What ‘Clauses Suspensives’ can we add to the contract?
The clauses that are allowed include being subject to a French mortgage, permission to convert outbuildings into living accommodation and adding a swimming pool.
Can I force the owner to update the septic tank so it conforms before I complete on the purchase?
No the onus will be on you to upgrade the septic tank within a 1-year time frame. Normally revisits to inspect the septic tank again are not made, so you could in theory delay the upgrade, but certainly before you sell the house in future, the septic tank will need to be changed. You can however try and negotiate the price lower to take account of the septic tank work, but this needs to be done during the very first negotiations not after a price has already been agreed.
Can I buy a property in France subject to a UK mortgage being approved?
No this is not possible as again the UK mortgage comes under a different jurisdiction. So you will be considered a cash buyer in France, and it is therefore vital the mortgage has been approved or you are certain it will be before committing to a purchase in France.
Why is important that agents know my financial position vis a vis buying the house in France?
It is important to know if you are buying with a French mortgage, as this can be put in as a ‘Clause Suspensive’, so in the event your mortgage was refused you would be able to withdraw safely from the purchase. Without this you would forfeit your deposit.
Can I buy a French property subject to my UK sale completing?
No this is not possible, as the UK property is in different jurisdiction.
Will the sale of my French property be subject to Capital Gains Tax?
Currently, if the French property is your second home it will be subject to CGT in the same way as a second home in the UK would be.
Can I use English builders to work on my French house?
Yes, if they are registered to work in France. It is essential that you check this out before employing anyone to work on your house or grounds. It is also worth remembering that local builders may have a lot more knowledge than English builders of working on your type of property, of local suppliers and of other artisans whom they may need to work with. You can only offset potential future capital gain liabilities against building work done, if that work has been done by a registered builder with the correct invoices.
What taxes will I have to pay on my French property?
There are two property taxes payable on French property, taxe fonciere and taxe d’habitation. Taxe fonciere is levied on the ownership of the property and taxe d’habitation on the tenancy. In most cases it is the same person who will pay both taxes. The Notaire will notify the authority of the change of ownership and you can just wait for future bills to arrive. When signing the final contract the Notaire will make any financial adjustment for taxes which the vendor has already paid for the current year.
Is it necessary to insure my French property?
It is essential that you have the property insured by the time you sign the final contract. The insurance must cover the property and natural disasters which may occur but does not have to include possessions. If you intend to live in France and send your child to school you can add the required insurance to your house policy and the same is possible for your pets. Most local insurance companies have a member of staff who can speak English so getting the right insurance should not be difficult but don’t forget it is called ‘assurance’ not ‘insurance’ in French.
What happens if I want to buy some of the fixtures and fittings?
Once you have negotiated the purchase of any fixtures and fittings it is important that an inventory is drawn up and agreed with all parties to the sale. This inventory will then be annexed to the contract by the Notaire. The cost of these items should be listed separately to the purchase price of the house to avoid excess stamp duty being charged.
Why are there different forms of purchase contract?
The ownership of property and disposal of it on the death of the owner are governed by the form of contract used when purchasing the property. There are three types of contract – Indivision – En Tontine – SCI. Because the French legal code is different from the English one it is vital that you understand the different forms of contract and/or seek advice before choosing the form of contract which suits your needs. The government web site www.gov.uk has a section on How to buy property in France and includes a list of recommended French lawyers working in the UK.
How long does it take to do the legal work on buying a house in France?
Inevitably it is difficult to be precise on this point. Once all negotiations are complete and the 10-day cooling off period after the signing of the compromis is over, it is safest to assume that another three months will elapse before the final contract is ready for signing. Should your purchase be in process during August you should probably be allow an additional month!
Will I need to go to France to sign the final contract
No, you can sign a power of attorney, which the Notaire will send you, giving a clerk in the Notaire’s office the right to sign on your behalf. This document will have to be signed in the UK in front of a Notary Public. Obviously you will have read, understood and checked the final contract before this happens.
