The purchase process

The property-buying process starts as soon as you consider buying a property in our beautiful region. Whether it is to live here all year round, come on holiday or invest in a rental property. The process from A to Z is very different from one country to another. For some, there is also the language barrier and a lack of knowledge of the local market and its different districts. There are a number of stages to go through before the deed is signed in presence of the notaire and the title transferred.

The 10 stages of the buying process

To find out more about these steps, please click on them.

1) Define your criteria

This may seem like an obvious step, but nonetheless important and should be handled with great care. You need to define your search criteria concisely and in detail in order to restrict the search field and make the selection process manageable and efficient.

2) Determine your financing

Presenting your application to a bank for an "agreement in principle" before you take the plunge will be very useful later on when you enter the negotiation phase for the purchase of a property.

3) Searching for and selecting properties to visit

This research stage is tedious because it's time-consuming and requires a great deal ofknowledge. The number of real estate portals and other media that carry property ads is impressive not to mention the other sources that exist for finding the property of your dreams, from private individuals, property developers, other real estate agencies or sources.

4) Evaluate and check the property you want to buy

Visit enough properties to be able to compare and assess the asking price against the market price. 

In the case of second hand properties, the property is bought "as is", so it's a good idea to check that all the important elements are in good working order. However, it is possible to order (at your own expense) a technical survey of a property if you need to have structural aspects checked. Analyse the documents relating to the property (diagnostics) and the co-ownership (if applicable). Make enquiries with the town hall planning department to ensure that there are no factors likely to negatively affect the property you are considering buying (road easements, rules for the zone, future constructions, etc.).

5) The purchase offer

A well-drafted offer to purchase is important in order to ensure that the sale is blocked in your favour. It must include the financing of the purchase, any reservations and be concise in terms of the validity date and the date of signature of the sales agreement.

6) Choosing your notary(ies)

The notary plays an essential role in any transaction, as he witnesses the signing of the deed and the transfer of title. Each party has the right to appoint "their" notary without this decision affecting the final cost. However, this choice is important for the purchaser for other reasons (discussed in point 8). On the other hand, when you buy a property in a new-build development, it is customary to use the same notary as the developer (although this is not mandatory).

7) The preliminary purchase and sales contract

This first binding contract is drawn up either by the estate agent or by the buyer's notary (if the latter is in the département where the property is located). It contains:

  • The identity of the buyer(s) and seller(s)
  • The description of the property sold, together with all the technical diagnoses and other documents required
  • The price, negotiation fees for a sales mandate and financing
  • any reservations and suspensive clauses, in particular the deadline for obtaining the loan (normally 2 months after signing the sales agreement) 
  • the deposit to be paid to confirm the intention to buy
  • The withdrawal period in favour of the purchaser under the "SRU law" (up to 10 days after signature) 
  • The date of the “acte authentique” (the final contract signing in presence of the notary)

A large number of communes have a right of pre-emption. Once the sales agreement has been signed, these communes have 2 months to state their position on this right, which partly explains the delay between the two contracts.

8) How to structure the ownership?

The notary's role is not simply to verify and draw up the final contract and handle the funds involved in the transaction. The notary's skill and willingness give him the opportunity to play another role, namely that of adviser on a very important issue: How do you organise the ownership? This question is all too often neglected, because buying a property without taking account of the civil and tax law aspects can have serious consequences later on. We therefore strongly recommend that our clients examine the options available in this area with the support of their notary.

9) The deed of sale

Once the preliminary purchase and sales agreement has been concluded, the final deed of sale is signed in presence of the notary 2 to 3 months later. The notary will have carried out in-depth research on the property in question beforehand (mortgages, town hall planning information, etc.). The French administrative process is long but thorough and reassuring for the buyer. The buyer's notary draws up the final deed. The balance of the sale price (for new-build properties, according to a specific schedule) as well as registration fees and the notary’s fees are paid through the notary’s account.

The "frais d'acte" for second hand properties, payable by the buyer, are in the range of 7 to 8% of the purchase price, or more depending on whether or not you have a mortgage. The fees cover the transfer taxes levied by the Commune, the Departement and the State. For buying a new build, see below.

Before the deed is signed, the funds must have been paid into the notary’s account. The notary will then calculate the pro rata property tax and any co-ownership charges. Signatures by sellers and buyers can be handled by proxy by the notary's office. However, if you are present and do not speak French, you will be obliged to hire an interpreter.

10) After handing over the keys

The notary informs the co-ownership association (if applicable) and the public services of the sale. Subscriptions for water, electricity, gas, internet, insurance, etc. must be dealt with. Opening a French bank account will facilitate direct debits for various bills.

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New Build

The process for buying a house or flat that is under construction is different. First, the buyer signs a reservation contract and pays a deposit of between 0% and 5%, depending on the progress of the work and the delivery date. These funds are inaccessible, unavailable and unseizable until the sale contract is signed. The reservation contract can be drawn up without the presence of a notary. The agreement gives a detailed description of the property. The contract may contain a condition precedent relating to obtaining a loan, as well as any other legal conditions under which the buyer may withdraw from the purchase.

Depending on the progress of construction at the time of booking, the buyer can personalise the property by choosing colours, tiles, kitchens and bathroom fittings.

The next step is to sign the final deed of sale, which sets out the various stages of construction, delivery, warranties and other terms and conditions. The draft deed is notified to the vendor well in advance of the signing before the notary. Thereafter, payments are made according to the progress of each stage of the construction. The balance (often 5%) is due upon completion and the handover of the keys.

Buying with AAA Riviera

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