Tips on Buying property in France

FullSizeRender13Our team will guide and assist you at every step of your property acquisition process.

Financing your project

Understanding how you will finance your project is an important aspect that we discuss from the start as this will influence your ability to buy property, and the negotiation process.  Buying cash is the easiest, quickest, and best way to negotiate a good selling price. However, many buyers decide to finance their purchase with a loan. We can recommend the best lawyers, mortgage and currency exchange brokers, as well as financial advisors to be sure that your financial investment is as efficiently planned and managed.

Defining your project

We discuss your project in detail to understand what you are looking for.  We explain to you what the type of properties that correspond to your search criteria and budget to review together the feasibility of your project.  It is important that your aspirations are in line with the French property market.  This is the first step before we start the mission, not to waste your time or ours.

The Buying Process

The buying process can take a minimum of two months if you are paying cash, and if the entire process runs smoothly.  It is better to count three months from the signing of the purchase offer, as there can be administrative delays   Generally finding the right property to buy takes anywhere from one week to three months, when the seller is ready to buy.  And it can take much longer if the project is more complex.

What type of property to buy?

We can assist you in understanding the type of French properties on the market, which correspond to your search criteria and budget.  Whether you are looking for a pied-à-terre, a suburban home or apartment, or a vacation home or estate in the country, we can guide you in your choice, and inform you about the French real estate market.

Where to buy?

One of the first decisions to make is where you want to buy property.  The choice will depend on the reason for your purchase, be it your primary residence, a vacation home or an investment property.

We work with you to define your search and help you better understand the best regions or neighborhoods which best satisfies your needs and wishes.

If you will be moving with children, we will want to take into consideration where they will be attending school.   If you children will be attending public school, we will want to consider the zoning laws for the best public schools. For those working in the household, we will take into consideration their commute.  If you are buying a vacation home, we will look at transportation time to airports and train stations, or by car.  We look at all aspects of your life, and the reasons for the purchase to help you find the best solution.

Finding your property

Choosing the property you want to buy can be very quick when you know what you are looking for, when your aspirations are in line with the real estate market, and your find just that right property.  It is our job to make sure all of those things come together.  We know that a decision to buy a property takes longer than a decision to rent.  We search via real estate agencies, direct owners, notary publics, and other means.  Our search is widespread and thorough, and in line with your criteria.  We set up housing visits to see these properties we have rigorously selected for you.   We continue the visits until you have found the property you are looking for.

Making an offer

Once you have chosen the property you want to buy, we assist you in preparing the purchase offer, which needs to be in writing.  It is not legally binding at this stage, but it is the first step in the negotiation process.

Using a Notary

There are two key documents that you will sign during the purchase process: the” Compromise de Vente” and the “Acte Authentique de Vente”.  The first can be managed by a notary or by the estate agent. The second will be signed in the notary’s office. The “notaire” is a public officer, and is required by law to act impartially. We often recommend that our clients are represented by their own notary.  If you do not have a notary in France, we will recommend one for you. When there are two notaries, the notary fee is split between the two notaries.  Notary fees including taxes are in the range of 7% of the purchase price.


If you are planning on doing any renovation, you may want to obtain an opinion and a rough estimate on refurbishment costs from a professional.  If a lot of renovation is required, you may want this to be done prior to making an offer.

A survey can be arranged to evaluate the structure of building as well.

A visit to the city hall may be necessary to understand the city planning around the property. If you are buying a large property, it is preferable to know what the city has in store in the future around your property, to protect you from any information that could be withheld from the seller.

Conditional Clauses

Conditional clauses are important as they will allow you to withdraw from your offer without damages.  It is important to evaluate what conditions could apply to your personal situation.  The estate agent or notary will only allow valid clauses in the contract.  If you loaning money for the purchase of the property, a clause will automatically be included allowing you to retract from the purchase should the bank turn down your loan request. Other clauses could include obtaining a building permit.

Technical diagnostic reports

The owner needs to provide a recent technical diagnosis report on the state of the property you are purchasing, including all outbuildings, cellars, garages, and separate structures to the home itself. This report includes the energy efficiency of the home (based on the insulation, type of heating, etc.) and presence of any hazardous material such as lead, asbestos, or termites.  If the property includes a pool, a report on the safety features of the pool is also included. An analysis of these reports will be done prior to making an offer.

Signing the Purchase offer

Once the negotiations have been concluded, and both parties agree to the sale price and the terms of the sale, the purchase offer contract “Compromis de Vente” can be signed.  This document is legally binding, and is signed either at the estate agency or with a notary.    We represent your needs to ensure that the terms of this contract are drawn up to protect your interests.  It is key that your interests are represented in this vital document, which will dictate the terms of the final sale, as well as any eventual exclusion clauses.

Cooling-off period

After you sign the purchase offer, there is a seven-day cooling-off period in which you may retract your offer without any damages.

Local Authority’s Searches

Following the signing of the purchase offer, there is the period of two to three months where many searches are carried out by the notary to make sure the sale can proceed.  All the deeds must be in order, the land registry rights to ownership, boundaries and rights of way are validated.  There must not be any presumption from the state to purchase all or part of the property.

