Travel & Expat Lifestyle Magazine

Buying Real Estate in France

The France real estate market has been in boom ever since the birth of the European Union. Many expats are moving to new properties in Paris or some coastal properties in Southern France. The cost of living in France is highest in Paris, but it’s lower than the EU averages out in rural areas.

Attorneys and Real Estate Agents

It is a good idea, though not required, to hire a lawyer for the process. They can help with drafting a contract, setting up a property company and give you advice on some French taxes.

A real estate agent can help you research properties that serve your best interest.

You may choose to use a notary (notaire) when buying French property. You and the seller can each appoint your own notaries, if you suspect that there will be opposing interests when you sign a contract. The notary is required to explain to you what you are signing. If your notary isn’t fluent in English, you should hire a translator (or bring along your French speaking lawyer).

Rules, Regulations and Restrictions

There are no restrictions on foreign ownership of French property. Expatriates must follow the same rules as French citizens.

General Process

If you settle on a property, you should make an offer to the seller. You might be asked to then make a written offer, a offre d’achat, which has a pre-printed form. It is recommended that you do not sign anything until you are in front of a notary.

Then there are two different contracts that people use to buy property in France. One is the Promesse de Vente, and the other is the Compromis de Vente. The substance of these contracts is very similar.

The Promesse de Vente is an option to buy the property granted to the buyer, on part of the owner. You’ll have to put down a 10% deposit after you sign this contract. You then have seven days to withdraw this money without any penalties. The Compromis de Vente is understood as a sale and purchase agreement as a bilateral obligation. You will also have to put down a 10% deposit that is safe for withdraw for seven days. Click here to view a typical Compromis contract in French. Both contracts outline information about the property, such as the parties involved in the transactions, the price and the estimated legal fees.

The next step is to then sign the initial contract, which can be done through an estate agent or through a French notary. If an estate agent has a carte professionelle, they are authorized to act as an intermediary person and can provide the sale contracts to you. However, there are some drawbacks from doing it this way, as they can be working on behalf of the seller, and you may want the contract to have extra factors that were not mentioned in the pre-printed contract.

The notary, on the other hand, is a publicly appointed official who will temporarily have a monopoly over property conveyancing matters. They generally don’t have a fee when you sign the contract in front of them, so this is a good option. The notary will let you know if they plan to charge you a fee.

The next few weeks consist of some legal research by the notary. They make sure that each party has a right to sell and purchase the property. They will also check that there is no outstanding mortgage, other fees, or any title confusions. During this time, you should go to the bank and start on your mortgage details. If everything clears, then the notary will then inform you when the final signature is to take place. You and the seller must then sign the final contract, the Acte de Vente.

Before you can legally own your prospective property, it is required that the notary have all appropriate purchase funds in place. You can transfer funds from your bank account to their’s, or do it by check. If you are doing it through a mortgage, your lender will send money to the notary. This should be done prior to signing the Acte de Vente. Once you sign the contract, and the money is transferred, then the property is yours.


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