The House Buying Process in France

Find out how the property purchase process works in France and what to expect after making an offer and signing a contract…

Once a suitable property is found and an offer has been accepted by the vendor, the buyer signs a sales contract, the Compromis de vente.

Compromis de Vente

The Compromis de vente may be drafted by a notaire or Agent Immobilier (but not an agent commercial). It is written in French, but may have an English translation. If a mortgage is to be applied for, whoever is named as the purchaser(s) must also be named on the mortgage application. The compromis is a legal contract; read it carefully, make sure it's understood, and ensure all the details and conditions are correct, such as:

  • Details and identities of the vendor and buyer
  • A full description of the property
  • The surface area of the property and land
  • Details of any rights of way, or other issues affecting the property
  • The purchase price, the breakdown of fees and who is to pay each fee
  • Details of the notaire and sales agent
  • Details of any fixtures and fittings included in the sale
  • Results of the legally required reports
  • Details of financing, the mortgage, the date by which the mortgage offer is expected
  • Any let out clauses (conditions/clauses suspensives) and the penalties that will be incurred by the buyer or seller if completion doesn't take place

The let out clauses

For the purchaser, the clause suspensives provide a way out of the contract while protecting the deposit. However be aware that the vendor must agree to the clause suspensives.

Examples of let out clauses are:

  • Subject to the buyer obtaining mortgage finance
  • Subject to permission for a specific use of the building is granted
  • Subject to the vendor carrying out necessary repairs

Other clauses can be added, but expert legal advice is needed to ensure the correct wording.

Cooling-off period

Once the sellers and purchasers have signed the Compromis de vente and received an authorised copy, there is a seven day cooling off period in which the buyer may change their mind.

Note that even though there may be a clause suspensive in the compromis stating that the agreement to buy is subject to mortgage finance, the buyer should be careful to do exactly what is asked of them in the sale agreement. For example, some contracts state that a buyer must start the mortgage application process within a certain time limit and that they have a final date at which they must produce evidence of the bank's acceptance or refusal of the mortgage.

A buyer may be asked to prove that they have made reasonable efforts to obtain mortgage finance in time, or they will lose the deposit.

A few weeks before completion day

When the notaire has completed all the preliminary work, a possible date will be agreed between the parties who are sent a draft of the Acte de vente (projet de l'acte), the final Deed of Sale.

This contains much of the same information as in the original Compromis, but it should be carefully checked. It also states the date when the buyer may move into the property.

The following documents are required:

  • Buyers birth certificate and passport
  • Marriage certificate and/or divorce decree (if applicable)

If a buyer is unable to attend the meeting to sign the Acte de vente, they may give a trusted person their Power of Attorney (mandat) which authorises them to act on the buyer's behalf.

Completion day

Funds must be transferred to a special bank account held by the notaire before the signing can take place. It is the buyer's responsibility to instruct the notaire to request the mortgage funds from the lender.

Buildings insurance must be in place for the date of completion. The buyer may need to provide details of the insurance policy to the notaire.

The Acte de vente is signed by the buyer, the vendor and one notaire. If the buyer and vendor have different notaires, only one needs to witness the Acte de vente.

Once the Acte de vente has been signed and witnessed, the notaire pays all the taxes, settles all the accounts of the purchase/sale and registers the deeds and mortgage.

A few months later the buyer receives a certificate informing them that the title has been registered.

The original title deed is kept by the notary, although they may make and issue authorised copies.


With information by Carole Bayliss Copyright © Carole & Tony Bayliss All Rights Reserved 2014 Updates and additions by Joan Jenkins, Gérante (Managing Director) ACTOUS IMMOBILIER SARL, 8 Grand Rue - 16240 Villefagnan