Signing the final deed of sale

The signing of the final deed of sale (“acte de vente authentique”) will take place with a public Notary “notaire”, who is a representative of the state.  It is at this signing, that the monies will be exchanged, and you will receive the keys to your new home.

We always take you to visit the home prior to the appointment at the notary. This visit often surprises the seller, but you will be providing an important sum of money in exchange for a product, and you need to see it before the final sale is done.

The date for the final sale will be agreed upon by the buyer and seller and set by the “notaire” once all the necessary checks have been made, and loan accepted (if requested).  You can count about three months from the signing of the “promesse de vente” or “compromis de vente” to the final signing of the “acte de vente authentique”. The notary will confirm the final balance due at the time of the final signing of the deed.

The notary will register the deed of sale with the land registry, and you will obtain your copy of the sale by mail at a later time. You do leave the sale with the keys to your new home!

Costs to buy and own property in France

  • To begin with, you have the purchase price of the property
  • You will have notary fees and taxes to pay which are in the range of 7% of the sale price of the property
  • Estate agent fees (these vary greatly between one agent and another, but generally vary between 3 and 8 %).  These fees are transparent to the buyer, until the time of sale when the amount is revealed to the buyer.  The amount is negotiated between the seller and the estate agent.
  • Other optional costs
  • Mortgage fees (if applicable)
  • Foreign exchange costs (if applicable)
  • Surveyor’s fee
  • Renovation or refurbishment costs
  • Once you own the property, you will have the property tax to pay yearly and the residence tax (taxe d’habitation).

How long does it take?

If you are paying cash for your property, the entire purchasing process from offer to final deed of sale can be squeezed down to two months, if you are in a hurry.  It is preferable to allow three to four month for the entire process, especially if you are planning on borrowing money.

What kind of property are you looking to buy in France?

Depending on where you want to buy in France, the style of architecture will change.  The homes you will find in Paris will differ from the ones in other cities of France, or provinces.   We can help you narrow down your search to a specific region or city if you have not selected one, based on your search criteria.

Taxes and Legal Matters

If you are foreigner owning property in France, you should become familiar with French law relative to inheritance law, residency issues, capital gains tax, and other financial and legal matters which could concern you.  We can put you in contact with an English speaking advisor.

Are you looking to buy a primary residence in Paris?

Are you looking for an apartment in Paris?  How many rooms?  Do you want outdoor space (a balcony or terrace)? Do you want hard wood floors and decorative crown moldings and fireplaces?  Are you looking for the charm of the classical Parisian Haussmann architecture? Do you like the large entrance foyers, marble floors, and ornate woodwork? Or are you more interested in the conveniences of the modern buildings with large elevators and parking garages in the basement?

How many people will be living in the home?  If there are few of you, why not opt for an artist’s loft-style apartment with large open spaces?

Once we determine the type of building that may suit you, we try to identify your personal tastes and the type of neighborhood that would fit your needs.  Are you looking for a calm family neighborhood?  Do you prefer to be in the center of Parisian nightlife and hippest areas? Do you prefer the oldest and most authentic neighborhoods?  Do you want your child to be able to walk to school, you to work?

Your personal lifestyle will also be a factor to take into consideration in the search to find the right property, and the right neighborhood.

Are you looking to buy a home in the suburbs?

Many families opt for the suburbs of Paris to have larger homes with gardens.   There are an abundance of international schools in the suburbs to attract a large foreign population.  And many families would rather have large homes, and more green space for the children.  Often, there is greater access to sport facilities in the suburbs for both adults and children.

We will ask you many questions to understand your housing and family needs.  Do you have children attending school?  Do you need convenient access to public transportation? Where are the family members commuting to?

Are you looking to buy a pied-a-terre in Paris?

If you are a foreign investor looking for a pied-a-terre or a vacation home, you are looking in the right place.  Paris is known worldwide for being the city of lights, and the tourist capital of the world.  Paris is easily accessible by plane, and you can get to most big cities in France by fast speed train in just hours.  The French style-of-life is loved and admired by all: the open markets, the outdoor cafés, the excellent wines, the flowers markets, the restaurants, and the beautiful architecture.  If you are planning on renting your apartment from time to time, location will be important to ensure a high-demand for your rental.

If you are buying an investment property in France, we will be sure that your property is in an area where you will always have renters. We will be careful to look at the resale value of your property, to ensure you are making a good investment. If you are investing in an apartment, we will want to be sure your building rules will allow for short term rentals.

Are you looking to buy a home in the country?

The countryside of France is gorgeous with agricultural fields showing the colors of each season, rolling hills, forest and beautiful villages.  But what area of France corresponds best to your needs where you would be most happy to have a home?  You may have visited France before and have already and idea of the region that interests you.  You may have friends and family in a region and would like to be close by.

What is the style of country home that you prefer? A Manor house or a chateau? A Normand-style farm house or a “chaumière” or thatched cottage?  A chalet in the mountains or a residence close to beach? We will find you the property you are dreaming about.


Please note that these tips are provided for general information only, and are subject to change overtime.  Please consult us for your specific purchasing project.


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