All normal property transactions must pass through a notary “Notaire” who is the only person who can make the searches and obtain certain legal documents necessary to make the transaction possible (The french system is in many ways better and safer than in most other countries).
The choice of notary is in the hands of the buyer, as indeed are the “notary fees”, which depending on the selling price, can be as much as 7 % on old properties …
… or as little as 2.5 % on new properties
You should note that prices of property are advertised exclusive of these charges. The notary does not get the entire fee. Most of it goes to the french taxes. If an owner tries to impose his notary, be aware that you have the right to choose your own notary who, if necessary, will work in collaboration with the owner’s. In fact it is quite common to have two notaries working on the same transaction. The overall cost is not greater than using only one as fees are shared. However the delay may be a little longer due to the necessity for the two notaries to correspond with each other.
THE PROCESS OF A PROPERTY TRANSACTION IN FRANCE
For example : after you have visited some properties you decide to make an offer on a property listed at € 400,000 € and you are prepared to pay € 380,000. The agency will normally require a written offer in order to be able to convince the owner to accept the offer.
This step should not be taken lightly. Remember what you sign becomes binding if your offer is accepted. Therefore you should be sure that you definitely want the property and are aware of the contents of the offer you are making. Conditions, if any, should be included at this stage, for example: obtaining finance, subject to survey etc…
• The owner of the property countersigns the offer. Once the offer has been accepted, both the buyer and seller sign a preliminary contract (compromis de vente). Once the “compromis de vente” has been signed by both parties, a 10-day cooling-off period then follows, during which time the buyer can pull out for any reason without losing his deposit. The cooling-off period only applies to a property (e.g. a house or apartment) and does not apply if you are buying a property through an SCI/société civile immobilière (property-holding company). Once the 10-day cooling-off period has passed the sale becomes legally binding, and neither party can pull out without incurring a penalty. If you decide to pull out during the cooling-off period, you are required to send a recorded delivery letter to the estate agent or notary giving notice of your withdrawal before the cooling-off period comes to an end.
• The buyer will have made out a bank tranfer for 10 % to a notary escrow account. This payment for 10 % is cashed and put into a legal escrow account. The money will stay until the final deed.
• The transaction is now “under compromis” or in other words “compromised”. The owner cannot sell to anyone else, nor change the price. The buyer can only back out if one of the legal clauses inserted in the offer has not been fulfilled.
Alternatively he loses his deposit. The notary will then require two or three months in order to prepare all the necessary paperwork before getting the parties together to sign the title deed. At this stage when all the parties have signed and the buyer has paid over the remaining 90 % of the price plus the notary fees, the notary dispatches all monies owed by the owner to the bank and others, then gives the balance to the seller. As of the final signature, the buyer becomes the legal owner of the property and receives the keys.
The compulsory diagnostic surveys are grouped together in a single report known as the Technical Diagnostic File (Dossier de Diagnostic Technique) or DDT. DDT surveys are all required by law and it is the obligation of the vendor to commission and pay for up-to-date reports to be attached to the Compromis de Vente document, the purchase and sales agreement, and thereafter the Acte de Vente, the deed of sale.
The tests must be carried out by approved experts, and it is the responsibility of the notary to ensure that the DDT is provided and meets required guidelines, for instance some aspects of the report are valid for 10 years, eg energy efficiency, some aspects for only six months, eg natural risks. The DDT aims to provide the home buyer with all the relevant facts for an informed decision.
• Energy Performance Inspection – DPE
All buildings except those listed in Article R.134-1 of the CCH (in French).
A diagnosis of the property’s energy performance – the estimated consumption and the impact of the consumption on the environment.
Duration : 10 years.
• Electrical Inspection – Electricité
Any building with an electrical installation over 15 years old.
This is a statement which outlines the state of the electrical installation – earth, cabling, trip switches etc.
Duration : 3 years for the indoor electrical installation.
The survey isn’t compulsory if the seller can produce a “certificat de conformité” dated less than 3 years ago to prove that the property complies with current regulations.
• Gas Inspection – Gaz
Any building where gas was installed over 15 years ago.
A report which outlines the domestic gas installation on the property.
Duration : 3 years for the indoor gas installation.
• Lead Inspection – Plomb
This applies to any property built before 1st January 1949.
This report identifies if lead is present anywhere in the property and summarises safety precautions to take, plus the effects of lead on health.
Validity of 1 year if a “positive” result, unlimited otherwise.
• Asbestos Inspection – Amiante
This concerns any building with a building permit issued before the 1st July 1997.
A report which lists any materials found to contain asbestos within the property.
Duration : If no asbestos is found, the validation period of the inspection is unlimited. If however, asbestos is found, a new test must be carried out within 3 years of the initial findings.
• Termite / Fungal / Insect Inspection
This report is obligatory in certain areas and strongly recommended for all buildings over 25 years old.
A report which states whether termites/fungus/insects have been found within the property.
Duration : 6 months.
• Merule Inspection – Mérule
A report stating whether a property has traces of the mérule fungus. Mérule fungus usually develops after a leak or flood and can destroy wood and weaken the structure of your home.
Duration : 6 months.
• Surface Area Inspection – Loi Carrez
For residential or commercial real estate in a communal property (copropriété) excluding basements, garages, parking spaces and any lot less than 8 m².
A certificate which measures the total surface of the living space within a property.
Duration : Unlimited unless you add an extension to your property after the report is drawn up.
This is not required for individual houses.
• Natural & Ecological Risk Inspection – Etat des Risques Naturels et Technologiques) – ESRIS
Any property which is found in an area subject to natural risks – flooding, landslides etc.
A certificate which states that the property is at risk from a natural disaster.
Duration : 6 months before the date of the sale or lease agreement.
This is an administrative report rather than a survey and won’t cover any specific structural issues the property might have.
• Wastewater Inspection – Assainissement Non-Collectif CAA
Any properties not connected to the public water drainage system.
A document which confirms that the property’s wastewater system or plant conforms to the current regulations.
Duration : 3 years.
• Radon Inspection – Radon
Anyone selling real estate in an area where radon gas may be found.
A report which confirms the presence of radon, a colourless and odourless radioactive gas. In areas covered by a plan de prévention des risques or an area where, as defined by regulation, a potential radon risk is present, the buyer must be informed of the existence of the risk. This requirement has been in place since 1st July 2018.
Duration : No fixed term as yet.