document can also be signed without a specialist opinion. In this case, one of the clauses of the document states that technical inspection will be conducted at a later date and deal terms may be revised in case of unsatisfactory conclusion. The main points emphasised by the technical experts are:
Consistency of the actual square footage of the property with that declared.
Presence of hazardous building materials in the residential structures of the premises (asbestos and lead have been banned since the end of the last century and their discovery may constitute an obstacle to the sale of the property).
Presence of termites.
Compliance of electrical and gas installations with regulations.
The presence of natural or operational risks that may arise due to the location of the property (dampness near water bodies, the possibility of snow falls in mountainous areas, etc.).
The inspection reports will be handed over to the seller by the experts. The cost of the technical survey is included in the total price of the property.
Signing the contract
Before the verbal agreement can be formalised, the foreign buyer must open an account with a French bank. This will be used for all financial transactions in the real estate transaction and will later be used to pay for utilities, taxes, etc. The signing of the sale/purchase agreement will be done in several stages:
Reservation of real estate or preliminary contract. Despite the fact that the document has the status of a preliminary agreement, it defines all the details and conditions of the future transaction. The agreement guarantees the buyer that the property is secured and the seller that the property is certain to be redeemed. The document is drawn up by a notary or a realtor and does not require formal certification. At the same time, the buyer deposits a deposit of 10% of the property value into the notary’s trust account. The money will stay there until the final completion of the transaction. The foreigner has 10 days to “change their mind” and return the deposit. After that, the money is not refunded. If the seller refuses the transaction, the deposit is doubled.
Due diligence. This multi-stage procedure is conducted by a notary within three months. During this time, information about the owners and co-owners of the property will be checked, the documents of the property itself will be examined and factors which may hinder the transaction or impose special obligations on the buyer (historic property, location in a risk area, etc.) will be taken into account. In addition, the notary sends the declaration of the transaction to the town hall. According to French law, the local authority may buy the property at the price indicated in the preliminary contract. In this case, the deposit will be returned to the buyer without any additional compensation.
Signing the contract of sale. The document is drawn up and signed at a notary’s office. Present: the seller; the buyer or his authorised representative; one or two notaries (for each party); an interpreter if the foreign buyer does not speak French. The buyer provides a complete set of personal documents and proof of the legal origin of the funds (on request). The final contract states the name of the owner or owners, if the property will be jointly owned by the buyer’s family members.
You should be aware that the ownership of the property in France between family members is regulated by local law and the right to inherit is regulated by the law of the buyer’s country of nationality.