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Buying Real Estate in France safely

Home > French Real Estate | Published 2010-11-17

Caution is the watchword in buying real estate in France! Indeed, the particular act of purchasing a property is a journey replete with pitfalls and ploys, in which it is easy to fall if you are not assisted and counseled by a French lawyer!

If an individual wishes to acquire property he or she must follow an extensive and thorough administrative process, undoubtedly complicating the exercise in the event that he faces any formidable obstacles. It is easy for a novice to get lost in this labyrinth of potential complications.

An estate sale is generally realized in two steps: the signing of an agreement to sell, then the signing of the deed of sale that completes the sale.

The sale agreement may be signed through an estate agent or notary, or else directly by the buyer. Whatever the case, the buyer must afford utmost attention in the drafting of the agreement to sell. 

Once the sale has been formalized and the seller has accepted the offer under the proposed conditions on the price and property, the buyer is committed and bound by law. The contract is then formed. The preliminary contract forbids the buyer from waiving their acceptance without risk of liability and the possibility of being sued for damages.

This is especially critical when the completion of the sale of the property is related to obtaining a loan from a lending institution or bank to finance the purchase. In this case, obtaining the loan is a prerequisite, that is to say that the sale is only possible if the loan is accepted! This prerequisite may seem favorable to the buyer since said individual is released from their contractual obligation to purchase the property in the event of a rejected loan application. It should be emphasized that, alternatively if the loan is granted, then the contract is completed and irreversible.

In view of these implications for the buyer, relegation, and the sale’s dependence on the successful acquisition of the loan, it is important to be extremely vigilant in the drafting of the prerequisites and precedents established in the loan agreement, including its amount, duration ...

Obviously, these issues are the sources of substantial litigation

In some cases, an individual or party purchases a property without using credit or loans. In these cases, it should be stipulated in the purchasing agreement that said agreement will be applied to the provisions of legislation specific  to housing credit.

The numerous rules and regulations involved in the purchase of a property, whether involving a loan or not, are all designed to protect the borrower. In this sense, such regulations may prove to be a double-edged sword if the buyer proceeds in said matter without the assistance and guidance of an attorney.

If a sales agreement has been contractually pre-established, it is possible for the buyer and seller to conclude an official and binding agreement. Nevertheless, the implications for both parties are potentially more problematic than if they were to formalize their contract under the watchful eyes of their attorneys.

With a formal and irrevocable contract agreed upon and signed, the failure of a sales agreement may result in the payment of damages or a court summons in which the parties will be forced to finalize their respective final decisions.

Again, caution is the mother of all security! In some circumstances, a deadline or expected notice of the tenants time of withdrawal is given to the purchaser, therefore a purchaser must not ignore the importance of counsel’s advice.

The second step, i.e. the sale of the property itself, must be finalized before a notary public

Any dispute arising after signing the deed before the notary may result in legal action and / or prosecution. Thus in case of absence or refusal to sign the act of one of the signatories, the notary draws up a report of failure, and insofar as one party continues this process, involved parties may be summoned to court for the compulsory enforcement of the sale.

Similarly, if the recipient no longer wishes to possess the property, they will bring forward an action before the High Court.

Similar to the sale of a property, the acquisition or construction of a detached house carries specific regulations and exceptions.

If during the acquisition of a home or property no assessment of the physical condition has been specified, (which can be determined with the help of an expert to quantify work and repairs that must be completed), the operation is much more complex. Such instances include when one decides to buy a house to renovate or acquires a building plot on which they have the intention to build a house.

The mechanism surrounding the sales agreement is more complex since, aside from the question on funding, it is sensible to negotiate the property’s condition before obtaining a building permit, even if planning permission is optimistic...

Obtaining a building permit requires, aside from the architect’s blueprints, the intervention of an administrative body, whose instructions and responses are specific and often exceed the time limits usually established between promise and deed.

This material often generates large matters of litigation therefore it is best to be firm and well-founded in your convictions and expectations before beginning this process.... If you fail in this obligation, the use of a French real estate lawyer may be vital…

This article is available online for public information purposes. It is updated regularly, as needed. Due to the constant evolution of the laws and the legal system, we cannot guarantee that the information in this article is still applicable. We invite you to contact us with any legal questions or concerns you have regarding this topic at +33 1 56 79 11 00. In no way can this firm be held liable for articles that contain inaccuracies or are now out of date.

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