A small problem with not being in France for the signing of the final purchase contract is that the wording of the final contract states that you buy in the house in its current state. It is wise to view the property before the final signing to be sure that the roof hasn’t blown off since you last saw it!
Is it better to have a French mortgage or a UK mortgage?
Always a difficult one to decide. If you are repaying the mortgage out of a sterling income then it can be safer to have a sterling mortgage from the UK. On the other hand mortgage interest rates in France are generally lower than in the UK and it can make sense to raise a French mortgage on your French property rather than remortgaging your UK property.
Should I get a survey?
In France the seller has to provide reports on many surveys before the sale can complete. These surveys (diagnostic technique immobilier) cover asbestos, lead, termites, energy efficiency, natural or industrial risks, gas installations, electrical working and septic tanks. In France there is no building survey profession and to find a surveyor who is registered to work in France is difficult but not impossible. Most people do not have a survey of French property but rely on the diagnostic technique immobilier.
Who pays the Notaire’s fee?
The Notaire’s fees are paid by the purchaser and will be approximately 7-10% of the purchase price for a resale property. Of this amount only 1% goes to the Notaire the rest covering registration fees, stamp duty and disbursements.
Am I bound by a written offer?
If the offer you make is accepted, then you will be bound by the terms of such offer. For this reason, it is vital to include any conditions that you wish to make in this offer…such things would be the need for a mortgage, agreement to planning permission etc. These conditions can be elaborated further in the sale and purchase agreement but mention must be made in the offre d’achat.
What does the Notaire do?
The Notaire is a public employee who is tasked with registering the sale and purchase of property in France. He or she is also responsible for ensuring that all parties to the contract understand what they are asked to sign.
Do I need my own Notaire?
It is normal practice in France for one Notaire to handle the sale and purchase of a property. Legally you can choose to appoint your own Notaire but this can be fraught with difficulties and cause offence. The Notaire is a public official who is responsible for registering the change in ownership of the property. He or she does not advise you on the purchase, his or her role is only to ensure that it is legally correct. It is worth remembering that the Notaire appointed by the vendor is likely to be the one who has most knowledge of the property that is being sold. However, if you are happier to appoint your own Notaire the good news is that it will not cost you anymore as both Notaires will share the quoted fee. So, no extra cost but probably some delays in the process while the two Notaires try to work together.
Do I need a translator?
Unless you are totally fluent it is wise to get all the documentation regarding the purchase translated. It is also possible to arrange for a translator to accompany you to any meetings with the Notaire. Many Notaires do speak English and they have a legal requirement to ensure that all parties to the sale and purchase understand what is happening when documentation has to be signed. However, they should also be able to recommend a local translator to assist you or you can find one by using www.gov.uk under How to buy property in France.
Do I need a French bank account to buy a house in France?
It is not necessary to have a French bank account for the purchase as your funds are likely to be transferred from your UK bank account. It can be easier to open your French bank account once you own a house in France. The French banking system is still organised on a local basis and it is difficult to transfer an account opened in one region to a different one. So best to wait until you are sure where your French home will be.
Do I need to take the deposit to France with me?
Certainly not. The deposit is not payable until the first contract (compromis de vente or promesse de vente) is ready to sign which is often not until after you will have returned home. You may be asked to sign an offre d’achat when making the offer to buy the property but it is illegal to be asked to pay a deposit at this stage. However, this offre d’achat forms a contractual commitment and if your offer is accepted by the vendor then you are bound to proceed to signing the first contract (compromis de vente or promesse de vente).
When signing this contract it is essential that any conditions, which are essential to you buying the property, are clearly stated in this contract, these are referred to as conditions suspensives. Once the contract is signed by you, as the purchaser you still have a 10 day cooling-off period before the contract becomes enforceable.
How much deposit will I have to pay when I find the house I want to buy?
