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The 6 important French property terms you need to know

Croissants, baguettes, wine, sun…what’s not to love about France? For years now, British citizens have bought property in France either as their main residence or as a holiday home. With such close proximity to the UK, plus the wonderful lifestyle, it remains a popular choice for expats.

However, buying abroad can be a daunting process, especially if you don’t speak the language, so here are 6 French property terms you need to know which will help you out during the buying process.


1. Notaire (notary)

notaire is essentially a solicitor specialised in conveyancing. You will have a lot of contact with a notaire throughout the buying process as you legally need a notaire to oversee all the legal aspects of the sale. They are also responsible for checking all of the contracts related to the sale and for overseeing the transfer of funds. 

An important point to note is that when you buy a property in France, the notaire represents both the buyer and the seller. For us Brits this seems very strange as it would be considered a conflict of interest! However, this is not the case in France. It is common for one notaire to handle both sides of the purchase, although you are completely within your rights to choose a separate notaire, which would be at no additional cost.


2. Compromis de vente

compromis de vente is a provisional sales contract you sign once your offer has been accepted. It is a legally binding document, so it is vital that you understand exactly what it entails before signing. This document should contain important information such as a description of the property, the agreed price, the deposit amount (usually 10%) and other important details relative to the sale. Either the estate agent or the notaire will prepare this document, although should it be the estate agent, the document will need to be verified by the notaire

The use of a compromis de vente means you are legally bound much earlier in the process than in the UK. There is a 10-day cooling-off period in which the buyer (not the seller) can opt to withdraw. After this period, both the buyer and the seller are bound by the contract and any withdrawal thereafter would incur penalties. 


3. Conditions suspensives

In the compromis de vente, there are various conditions which are included. The conditions suspensives, or conditional terms, are terms written into the compromis de vente which allow the buyer to withdraw should these conditions not be met. A very common condition suspensive is a mortgage – should the buyer not obtain a mortgage from their bank, they are able to withdraw from the contract without any penalties. There are generally only a few of these conditions written in, but they are incredibly important.


4. Dossier de Diagnostic Technique (DDT)

This is a file of reports and surveys which must be included in the compromis de vente. It details information about the property such as energy efficiency, termites, gas installations, etc. These reports are paid for by the seller. It is important to note, however, that this is not the same as a home survey in the UK. They do not include, for example, information about the building structure. If you wish to have a full survey as you would in the UK, you can contact one of the many English-speaking surveyors in France or ask a builder to visit the property and let you know about any work that may need to be done. 


5. Acte authentique

This is the other important contract you will sign – the final deed of sale. It is the official document which transfers ownership of the property from the seller to the buyer. It is usually signed 3-4 months after the compromis de vente and the buyer, the seller and the notaire must be present. In most of these contracts, there is a clause which states that the buyer accepts the property in its current condition, so it is vital to organise a viewing on the same day before signing this document to avoid any nasty surprises.


6. Les frais

This term is all about money, money, money! Les frais, or fees in English, can be quite different and much higher in France than in the UK when buying property. There are the estate agency fees which are usually paid for by the seller but may be paid for by the buyer. When looking at a property advert, look for this term beside the property price: FAI (frais d’agence inclus)– this means that the agency fees are included as they are paid for by the seller. There are also fees for the notaire, which are usually between 6-8%, although they are lower when buying a new property. Lastly, don’t forget about translation fees! I’m sure when you sign a contract in English, you read it before you sign. In order to do this in France, I would highly recommend you hire a qualified translator so that you know exactly what you are signing. 


ON IT Translations offer such translation services, so please do get in touch if you would like a quote: clara@onittranslations.com

Good luck with your purchase and let me know in the comments section if there is any other property terminology you would like to learn about!

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