The Buying and Selling Process in France

Unlike England & Wales the buying and selling process in France is strictly regulated by the government.  The services of certain professionals are required for the process.

If you are looking for help with the buying and selling process in France – whether for your main residence, a second home or as an investment property,  Simon Jones Immobilier are on hand to advise and assist you every step of the way.


The Agent Immobilier (Estate Agent)

  • Unlike the UK, to become an estate agent (Agent Immobilier) in France requires certain professional qualifications, such as a law degree, two further years of postgraduate study and relevant experience.
  • A professionally qualified and recognised Agent Immobilier must carry a “Carte Professionelle’ that is issued by the Prefecture of the relevant Department, for example, Savoie.
  • The Carte Professionelle is the Agents licence to carry out property transactions, undertake legal functions and hold client funds.  The Agent Immobilier is legally obliged to have Professional Liability Insurance and where holding client funds, have the relevant financial guarantees & assurance.  The sum of these regulations ensure that clients are always protected.
  • Agent Immobiliers have the right to display properties for sale in their office window.
  • Simon Jones Immobilier are fully licensed and authorised as an Agent Immobilier: Cartes professionnelles N° 787 délivrées par la Préfecture de la Savoie

The Notaire

  • The notaire is a public official, qualified in the French legal system.  They are able to advise on all legal matters relating to property including but not restricted to administrative, inheritance and succession law. 
  • The state confers powers on the notaire to legalise property purchase transactions and provide security to the contracts they supervise. Notaries are liable for their professional acts.
  • The notaire is responsible for preparing the various documents, confirming the seller’s title to the property, checking that there are no existing mortgages on the property, the final conveyance and the registration. The notaire has indemnity assurance, which provides a financial guarantee to the client.
  • We have a number of notaires that we can recommend to clients.  It is possible for the vendor and the purchaser to share the same notaire or to have their own notaires.  The cost is the same regardless of the option chosen: if there are two notaires the fee (dictated by the government) is split between them.

The Buying Process

Offer to Buy

  • In France if you make an offer to a vendor to buy their property – even a verbal offer – and the vendor accepts it, then a contractural commitment arises.
  • There is no such thing in France as a sale that is ‘subject to contract’, as in the UK.
  • You may be asked by an estate agent or the vendor to make a formal written offer – an ‘offer d’achat’.
  • As noted above, once an offer has been accepted then a contract exists between the parties, subject to any conditions contained in the offer.

Compromis de Vente

  • This is the first formal and legally binding stage in the process of buying and selling property in France.  It is a written contract of sale agreement that legally binds both vendor and purchaser.  The Agent Immobilier has the right to draft the Compromis de Vente though it is recommended that this is done by a notaire.
  • The Compromis is a fairly standard document and it is designed to protect the purchaser more than the vendor.  It covers any special conditions that have been agreed, standard conditions relating to deeds and ownership of title and the diagnostic tests that the notaire will arrange to have carried out for the presence of asbestos and lead, for example.
  • The purchaser signs the Compromis de Vente and it is then signed by the vendor.  Upon signing, the purchaser must pay a deposit (normally 10%) which will be held by the notaire or the Agent Immobilier.
  • Once both parties have signed the purchaser has 7 days in which to reconsider the decision to purchase and to pull out of the agreement for any reason at all.  This ‘cooling off’ period does NOT apply to the vendor who is legally obliged to sell and cannot renege on the agreement for any reason at all.
  • Once the 7 days have passed the agreement is binding on both parties, except where the buyer has failed to secure a mortgage on the property.  Subject to written proof of this, the agreement may be void and the purchaser, if void, will have the deposit returned.  Pulling out for any other reason, the purchaser risks forfeiting the deposit.
  • If not already done a notary will now be appointed.  It is their responsibility to ensure that every legal requirement is met and that the rights of each party are properly protected.
  • If a French mortgage is required then it should be applied for at this stage.  This can take up to 3 months.  In France it is the ability to make the monthly repayments from income that is viewed as the primary criteria – not assets.
  • The notaire will commission all the required physical checks on the property (lead paint, termites, asbestos etc) and will complete the deed checks.
  • Loan offer, if applicable.  The lending bank will make an offer of a loan.  This cannot be accepted immediately – only after an 11 day ‘cooling off’ period has passed.  Once the loan has been signed by the buyer the notary can begin to set a date for the signing of the Acte de Vente (the deed of sale).
  • The notary will communicate to the buyer the amount of funds that are required to complete the purchase, namely: the purchase price, up to 7% notary and transfer fee, less the amount of any loan granted, less the deposit originally lodged.  These funds must be transferred to the notary’s holding account before signing the Acte de Vente.


Please note that this is not a comprehensive legal document and is for general information purposes only – It should not replace legal advice which should be sought from a notaire.