Buying a French Property

The most significant step in the buying process is that once you have agreed to buy you will be asked to pay a deposit, typically 10% of the purchase price, and to sign a preliminary contract called a “compromis de vente”. It is a legal document, and by signing it you agree to buy the property “as seen” – subject only to any clauses (clauses suspensives) that both you and the vendor agree to write into the document. If you decide to withdraw from the purchase within 7 days from signing, your deposit will be refunded. After seven days you lose your deposit.

Many people try to get a survey done within the 7-day period. Sometimes this is feasible, sometimes it isn’t. It is possible to put a “subject to survey” type clause in the compromis (though not in those actual words) but this can be done only with the vendor’s agreement. French vendors in particular are often reluctant to agree such a clause because they do not usually understand what it means.

If the vendor won’t agree to an appropriate “clause suspensive”, and if you can’t be sure of getting a survey done – and getting at least a verbal report within the 7 day period, you should be very cautious about signing a “compromis de vente”.

French property law is different to that in the UK and you should seriously think about appointing an English-speaking solicitor, experienced in French property law, to look after your legal interests. There are a number of such firms in the UK and Ireland, as well as in France. See Useful Links page