The normal deposit required is 10% of the purchase price although sometimes with more expensive properties it is possible to negotiate a smaller deposit of 5%.
What happens if I don’t like any of the properties that I am shown?
This should not happen if you have given good feedback to the agent after seeing each property as he or she should have been able to change the original viewing plan and take you to some more suitable properties. However, if this does happen you need to make sure the agent knows what you want to do next. You may decide not to view more houses with them, you may decide to have another viewing session on the same trip or you may ask the agent to keep in touch with you and let you know when a suitable property comes on to the market. Please let me know the outcome of the visit so that I can check that the agreed action takes place.
What happens if I don’t like the area when I arrive there!
It is always better to be honest. Obviously it is only polite to keep the appointment at which you can let the agent know your feelings. They may be able to suggest parts of their region that would suit you better or it may be that you all agree that it is not worth them showing you properties. It is always good to be honest rather than waste people’s time.
Should this happen I would suggest that you phone me in the UK to discuss the problem, it may well be that I can suggest another accessible area that would suit you better and it may be possible for me to make a short-notice appointment for you to see another of my partner agents.
Do I need to be able to speak French for the viewing trip?
No this is not necessary as all of the partner agents of Healey Fox speak French and English. However, if you do not have much understanding of the language it would be a good idea to start having lessons as being able to speak to your neighbours and making yourself understood in the shops and restaurants will certainly enhance your ownership of your home in France.
Will I have to sign a viewing form?
Some agencies ask potential buyers to sign a form indicating which properties the agent will have shown them. This is purely to protect their commission in the event of a sale. French agencies do not normally work with exclusive mandates and, therefore, several agents may have the same properties.
What happens on a viewing trip?
Often you will have requested to see two or three houses and if they are still available, the agency will have planned to do this with you. They will also ask you a few more questions when you arrive in their office and tell you a bit more about the area and what it offers in an attempt to ensure that they show you the right houses for your needs and that they are in the right kind of location. You will have time to ask any questions you may have either in the office or while you are out on the road.
The agent will drive you to the properties and your task will be to give useful feedback to the agent. Don’t forget, many vendors who may be present can understand English so please be diplomatic!
Is it possible to make an appointment to view houses even if I haven’t sold my house in the U.K. yet?
My partner agents will always try to help my clients and if they are not too busy then they will be happy to show you a few houses to allow you to get a ‘feel’ for French property. It is obviously easiest for them to do this out of the busy season so best to avoid school holidays. Always ask me and I will see what I can arrange for you.
How much notice I need to give to make an appointment?
At most times of the year two weeks is sufficient but in school holiday periods it is better to allow four weeks. But always call me to check, it is surprising what I have managed to fix up at very short notice!
Why are there no addresses on the property details?
Unlike selling a property in the UK, French agencies do not have exclusive mandates to sell the property. If they disclose the address potential purchasers may go direct to the vendor to avoid paying the fee the agency charges for its service which includes finding and marketing the property. A good agent will also be invaluable to any buyer in providing local information, advice and assistance.
Can I get more information on a specific house on the website?
Yes, I can contact my partner agent to request answers to any specific questions you may have, but it is exceedingly rare for clients ever to end up buying the houses they choose from the website. We generally advise that you view the website to ensure that there is a good selection of the type of property you are looking for and then make an appointment for a half day viewing with the agency. By the time you arrive in France you may find that some of your chosen properties have sold but there may well be even better ones that have just come onto the market. If you still want further information, then bear with me and my partner agency while they find the time to contact the vendor and get the information back to me and on to you!
Can I book to see a specific house?
Yes, I can arrange this for you but you must accept that it could be sold by the time you get to France to view it. It is always better to give me a note of a few houses you are interested in or more information about what you are looking for. This I will pass on to my partner agent who will be able to take you to see three or four houses that he or she thinks will be good for you. As you provide feedback during the viewing session the choice of houses may change as the agent gets to understand your requirements by listening to your feedback.